SUZUKI has released its largest passenger car in Australia six years after it began work on its first mid-size sedan and three years after the first fruits of its labour emerged in the form of the original Kizashi concept car.
Priced from an unexpectedly sharp $27,990, Suzuki Australia says its stylish new mid-sizer – which will also be the Japanese small-car brand’s only four-door model – will most directly target the Mazda6 in the mainstream medium car segment, which has attracted 10 per cent more buyers so far this year.
Suzuki says it has conservatively targeted at least 300 monthly sales for the sedan-only Kizashi, while so far in 2010 the facelifted Mazda6 sedan, hatch and wagon range holds the same 13.8 per cent share of the medium sedan category as Subaru’s newest Liberty sedan and wagon line-up.
Toyota’s fleet-friendly homegrown Camry sedan remains the dominant player with a 28.5 per cent share after selling in excess of 5000 examples in the first four months of 2010 – more than double that of the Mazda6 and Liberty – while Honda’s sedan-only Accord Euro holds fourth with a reduced share of 10.3 per cent and Ford’s Mondeo hatch and wagon has climbed to 8.7 per cent in fifth.
Available from this week, the Kizashi’s entry price is lower than all but that of the Mazda6 sedan, which opens at $27,310.
The Camry sedan is priced from $30,490, while the Accord Euro starts at $33,490 and the Liberty opens at $33,990. Hyundai next week will introduce its all-new i45 medium sedan, which should come with an attractive entry price similar to that of the Sonata it replaces ($27,990).
The front-wheel-drive Kizashi won’t match the Liberty’s standard all-wheel drive configuration from launch, although an AWD version has received Australian design rule approval and could be added to the range at a later date. A more sporting variant with firmer suspension is on offer in the US, where Suzuki will also release a hybrid version in 2011.
The Kizashi’s 2.4-litre 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder petrol engine delivers 131kW at 6500rpm and 230Nm of torque at 4000rpm, outperforming the Mondeo’s 2.3-litre four and the 2.5-litre engines that power the Mazda6 and Liberty, but falling short of the Accord Euro’s 148kW/234Nm 2.4, which delivers the same 230Nm of torque.
Similar to the Grand Vitara’s 2.4 but with optimised intake valve lift control and improved exhaust port shape, the Kizashi’s J24B petrol four returns combined average fuel consumption of 7.9 litres per 100km across the range, bettering all of its direct petrol rivals.
Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers said Kizashi – Japanese for ‘something good is coming’ – represented an exciting new direction for the company.
“Kizashi has been developed to be our flagship model in the Suzuki passenger car line-up,” he said.
“We have a great reputation as the specialist in small, sporty cars, 4WD SUVs and now Kizashi takes us into the mid-sized segment for the first time.
“Kizashi is the car that expands our line-up in order to break into markets where larger cars are demanded and to accommodate the diverse lifestyles of customers who want to stay with the Suzuki brand.
“When the first Kizashi concept was unveiled at Frankfurt in 2007 we knew we had something very special on our hands.
“Now the production car is on sale, the time for waiting for something good to come is over. With the arrival of Kizashi, something good is here.”
In Japan and the US, the Kizashi replaces the Verona medium sedan, which is built by Daewoo – the Korean subsidiary of Suzuki’s former shareholder General Motors. GM was to have supplied a V6 for the Kizashi, but that task should now fall to Volkswagen, which acquired a 20 per cent stake in Suzuki in January.
For now, the Kizashi is available in two specifications powered by the same 2.4-litre engine, matched with either six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmissions. The latter adds $2000 to the price of the entry-level XL, and $2500 to the price of the flagship XLS, which costs $34,990 as a manual.
Matching its mainstream rivals, all Kizashis come standard with a full suite of standard safety features, including six airbags (comprising twin front, front-side and side curtain airbags), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, five three-point seatbelts and five adjustable head restraints.
Also standard across the range is dual-zone climate-control, a seven-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with USB compatibility and steering wheel controls, keyless starting, footwell lights, driver’s seat height adjustment, a trip computer, power windows/mirrors, cruise control (CVT only), 17x7.0-inch alloy wheels and a full-size spare wheel/tyre.
The top-shelf XLS grade adds full leather trim, self-leveling high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights, a sunroof, foglights, a 10-speaker 425-Watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, 10-way powered driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment and memory, front/rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic headlights, lower ride height and 18x8.0-inch alloys. Bluetooth connectivity is not available, but satellite-navigation will soon be offered as a dealer-fit option.
The five-seater Kizashi sedan, which employs MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension, measures 4650mm long, 1820mm wide, 1480mm high and rides on a 2700mm wheelbase, making it shorter overall but wider and taller than the Mazda6.
It has a kerb weight of just 1445kg (plus 40kg for the CVT version), a maximum towing capacity of 720kg (1700kg with a braked trailer)m am 11.0-metre turning circle and a 461-litre boot augmented by a ski-port and 60/40-split/folding rear seat.
Suzuki says the Kizashi’s development program included cold weather testing in Minnesota and hot-weather trials in Death Valley, along with durability testing everywhere from country roads in the UK to autobahns and the Nurburgring in Germany.
“We wanted to make this a true driver’s car and I’m proud of the efforts put in by the ride and handling team that delivered the finest product we’ve produced to date,” said Kizashi’s chief engineer.