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Car reviews - Suzuki - Kizashi - Sport AWD sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Sharp steering, compliant ride, excellent handling, impressive traction, value for money, attractive styling
Room for improvement
Needs a manual, CVT can be a little slow to respond, Sport model should get a least a little more power and torque, styling not much different to other models

25 Aug 2010

NOT many people expected Suzuki, which is known for making motorbikes, baby cars and small 4WDs, to come up with such a well-sorted medium-sized sedan as Kizashi.

The all-wheel-drive Sport version of the Kizashi pushes the model even further, and while it isn’t perfect, is a great car to drive in many conditions, thanks to its intelligent AWD system and the brilliant chassis set-up.

Suzuki Australia was keen to demonstrate the capability of the AWD system, so it launched the car in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Several hours of the drive were spent on a large expanse of snow at the Ski Farm vehicle testing park.

While the cars were fitted with chunkier snow tyres, the activity showed the strength of the AWD system.

One particular demonstration had us attempt to drive up a snow covered incline in front-drive mode. It was incredibly slow going and almost impossible to get up. Of course, switched to AWD the Kizashi managed it quite easily, as long as you were prepared to go easy on the throttle.

It was also fun to powerslide the Kizashi around in a safe environment. While fairly pointless, this proved just how well set up and how predictable the Kizashi Sport is.

It also performed extremely well on the way up to the Snow Farm on a twisty dirt road – used for the Race to The Sky rally – and some similarly twisty tarmac roads.

The standard Kizashi is a well-balanced vehicle, but the 10mm lower suspension and AWD system make it an absolute cracker.

It is a real treat, turning in just as you direct it to and sitting nice and flat in the turns.

Despite its sports intent, the suspension is not rock hard the ride is extremely comfortable, but there is little pitch and roll.

An extremely bumpy road generated some steering rack rattle, but it only happened twice, otherwise the steering is good.

The AWD system gives this Suzuki a sure-footed feel. It seems to calculate a lack of grip quickly and intervene accordingly, sending 50 per cent of the drive torque to the rear wheels under acceleration (with a 20 per cent throttle opening).

The Kizashi Sport is a fun drive, but it would be a lot more fun if it had a manual version and an engine with a bit more punch.

The AWD Sport is available only with an efficient continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It works quite well in most conditions and was more than adequate in city traffic.

Pushed hard, the slurring of the CVT starts to spoil the drive. It can also take a while to respond and the driver has to wait for it to adjust and deliver more power after a slow corner.

After a while, you can adjust to get on the throttle earlier in the corner, but this is not ideal.

There is a ‘manual’ mode, and while this helps to simulate a manual gearbox, it doesn’t hold a gear, and can still be a bit slow to get going.

A manual transmission would allow control of the revs to pull out of those corners much faster. It also spares the ears the slurring the CVT controlled engine makes – not a pleasing tune.

On a positive note, the steering-wheel paddle shifters are easy to use, and the regular gear shifter is set up intuitively (moving it forward changes down and moving it back changes up).

The engine is adequate for most applications. It is generally smooth, although it can get generate some unpleasant vibrations nudging 4000rpm under load in some conditions.

Overall it is a reasonably torquey powerplant. However, this car has a Sport badge on it so we were disappointed there was not any extra grunt.

A turbocharger would be at the top of the wish list, but even an extra 10kW and 20Nm would probably make a considerable difference.

The car’s excellent handling only increases the desire for more herbs and spices.

Even after a day of merciless flogging, the fuel consumption average sat at 9.9 litres per 100km – and excellent result, given that the engine was working hard all day.

The standard Kizashi is an attractive car and the Sport is too, but they would need to be parked side by side to tell them apart. The Sport adds an extra dash of aggression, making in, in our opinion, the best looking mid-sized car by a considerable margin.

The interior is not overtly stylish, but modern and attractive, with everything is in the right place. It has a mix of metal-look trim sections, a black dashboard and doors and cream trim from the pillars upwards.

The front seats are fairly supportive, but they aren’t full on buckets. It is also comfortable in the back with lots of leg and headroom.

The front leather seats are electrically adjustable and, importantly in a Queenstown winter, have a heating function.

The AWD Sport Kizashi is well loaded with gear for the price. The sound system, with its huge rear subwoofer, is quite powerful. Sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, bright HID light, dual-zone climate control and a key system which lets you get in and start without taking the key out of your pocket make this Kizashi easy to live with.

The Kizashi Sport is a convincing car and great value for money. I would love to have one as a comfortable daily driver, and weekend fun machine, but I couldn’t do it unless a manual version became available.

Some people won’t mind the CVT and might not push it so hard so often. For them, the Kizashi Sport AWD is a good buy, especially given it has the extra security of AWD in wet conditions, on snow and gravel.

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