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First look: Suzuki’s production Kizashi emerges

Big brother: The Suzuki Kizashi will become the company's flagship when its goes on sale in Australia next year.

Final version of Suzuki’s first medium sedan appears faithful to Kizashi concept

Suzuki logo31 Jul 2009

By MARTON PETTENDY

SUZUKI has revealed the final production version of its first mid-size sedan in the US overnight, and the good news is it will carry the nameplate – and most of the striking new design elements – of the acclaimed Kizashi concept.

Officially pictured in a range of shots after being leaked on to the internet 24 hours earlier in the US, the Kizashi ‘sport sedan’ will go on sale in Australia during the second quarter of 2010.

The five-seater, three-box rival for Toyota’s top-selling Camry will be the largest Suzuki sold in Australia since the previous-generation XL-7 SUV, which was replaced by a left-hand drive-only model for the US.

Bookending Suzuki Australia’s range along with the all-new Alto sub-light hatch, the Kizashi will follow Suzuki’s smallest model into showrooms by less than 12 months.

As the first production car images show, the final Kizashi design will feature larger headlights and mirrors than the Kizashi 3 concept that appeared at the New York motor show in April 2008. The concept’s aggressive front bumper has also been toned down a little, but the Kizashi’s distinctive rear-end, featuring a high-rise ‘Bangle-like’ bootlid and twin outboard exhaust outlets, carries over with only subtle changes.

30 center imageFew mechanical details have been revealed for the Kizashi, which was previewed by a series of three striking concepts over the past two years, culminating in the Kizashi3 show car that appeared at the Melbourne motor show in February.

However, an all-aluminium 2.4-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder similar to the J24B-codename unit found in the Grand Vitara will be the exclusive engine Kizashi engine from launch, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters.

Australia is unlikely to receive the “next-generation intelligent all-wheel drive system” that will also be available in the US initially and which is expected to come standard with an eventual top-shelf V6 version, which should be powered by a 3.6-litre alloy V6 similar to the one in Holden’s current Commodore.

Suzuki has also confirmed it is developing a petrol-electric hybrid version of the Kizashi, which it has now confirmed will join the medium sedan range in future.

A diesel version is also believed to be in the plan – as is Kizashi production alongside the Alto in India. As the first market to receive the Kizashi, the US is expected to take the majority of initial production from Japan.

The Kizashi’s chassis technology will also be shared with General Motors, with its platform being developed from GM’s new Epsilon II mid-size platform, which also underpins Opel/Vauxhall’s new Insignia and Saab’s upcoming 9-5 replacement.

Chassis development testing is said to have taken place on German autobahns, Swiss mountain passes, English cobblestones and, of course, the famed Nurburgring.

American Suzuki Motor Corp (ASMC) expects the Kizashi’s combination of “Japanese quality and European flair” to make it a contender for the 2010 North American car of the year award.

It will play a pivotal role in Suzuki’s plan to gain a four per cent share of the Australian new-vehicle market, and will be a “halo vehicle for the maturing Suzuki line-up” in the US, where the Japanese small-car maker’s market penetration is significantly less.

ASMC says the Kizashi will be Suzuki’s first entry in North America’s all-wheel-drive sport sedan segment when it goes on sale there as the brand’s flagship model at the end of 2009.

“In developing and naming our newest automotive introduction, the Japanese word Kizashi, which tells that something great is coming, seemed appropriate for the vehicle,” said ASMC president Kevin Saito.

“Now that the production model Kizashi has arrived, we expect the name and the product itself to clearly demonstrate the bold statement this company knew it would be making with the debut of this vehicle — while also simultaneously suggesting what will emerge in the Suzuki line-up as we look ahead to the future.”

The 2010 Kizashi will be built at Suzuki’s new factory at Sagara in Japan, and in the US will come standard with sports seats, with the option of three-stage seat heating and memory, plus full leather trim.

The Kizashi’s specifications are yet to be decided for Australia, where entry-level pricing of around $30,000 will make the base Kizashi a direct rival for the likes of the Camry, as well as Holden’s Epica, Ford’s facelifted Mondeo, the Honda Accord Euro, Subaru’s upcoming new Liberty, the Mazda6, Volkswagen Jetta and Skoda Octavia.

Standard Kizashi safety features in the US will include a class-leading total of eight airbags, ESP4 electronic stability control, an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), projector beam headlights and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

The US Kizashi will also be available with a keyless entry and starting system, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, and a 425-Watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system.

Official overall dimensions reveal the production Kizashi, which rides on a 2700mm wheelbase, will be 4650mm long, 1820mm wide and 1480mm high – making it the same height and width, but more than 150mm shorter, than the Camry.

Fresh from launching the new Alto city-car and both safety pack and RE4 sports editions of the Swift from August, Suzuki Australia is also expected to release an upgraded SX4 small-car, featuring improved looks and performance, in early 2010.

The facelifted SX4 and 2010 Kizashi will be followed by a redesigned iteration of Suzuki’s top-seller, the Swift, by mid-2011, plus a new seven-seat SUV in 2012.

“The Kizashi will be a landmark car for Suzuki in Australia,” said Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers.

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