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First drive: Suzuki gets to grips with Kizashi

Four paw: Suzuki's AWD Kizashi uses a more intelligent version of the SX4's all-wheel-drive system.

Kizashi Sport AWD steps up the Suzuki pace, but without extra power

25 Aug 2010


SMALL-CAR specialist Suzuki has continued its mid-sized expansion with a sportier, all-wheel-drive version of its just-released Kizashi sedan, designed to appeal to younger customers interested in the thrill of the drive.

The Kizashi Sport AWD – a competitor for the Subaru Liberty – was part of the Kizashi model plan from the start.

“It is not a race car,” explained Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers.

“What it does is set a new driving benchmark for the brand.”

The Kizashi Sport AWD slots in at the top of the model line-up with a list price of $39,990 with a standard automatic transmission. That means it comes at a $5000 premium over the XLS model it is based on – a considerable distance from the entry level XL model at $27,990.

As you may guess from the name, it is positioned as the sporty model of the range, but Suzuki has resisted the temptation to increase the performance. The Sport AWD model runs the same engine as the other models in the range which means a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 131kW at 6500rpm and 230Nm at 4000rpm.

This is the same variable intake camshaft timing engine that can be found in the Vitara 4WD. It is available only with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

30 center imageThe AWD system takes the proven on-demand system of the SX4 hatch but uses a raft of electronic programs to deliver optimum torque.

The i-AWD system runs in front-drive mode for optimum fuel consumption, but can send up to 50 per cent of the drive to the rear wheels in response to inputs from sensors that are also used to alert the electronic stability control.

These sense wheel movement, steering wheel input, yaw movements and lateral Gs to determine if the vehicle requires more torque at the rear wheels, to a maximum 50 per cent under heavy acceleration.

It uses an electronically controlled wet-type multi-plate clutch coupling that is regulated by an electrical current.

Interestingly, Suzuki has also included a dashboard mounted switch to allow the driver to turn off the AWD system and have the car run as a front-driver and save more fuel.

The i-AWD system adds about 70kg to the weight of the vehicle, meaning the Sport model now tips the scales at 1600kg.

Fuel economy does not suffer greatly, moving up from 7.9 litres per 100km of the XLS model to 8.4L/100km and 198g/km.

In terms of performance, the Sport AWD’s extra weight is cancelled out by its traction advantage off the line and achieves the same 0-100km/h time as the other CVT Kizashi, 8.8 seconds, which is one second slower than the base manual model.

The Sport AWD looks like the XLS, but it sits 10mm lower, has 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, a deeper front bumper with mesh lower grille, chrome side strips and fog light surrounds, side skirts and unique badges.

The interior is largely the same, but there is a sporty steering wheel with metal-look accents and the sports leather seats and gear-shift leather surfaces feature silver stitching.

This steering wheel also features controls for the Bluetooth wireless system that is unique to the Sports AWD model.

As it is based on the XLS model, the Kizashi Sport AWD also comes with leather sports seats with front heating, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, rain sensing windscreen wipers, an auto dimming rear mirror keyless entry and start, automatic HID headlights and a sunroof.

All Kizashi models come standard with anti-skid brakes, electronic stability control and six airbags.

The Kizashi comes with electrically-assisted power steering, which saves fuel compared to a traditional hydraulic pump system. This system has also been tuned specially for the Sport AWD and has been programmed to give the driver more steering assistance in the event they are counter steering to correct a slide.

The ESC system has been tuned to allow a certain amount of freedom, but will still intervene when necessary. It can be switched off.

Suzuki’s bold new mid-sized model is 4650mm long, 1820mm wide, 1470mm tall and has a wheelbase of 2700mm.

It runs a traditional set-up of MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear, while the front brakes have ventilated discs while the rear discs are solid.

The CVT transmission is a step-less gearbox, constantly selecting the best possible gear ratio on the run, but it can also operate using six pre-set ratios when flicked to manual mode.

The driver can use steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts to change gears or the regular shifter.

Suzuki Australia is selling about 200 Kizashis a month, and Mr Devers is confident the Sport AWD will add another 100.

He said the Kizashi Sport AWD was better than the Subaru Liberty, Honda Accord Luxury and Mazda6, with the added benefit of being cheaper too.

While the regular Kizashi is mainly selling to males aged from 45 to 55, Suzuki Australia expects the Sport AWD model will lure customers aged from 35 to 54.

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