2011 Suzuki Kizashi
2011 Suzuki Kizashi. Click image to enlarge

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Suzuki Canada

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2011 Suzuki Kizashi

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario – Coming to showrooms in “late winter,” the all-new 2011 Suzuki Kizashi represents the company’s first independent foray into the midsize, or intermediate, sector of family sedans.

According to Suzuki Canada President Seiichi Maruyama, the European inspired Kizashi (which translates from Japanese to “something great is coming,”) will distinguish itself in this very competitive sector by focusing on handling and stability.

“Kizashi is designed to have the handling of an Alfa Romeo and the stability of a Volkswagen,” said Mr. Maruyama at the vehicle’s press introduction in Niagara. The target, he continued, was to have the best chassis in the class. To this end, extensive testing and development of the Kizashi took place on racetracks, on the German Autobahn, and in areas noted for rough road surfaces.

2011 Suzuki Kizashi
2011 Suzuki Kizashi
2011 Suzuki Kizashi. Click image to enlarge

In Canada, where Suzuki’s most popular family vehicle is the Grand Vitara compact SUV, all Kizashis will feature all wheel drive (AWD) as standard equipment. Motive power is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine from the Grand Vitara, although in the Kizashi it is tuned for higher performance, making 180 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 170 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm.

The transmission is a CVT (continuously variable) unit that Mr. Maruyama indicated was developed in-house, but no manual transmission has been announced for Canada. Notably, the entire vehicle is completely new, not based on an existing platform and was designed and developed by Suzuki.

At a price, “below $30,000,” the Kizashi is expected to be “fully loaded.” Pre-production models at our Niagara test venue featured dual-zone automatic climate control, “SmartPass” keyless entry with push-button start, tilt/telescopic steering column, auto-dimming rearview mirror, sunroof, paddle shifters, Rockford Fosgate premium audio, USB input, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, leather upholstery, power driver’s seat with memory, power front passenger seat, three-position heated front seats, steering wheel with remote controls, multiple airbags with side curtains, electronic stability control, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Kizashi has a pleasing appearance that doesn’t reference other vehicles in the sector, with the polygonal chrome tailpipe surrounds adding some flair at the rear. The interior communicates precision and quality both in design and execution, and the dashboard features large instruments that are easy to read, along with uncomplicated controls. The remote controls on the sporty steering wheel include a “mute” button, which is appreciated.

2011 Suzuki Kizashi
2011 Suzuki Kizashi
2011 Suzuki Kizashi. Click image to enlarge

Headroom is generous, even with the standard sunroof, and seat adjustability has enough range to satisfy most body types. Hip, shoulder, front and rear legroom are sufficient, if a little tighter than the competition.

The Kizashi’s exterior dimensions are considerably smaller than all of its direct competitors, with the largest difference found between it and the Mazda6. The Kizashi’s length is 4650 millimetres, width is 1820 and wheelbase is 2700. In comparison, the Mazda6’s length is 4940 mm, width is 1840 and wheelbase is 2780. Indeed, at 4590 mm, the compact 2010 Mazda3 is only 60 mm (just over two inches) shorter than the Kizashi. This might be considered either a strength or a weakness for the Kizashi: in a segment where competition from Japanese automakers like the the Mazda6, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Subaru Legacy, Nissan Altima have all grown considerably over the years, the Kizashi has to be described as a small midsize car.

Consumers may respond favourably to this, as some criticism (or reflection, at least) has been generated about the plus-sizing of compact, midsize and large sedans from all automakers, even as subcompacts are gaining popularity. On the other hand, consumer expectations also change regarding what represents an appropriate size for a particular category of vehicles.

The Kizashi does excel in handling and driving dymanics. Tested against the above Japanese competitors (made available by Suzuki) on the Niagara Drive Centre’s purpose-designed closed circuit, the Kizashi was clearly the top performer.

2011 Suzuki Kizashi
2011 Suzuki Kizashi. Click image to enlarge

On the road, the Kazishi’s engine is limited by the transmission; it sounds somewhat rough at low speeds and under acceleration, and the transmission moans when accelerating. On the highway, the Kazishi comes into its own, feeling substantial and stable at speed. One expects it will also be an excellent performer in winter conditions, being one of only two sedans on the Canadian market with standard AWD (the other is the Subaru Legacy).

Suzuki has definitely succeeded in developing a family sedan with European-style handling. The car feels very nimble and responsive; easy to control and stable in all the conditions — road, highway and closed circuit — to which it was exposed in Niagara. It is refreshing to experience an affordable family sedan with this level of driving dynamics, but whether this is a specific priority for Canadian consumers remains to be seen. In addition, the Kazishi’s drivetrain and dimensions will be challenged by other vehicles in this class.

“Late winter” availability means the first quarter of 2010 at the earliest, therefore the Kizashi will be released as a 2011 model.

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