The Japanese brand is so committed to its new Kizashi that it will pay the cash bounty to anyone who drives it, then buys a rival car.  The offer could cost Suzuki Australia as much as $20,000 and it is likely to be paying some shoppers, as its list of rivals runs to classy contenders including the Audi A4, Mazda6, Honda Accord Euro and Volkswagen Jetta.

"This shows the confidence we have in Kizashi. We're prepared to put our money behind it," says Tony Devers, general manager of Suzuki Australia.  "You have to remember that they will be spending somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000 to get our $200, and they also have to drive the Kizashi first. Once they do that, and see the starting price, we're very confident which way they will go."

Explore the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi Range

The bottom line for the 2.4-litre Kizashi is $27,990 with a six-speed manual gearbox, rising to $37,990 for the XLS flagship with a constantly-variable transmission.  The car is a big step up for Suzuki, which sells the vast majority of its two-million annual production as tiny city runabouts in Japan and India.

Suzuki says it is mid-sized, despite tight overall dimensions, and has five-star safety as well as standard equipment running to 17-inch alloy wheels, remote locking and start, and a four-way adjustable steering column. The XLS upgrade comes with an electric driver's seat, 18-inch alloys, parking assist, HID headlamps and rain-sensing wipers, and a punchy Rockford-Fosgate sound system.

Safety is claimed at five-star level thanks to six airbags across the range, as well as anti-skid brakes, ESP stability control and a very rigid body.  Mechanically, the car has an engine with 131kW/230Nm, four-wheel disc brakes and fully-independent suspension with front MacPherson struts and a multi-link setup in the tail.

Suzuki teaser the Kizashi campaign with three concept cars and, although the production sedan is far more conservative, it's still a car which should change the perception of the brand.  "We are confident this vehicle will redefine the Suzuki brand worldwide. We now have cars to suit customers at every stage of their lifestyle," says Masaaki Kato, Oceania marketing manager.

Driving

The Kizashi is a fine car.  It's well up to the standard set by Suzuki with everything from the Swift to the Grand Vitara and is likely to make the Car of the Year shortlist for 2010. It also continues a European-style focus on the real strengths of a car, from a rigid chassis to compliant suspension and a cockpit built around the driver.

Quality is good in the Kizashi, performance is acceptable for the class, and the suspension is excellent.  The car feels a touch too cramped in the cabin to qualify as a genuine mid-sized contender - and go up against family cars like the Toyota Camry - but it will be fine for couples who want a car with class and driving enjoyment. And there is space in the back seat for a couple of kids.

Both Kizashi models drive well and are well equipped, right down to fully-trimmed gloveboxes and a thumping sound system in the XLS. The standard sunroof in the luxury car steals a bit of headroom, though, for anyone over about 175 centimetres tall.

The six-speed manual gearbox has a slick shift and good ratios while the CVT auto is enjoyable to use and is programmed so there is none of the excess noise or flaring from similar units in other brands.  The engine could use a bit more torque for overtaking punch but is quiet and very smooth, with good economy.

It is going to take Suzuki a while to get the Kizashi established and moving, but the basics are right and it deserves to succeed.