Suzuki Kizashi Sport 2010 Review
The starting lineup for this year's Carsguide Car of the Year contest already includes the Suzuki Kizashi. Now we have the Kizashi Sport, complete with all-wheel drive and a range of other tweaks, to make an extra claim.
The Sport has arrived earlier than planned, just a couple of months after the regular Kizashi, but Suzuki Australia is ready and willing to take it on and tackle a range of tough rivals led by the Subaru Liberty.
"The original vision for Suzuki's first mid-sized car always included an all-wheel drive model," says the head of Suzuki Australia, Tak Hayasaki.
The Sport is priced from $39,990 complete with a constantly-variable transmission and the luxury equipment - including leather seats and a sunroof - already fitted to the Kizashi XLS at $34,990.
Suzuki believes the Sport could lift Kizashi sales by around 50 per cent, adding another 100 cars a month to its rollout, by appealing to slightly younger buyers. But it's not promising a WRX-style performance punch.
"I want to be very clear. It is not a race car," says Tony Devers, general manager of Suzuki Australia. "What it does bring, however, is a new driving benchmark for the brand. We have a true driver's car that promotes the traditional strengths of all Suzuki vehicles."
But the Sport does not get an extra help from the engine room, already seen as a shortcoming in the basic car. Suzuki knows a turbocharged engine would be ideal in the car, but currently has no plans.
The Sport continues Suzuki's value-first approach with the Kizashi, which starts at $27,990 in a class where the Liberty is priced from $33,990, the Mazda6 starts at $27,310 and the Honda Accord Euro runs from $33,490.
It's a $5000 step up from the XLS but most of that can be costed into the CVT transmission, which mades the all-wheel drive system look like a bargain.
The Sport is not a huge departure from the other Kizashi models, but gets 18-inch alloys in a slightly different design, mesh in the lower part of the grill, side skirts and a rear spoiler and - mostly importantly - the factory Bluetooth connection currently missing from the rest of the range. Of course there is also a sports steering wheel.
The key to the Sport is its all-wheel drive system. Unlike most others, it is switchable and that means you can flick to front-drive. Carsguide is not sure of any benefit, but Suzuki claims it can give a slight improvement to fuel economy during highway cruising.
Suzuki says it draws on 40 years of experience back to the original Jimny, but it's really just a development from the SX4 system. It can feed up to 50 per cent of the drive to the back wheels and has a system to limit front-end push in corners, even providing a degree of counter-steering if the car is heading towards a rear-end slide.
The car is 70 kilograms heavier which takes the fuel economy up to 8.4 litres/100km and Suzuki has not compensated in the engine, which still makes 121 kiloWatts and 230 Newton-metres.
The CVT has a six-speed 'manual' setting and comes with paddles behind the wheel for shifting, as well as a lever set for sporty driving with a push forward for downchanges and a tug back for upshifts.
A tiny rear spoiler, the alloys and changes to the nose are the obvious differences in the Sport. But the car is also set 10 millimetres lower on its suspension, to improve cornering grip, and that helps with the looks.
The changes are just enough to give the Sport a bit more impact in a carpark, and work well with the basic Kizashi design.
The car still looks smaller than its rivals but Suzuki - again - punches home the message that it's the same size inside as its class rivals and has a very usable boot.
The all-wheel drive system is an important safety boost, particularly for people who will be driving in snow or other slushy conditions. The car has five-star safety and the usual suite of safety gear, from front-side-curtain airbags to ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution, ESP stability control and traction control.
Suzuki demonstrates the strengths of the Sport with snow-driving trials at the motor industry proving ground in the mountains outside Queenstown in New Zealand and it is impressive. It is very difficult to break traction, although the front pushes wide if you go too fast into a bend, and the Sport works with the driver at all times.
It's not as much fun as I had hoped, but the slippery stuff shows Suzuki has the basics right on the Sport.
The Kizashi, already the most enjoyable drive in the class, gets better with the Sport job. It's a little better turning into corners, it has great grip and balance in bends, and the slightly lower ride height seems to work well with the all-wheel drive system. But. There is a big but.
The Sport only comes with the CVT and that is not going to please sporty drivers, even if Suzuki says the vast majority of Australians choose automatics. You can pick from the six 'gears' set in the CVT but if you leave the transmission alone it makes the car feel too dowdy and unresponsive.
Once you take manual control the Sport is great fun to push along and the basic strengths of the car - from a solid chassis to comfy seats, a punchy Rockford Fosgate sound system and even the easy-to-use dials and controls - make it a car to enjoy.
We'll wait for home-territory testing to judge the car against its rivals, particularly the Subaru Liberty, but the Suzuki makes a very good first impression. And the price is tight. But the Kizashi is a car which can clearly cope with more power and the Sport proves the point.
The Sport is good, or better than good, but now we're waiting for some turbo action in the engine room.
SUZUKI KIZASHI SPORT
Engine: 2.4-litre four cylinder
Outputs: 131kW@6500 revs/230Nm@4000 revs
Transmission: Six-speed CVT, all-wheel drive
CO2 emissions: 198g/km
Range and Specs
|Sport AWD||2.4L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$8,800 – 12,430||2010 Suzuki Kizashi 2010 Sport AWD Pricing and Specs|
|XL||2.4L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$8,990 – 9,000||2010 Suzuki Kizashi 2010 XL Pricing and Specs|
|XLS||2.4L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$10,990 – 12,990||2010 Suzuki Kizashi 2010 XLS Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data