NEW - Suzuki has always been a highly regarded small car brand by those in the know, its small sedans and four-wheel drives having a well deserved reputation for quality and innovation.

More recently the company has pumped up its range with new and even better models like the new Swift and the even newer Kizashi, the company's first crack at a mid-sized car.

The Kizashi was widely acclaimed for its refinement and on-road character when it was launched. For many it was a revelation. It was only available as a sedan, but there were three models to choose from, beginning with the front-wheel drive XL, the mid-range FWD XLS and the all-singing, all-dancing all-wheel drive Sport.

The styling was unremarkable, but inoffensive, with neat lines and balanced proportions and the odd touch of chrome for a highlight. Inside it was reasonably roomy for four, the cabin was awash in rather sombre tonings, but there was everything you could want and a flash of silver brightened it a little.

The power was provided by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that generates 131 kW and 230 Nm and provided plenty of punch. The standard gearbox across all models was a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that was generally smooth and responsive, but there was also the option of a six-speed manual gearbox in the XL and XLS. Sport buyers could only have a CVT, the six-speeder wasn't available, which is a pity given the sporting pretentions of the model.

But Sport buyers did have the grip advantage of all-wheel drive whereas XL and XLS punters only had front-wheel drive in their cars. On the road the Kizashi was impressively quiet and refined with excellent road manners, balanced handling and good grip.

NOW

With the Kizashi just ticking over into its third year on the market there's little to report in terms of reliability concerns, and with Suzuki's past history for robustness there's little reason to be anything but confident going forward.

Some owners have reported heavy stone-chipping on their cars, much heavier than other cars, particularly those coloured red or grey. It's unclear if it's a paint problem or just the shape of the car that promotes chipping, but whatever the reason it chips very easily. It not only looks ugly, but it affects resale.

Others have reported issues with the CVT transmissions doing odd things, so it's worth checking thoroughly by subjecting the CVT to all sorts of driving situations and observing for any shuddering, slipping, over-revving, and odd noises.

Suzuki engines are finely crafted pieces of jewellery and need looking after, so make sure the oil has been changed regularly and doesn't look black or full of gunk when you pull the dipstick. Check the tyres, the Kizashi has a reputation for wearing out tyres quickly, which is perhaps a reflection of its handling.

SMITHY SAYS

Quiet, refined with great on-road manners the mid-sized Suzuki is definitely one to think about.

Suzuki Kizashi 2010-2011

Price new: from $30,490 to $39,990
Engine: 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder, 131 kW/230 Nm
Transmission: CVT auto, 6-speed manual, FWD, AWD
Economy: 8.4 L/100 km
Body: 4-door sedan
Variants: XL, XLS, Sport
Safety: 5-star ANCAP