Suzuki’s upcoming sporty sedan offers great steering and handling — but no manual gearbox.
Suzuki may be known mainly for sport utility vehicles, ATV’s and other assorted power toys — but they’re gearing up for an assault on the mid-sized sedan market in the very near future.
Their latest model is called the Kizashi, and its goal is to put some flare and excitement into the market.
It’s pronounced KEY-zashi, if you’re wondering — and it’s Japanese for “something great is coming.”
Compared to much of its intended competition, Kizashi looks youthful, athletic and alert. A wide stance visually sticks it to the road, and the huge exhaust tips wouldn’t look out of place on the latest supercar.
Inside, the pre-production tester was loaded with automatic climate control, heated power leather seats, and parking radar.
All Kizashi models get a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine that cranks out a generous 180 horsepower. All Canadian models come with All Wheel Drive (AWD), and a CVT transmission. The latter isn’t a favorite among driving enthusiasts, but a take-rate of less than five per cent on manual gearboxes in Kizashi’s market made it this way. Stick-shift nuts can be alarmed: Our transmission of choice is disappearing. Thankfully, the CVT offers a paddle-shiftable manual mode that’s actually fun to use.
Ditto the chassis. Kizashi’s engineers say they benchmarked Volkswagen and Alfa Romeo for stability and handling with the goal of creating the best chassis in its class.
After a few moments alone with the Kizashi and a twisty road, it becomes apparent that its manners are nailed down. The car feels heavy and locked-on while the steering itself is mischievously light and eager. Big steering motions happen with little wheel input, and it all feels nicely matched to the weight and size of the car.
Kizashi’s body stays relatively flat, even during aggressive emergency manoeuvres at a good clip. It rotates nicely when pushed into intentional lift-off oversteer, too.
High-performance Dunlop SP Sport tires helped deliver no-fuss grip, even at livelier-than-advisable cornering speeds. The ride is stiff and abrupt on some surfaces, but those who appreciate a good bend in the road won’t mind the tradeoff one bit.
In a variety of back-to-back handling tests against key competitors, the Kizashi felt like a natural. It’s instantly sharper and more agile than many — though being the smallest car in the group certainly helps.
The Mazda 6 and Subaru Legacy are likely the biggest threats in the dynamics department — though comparing Kizashi’s handling to that of Accord or Camry is like comparing the athleticism of a ninja assassin to an overweight curler.
So, when's it coming?
Suzuki officials say Kizashi will launch soon in a loaded package with pricing from under $30,000.