Steve Rogers drives a Suzuki special
THE sports saloon boys have a new rival, and it is coming from a most unlikely source.
Suzuki, the Japanese company famed for its small cars and off roaders, will launch its first muscle car at the end of the year with its sights set firmly on the premium market dominated by BMW 3-Series and Audi A4.
Can the Suzuki sales team be serious? Yes they can.
Meet Kizashi the company’s first dip into the D sector and if anyone thinks this is a pointless exercise think again.
Suzuki has kept the Brits guessing on Kizashi but I have driven one of only a pair in the UK for evaluation and afterwards product manager Rob Lake told me the car was was coming - probably around November and with a juicy price tag of around £24,000.
Japan is going through hell after the earthquake and tsunami and Suzuki has been forced to close down six plants but with only 500 Kizashis destined for our shores Lake says there should be no delays.
Kizashi means optimism in Japan and Suzuki has every reason to be optimistic about its new saloon.
In size its sits between 3-Series and A4 and has been well packaged with plenty of room for four adults and a boot big enough to pass the golf club test.
The interior is sexy and shouts quality which is the total opposite to what I was expecting. There will be only one model with a high spec so expect leather and all the usual bells and whistles of a top end premium saloon.
At the business end is a horny 2.4 litre, four-cylinder petrol pumping out 175hp driving permanent four wheel drive through a CVT auto box with tiptronic change for those who like flicking through the gears. Top speed is 128mph and it will hit sixty in 8.3secs.
Suzuki say Kizashi should be good for around 34mpg but I can’t see many owners getting that because the torquey engine encourages enthusiastic driving. The car sits low and hugs the contours thanks to its Euro tuned suspension, but is also surprisingly comfortable considering its sporty set up.
It looks good in the flesh and is not too flash, distinguished by 18in alloys and twin tailpipes.
Apart from Grand Vitara and the love it or hate it Jimny, all of Suzuki’s mainstream models for overseas have escaped the catastrophe at home because they are built in Europe and India.
Everything has been updated with the super little Splash getting the uprated 1.2 litre from the Swift with more power and economy, although I still think the economical and cheap to run 3-cylinder 1-litre is the best bet.
There is a more refined Fiat sourced two-litre diesel for the SX4 crossover but the same engine will not fit into Grand Vitara, now minus its rear door mounted spare wheel, so it has to make to do with a 1.9 litre diesel from the Renault stable. The 40 year old Jimny also gets a Euro 5 engine update with slightly lower emissions.
The interesting news on Swift is that we could get a four-wheel drive version.
With its own Ignis shelved in 2006, and Fiat dropping the 4x4 Panda, the company has spotted a gap in the low cost all wheel drive market on the back of some pretty awful winters so it will decide by June whether to bring the car here.
They would need just 500 sales to make it viable and although they won’t talk prices the average premium for a 4x4 is around £1,400.