Great things to come: Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 CVT

New cars Suzuki Reviews
PetrolBlog reviews the Suzuki Kizashi. A car that could so easily have been perfect, but it's let down by one single flaw. The CVT transmission. Shame.

The Suzuki Kizashi is a bit of an enigma. It seems to answer a question that nobody actually asked in the first place. I can't imagine the team at Suzuki GB received many letters pleading with them to bring out a four-wheel drive, family-sized saloon car, with a petrol engine, CVT transmission and a shed load of gadgets thrown in for good measure. After all, Suzuki has no heritage in a sector that's dominated by the likes of the Audi A4, Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and Skoda Octavia. Some may say that launching such a car without a diesel option is tantamount to madness.

So whilst a petrol-only £22,000 saloon car may not be keeping the people at Audi, Ford and Vauxhall awake at night, that doesn't mean it should be dismissed without a proper look. On the contrary, a petrol-engined four-wheel drive car that's only expected to sell in the region of 500 units a year is something that's of huge interest to PetrolBlog.

The chances are you may not have heard of the Suzuki Kizashi, let alone seen one on the road. Despite being on sale now for nearly ten months, I can only recall ever seeing one Kizashi on the road and even that was a demonstrator model. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. In a sector where the market leaders will sell between 10,000 and 20,000 cars in a year, a little exclusivity has got to be a good thing. Suzuki of course will be hoping that it's not too exclusive, even taking into account the sales projection of 500 cars.

Side profile of Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 CVT


Things get off to a good start from the outside. The Kizashi cuts a handsome figure on the road and on numerous occasions I caught people stopping to take a closer look at the car. Naturally its relative rarity has a big part to play in this, but I also think that people struggle to work out what exactly it is. Whilst there's a definite Suzuki family resemblance within the styling, it has a greater European feel than other models in the Suzuki range. A bit of BMW here, a bit of Mercedes there and perhaps some Vauxhall too. But overall it seems to work, with its wide track, flared arches and large twin-exhaust surrounds signalling more than just a hint of sporting intent.

It's powered by the same 2.4 litre petrol engine you'll find in the Grand Vitara. But Suzuki has added an extra 20bhp, giving the Kizashi a total output of 177bhp. Hardly the stuff of performance car legend, with a 0-62mph figure of 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 127mph.

But that's only half the story, because the Kizashi is equipped with a horrid continuously variable transmission (CVT). Now admittedly I'm not the world's biggest CVT fan, but in the Kizashi it ruins what may have been a truly great car. Okay, so ruined is perhaps a little harsh, especially so early on in the review, but such is the appeal of the rest of the car, I'm left thinking what might have been if Suzuki GB had imported the manual version. It is, by all accounts, a vastly superior proposition.

Rear of Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 CVT 4x4

Put it this way, the CVT ‘box only serves to force the Kizashi into making lots of angry noises and provide a feeling of being totally detached from the car. Perhaps in a small and soulless city car, you could accept the inadequacy of it, but in a 4-door saloon that promises more than just a hint of driver appeal, it's unacceptable. More than that, it's regrettable, because with the right gearbox, the Kizashi would be a very, very good car.

I've already established that it's a fine looking car. I'd even go as far as saying it's one of the best looking cars in the sector and almost certainly the best looking Suzuki ever made. The inside isn't bad either. It's typically Suzuki, feeling like a cross between a Swift and a Grand Vitara, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Everything is neatly laid out, there's no fuss and as with all Suzukis, there's a real sense that it is built to last. However, there is a definite lack of adventure and no real standout features of note. It's also worth saying that whilst the retro feeling head unit and dials may work in a Swift, they tend to show the Kizashi up in this sector.

Interior of Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 CVT 4WD

Some kind of balance is restored when you look at the Kizashi's level of standard kit. For just shy of £22k, you get luxuries such as leather interior, heated electric front seats, dual zone climate control, rain sensitive wipers, sunroof, cruise control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, multi-function steering wheel, keyless entry, 18" alloy wheels, sport suspension and a host of other features. Seriously, if you like toys, you'll be happier than Alan Partridge in a branch of Tandy.

Toys definitely win prizes in the executive saloon market, but the Kizashi needs to do more if it's to win over a very demanding audience. There's plenty of room for four adults on the inside, although rear headroom is slightly limited. But there's plenty of legroom and comfort levels are good. In the boot you'll find a generous 461 litres of space, but it's worth noting that the small boot opening could make access difficult. A hatchback this is not.

On the road it's hard to look past the CVT ‘box, which is a shame because it's actually rather good to drive. Things are improved slightly if you switch the ‘box into manual mode and use the steering wheel mounted shift paddles, but in truth they're a little slow to respond. But perhaps the biggest compliment I could pay to the Kizashi is that its overall driving experience is reminiscent of the Swift. The steering is nicely weighted, there's only a hint of body roll and the ride is composed, if a little on the firm size. But I don't see this as a bad thing.

Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 petrol with CVT ‘box

It's never going to stir you out of bed at the crack of dawn for a quick blast along your local B-road, but it's a pretty decent car to drive. It feels most assured when cruising at motorway speeds or when not being pushed to hard. You'll get the best fuel economy this way, Suzuki claims a combined figure of 34mpg, plus it also lessens the annoyance factor from the CVT ‘box.

Of course, I haven't mentioned the Kizashi's final trump card yet - its 4WD system. Suzuki calls it an Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system (I-AWD) and it can be switched from two-wheel to four-wheel drive at a press of a button. I had the opportunity to test it in some pretty atrocious weather conditions and the levels of grip were excellent. It felt composed and assured in the most torrential of rain, so you can really see the Kizashi coming into its own in the winter. Stick a set of winter tyres on it and it will continue going long after similar priced executive saloons have fallen by the wayside. If you live in a remote part of the country and are looking for a sub £25k family saloon, you'd do well to give the Kizashi a try.

In fact, anyone looking for a car of this type and at this price should look at the Kizashi. It has a number of things going for it, namely its price, generous level of equipment, interior quality, styling and four-wheel drive system. If, unlike me, you can look beyond the CVT ‘box, you'll benefit from Suzuki's legendary reputation for reliability and definite exclusivity.

But until Suzuki GB does the right thing and imports the manual version, the Kizashi will have to live up to its Japanese translation of ‘a sign of great things to come’.

PetrolBlog Score:

Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 CVT

  • Pint of milk: A case of what might have been without the CVT ‘box: 5.
  • Filling station forecourt: A great looking executive saloon. Nice work, Suzuki: 8.
  • You don't see many of those: Only 500 to be sold this year. A rare sight indeed: 7.
  • Is it worth it?: At £21,995 it comes with pretty much every option ticked: 6.
  • Petrolbloggyness: Agonisingly close to being brilliant. But not until a manual arrives: 6.
  • Total for the Suzuki Kizashi 2.4 CVT: 64/100.

Details of scoring can be seen here.

The PetrolBlog Alternatives:

Sub £20k: A used Suzuki Kizashi for £17,000

Used Suzuki Kizashi for saleFancy a Kizashi but don't want to fork out nearly £22k for a new one? Well how about an ex-demonstrator for £16,990? This one is barely run-in at 5,000 miles and judging by the number plate is either a Suzuki GB management car or an old press car. Either way, the £5k saving before haggling represents something of a bargain. Plus it's for sale at a main dealer. Bonus.

Check out the Suzuki Kizashi for sale on eBay.

Sub £15k: Subaru Legacy 2.0 diesel for £12,490

Used Subaru Legacy for saleAsk anyone for advice on buying a Subaru Legacy and they'd normally take a sharp intake of breath before saying “ooh, thirsty”. But the Legacy wins almost unanimous praise as a stunning allrounder, so a diesel version that's capable of 50mpg must be the world's greatest car?! This one looks great in black and has just as many toys as the Kizashi. Only £135 a year to tax too.

Check out the Subaru Legacy for sale on eBay.

Sub £10k: Audi S4 quattro for £5,650

Used Audi S4 for saleHere's a rarity. Not so much the car as a well written and informative eBay ad.

The car isn't bad either, with a host of modifications taking the power output to 335PS and 529Nm of torque. The level of spec is also impressive which, when coupled with a near standard looking exterior, makes for a very, very tempting Audi S4. Nice.

Check out the Audi S4 quattro for sale on eBay.

Sub £5k: Ford Sierra XR4x4 for £1,350

Used Ford Sierra for saleOnly 53,000 miles and 3 owners from new, this black Sierra is a stunner. With a fantastic 2.8 litre engine and a stainless steel exhaust, it's going to sound the part too. Being a Ford from the 1980s, it does have a few rust spots here and there, plus a few holes in the seats, but at £1,350 this would make for an interesting 4x4 for the winter.

Check out the Ford Sierra XR4x4 on eBay.

Bangernomics: Skoda Octavia 4x4 for £409

Used Skoda Octavia for saleThe MK1 Octavia 4x4 makes for a very interesting Bangernomics candidate and at this price it's particularly appealing. Okay, so the reserve may not be met, but I fully expect this to go for a price well within Bangernomics territory. They were good value when new, but a lack of image and identity makes them even better once they pass their tenth birthday. Cheap as chips!

Check out the Skoda Octavia 4x4 on eBay.


eBay ads current at the time of publication (8 August 2012)