We've gone to some unusual places for new product unveilings, but today's reveal of a new mid-sized sedan from Suzuki may be one of the most ironic. For some reason, the small automaker of mostly small cars chose a World War II memorial in suburban Detroit for the global reveal of its most aggressive attack yet on the heart of the U.S. car market.
Suzuki has always been a bit of an outlier in this market, although the company has been a strong player in the Japanese mini-car scene. Its most successful entry to date here in the U.S. has been the compact SX4. Now, it's trying to encroach on Camry/Accord/Fusion territory. Learn all about where Suzuki is going and what to expect from the Kizashi after the jump.
Live Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
Suzuki quoted for us a Global Insight study that projected a 45% recovery in the U.S. auto market over the next two years. They expect much of that to be in the smaller car segments in which the company competes. Even through the worst of this market, Suzuki has been one of only two Japanese automakers to be profitable. In fact, it's been profitable for 57 consecutive years. The Japanese Domestic Market Wagon R has been the number one selling car in Japan for the last four years.
The company now hopes to build on the success of the SX4 in the U.S. and become more of an "aspirational brand". They want younger buyers who "travel light and live fully" and a promotional video they showed to illustrate this made it sound like Suzuki wants to transform itself into Subaru. So far it seems to be working with residual values after 36 months rising from 34 to 48 percent between 2005 and 2009.
American Suzuki also has a new leadership team that starts with Kevin Saito, the new president of the company. Saito previously led Suzuki's efforts in India where the company now has a 55% market share and is more profitable than ever.
The next big step for Suzuki is the Kizashi sedan, which brings the brand into a segment that few people would have associated with Suzuki cars until now. In part the company wants to bring its car image up to par with its motorcycles. That means a much more sporting image. The Kizashi has been completely engineered and designed in-house at Suzuki to that end. The name apparently means "something great is coming", and that's what the company is hoping for.
Gene Brown, VP of marketing and PR, told the group that the world doesn't need another "soul-less transportation appliance", but does need something with the handling and craftsmanship of a European sports sedan and the value of a Suzuki. A video shown during the presentation said that luxury performance cars are no longer just for old rich guys, alluding to the average age of Lexus buyers (55 years old).
Steve Younan, director of product planning, actually gave us the run-down on the Kizashi. Among the cars Suzuki targeted were the Acura TSX, Volkswagen Passat and Alfa Romeo 159 – certainly a higher benchmark than Suzuki cars have previously aimed for. That meant good steering, responsive handling and entertaining performance while retaining good ride quality. The result was a multi-link rear suspension, high performance dampers, 18-inch wheels and high-end Akebono brakes. We've seen plenty of spy shots over the past year of the Kizashi at the Nurburgring, so hopefully the on-the-road reality will live up to the specs.
Underhood, the sole engine is a 2.4-liter high-output four-cylinder with variable valve timing. Power can be sent through either a manual six-speed or CVT transmission, the latter of which comes standard with paddle shifters. The Kizashi has stability control and eight air bags standard, and also meets the 2014 side impact "pole test". We're told that the stability control has been optimized to provide good performance without being too intrusive, and an all-wheel-drive system that's integrated with the stability control will be optional on the sedan. Suzuki is also working on a hybrid version of the Kizashi that will be unveiled after the gas-powered model goes on sale, and a V6 is also in the cards.
The Kizashi has a 107-inch wheelbase, 183-inch overall length and 72-inch width, making it smaller than class archetypes like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Final power and mileage numbers won't be released until closer to its on-sale date this Fall, but expect somewhere in the 180-200 hp range and 30 mpg on the highway.
Inside the Kizashi gets standard sport seats and a decidedly upscale interior. The design is clean, appears well executed and should feel right at home to buyers of some premium brands. In spite of all this, Suzuki is planning to price the Kizashi in the same range as more mainstream models like the Camry and Mazda6. That means it should run from the high teens to mid-$20k range.
Will the Kizashi be a breakout hit for Suzuki here in the U.S.? That's hard to say, as the mid-size sedan segment is teeming with more established and evolved models, none of which are laurel resters and all of which aspire to give buyers a "premium" feel for pedestrian dollars. Hopefully Suzuki is baking elements into the Kizashi that will set it apart, otherwise this Japanese brand will remain on the outskirts of this market's most contested car segment.
Live Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
SUZUKI REVEALS NEW 2010 KIZASHI SEDAN
- Kizashi concept series culminates with world introduction of all-new Suzuki sport sedan.
- Chic Kizashi production model to deliver Japanese quality and European flair.
- North American Car of the Year contender to serve as halo vehicle for maturing Suzuki lineup.
- Kizashi's exhilarating performance and driving experience reflect Suzuki's exuberant brand spirit, backed by the confidence of America's #1 Warranty.
"In developing and naming our newest automotive introduction, the Japanese word 'Kizashi,' which tells that something great is coming, seemed appropriate for the vehicle," said Kevin Saito, president, American Suzuki. "Now that the production model Kizashi has arrived, we expect the name and the product itself to clearly demonstrate the bold statement this company knew it would be making with the debut of this vehicle - while also simultaneously suggesting what will emerge in the Suzuki lineup as we look ahead to the future."
The Kizashi sport sedan, which originates from the Concept Kizashi series introduced over the last two years, follows a similar design theme and appreciation for performance previously illustrated by the three eye-catching and immaculately designed concept vehicles. The production Kizashi redefines the traditional performance sedan and moves the Suzuki brand upscale. Furthermore, its active and energetic identity, a core component of the Suzuki brand DNA, is tempered by the vehicle's overall mission to provide a strong, refined urban performance.
Built at Suzuki's brand-new manufacturing facility in Sagara, Japan, the 2010 Kizashi is equipped with a standard 2.4-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine offering a more potent standard engine than many competitive best-sellers. The engine employs both an aluminum block and cylinder heads, providing a lightweight installation; aluminum pistons with low tensile force rings deliver improved power and efficiency. Dropped-forged connecting rods, rotating on a forged steel crankshaft, contribute to the inline four's durability, and a balancer shaft delivers improved engine balance and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
The responsive inline four is connected to a six-speed manual transmission, for heightened performance in the low gears, along with relaxed - and economical - cruising capability in the higher gears. Customers may opt for an available Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that delivers both the driving experience and fuel efficiency today's consumers demand, while not compromising the character preferred by driving enthusiasts. That character is enhanced with paddle shifters, optimizing driver control regardless of speed or driving environment. With either transmission choice, the Kizashi is engineered to return competitive fuel economy numbers for fuel-conscious consumers.
In addition to this excellent new powertrain, and to even further enhance the Kizashi's strong efficiency story, Suzuki is developing an even more fuel efficient hybrid version that will be added to the lineup in the future.
Braking and Handling
In order to successfully enter a field already saturated with countless nondescript transportation appliances, Suzuki breaks away from traditional values normally associated with the mainstream, standing firm on Suzuki's belief in delivering a dynamic and exhilarating driving experience. That driving experience was validated on Germany's Autobahn, Switzerland's Alpine twisties, cobblestone roads of rural England and the legendary Nürburgring.
An exceptionally rigid steel unibody - with reinforced front suspension and multi-link rear suspension constructed with embedded aluminum - allows for crisp, nimble handling with excellent stability, sophisticated ride and reduced chassis vibration. Engineered from conception to be all-wheel-drive capable, the Kizashi offers a newly developed advanced all-wheel-drive system with highly advanced controls that evokes and promotes a natural sense of heartfelt driving enthusiasm and safety. Kizashi's sophisticated braking system offers standard four-wheel disc brakes and includes suppliers such as Akebono, a world-leader in NVH control and analysis and a leading brake supplier for automotive and high-speed rail applications.
Kizashi's thoughtfully crafted exterior design is best described as the seamless melding of European style and Japanese craftsmanship. Tailored for the driving enthusiast, Kizashi's bold and aggressive stance is complemented by available 18-inch alloy wheels; contemporary styling - with its lean proportion and minimal front overhang - injects the sophistication appropriate to a performance-oriented sport sedan. As with the Concept Kizashi series, the front end of the production Kizashi expresses both strength and style, while the vehicle's impeccably engineered body reflects Kizashi's underlying strength and distinctive combination of capability and refinement.
At Kizashi's rear, the architecture accentuates the 'sport' aspect of Suzuki's sport sedan. The visual dynamic is enhanced with the addition of an integrated dual sport exhaust, communicating - both visually and aurally - the Kizashi's performance-imbued spirit.
Suzuki has taken advantage of its expertise in the compact car segment to efficiently execute larger - yet still tidy - proportions that afford comfort and practicality without the wasted space. Along with cabin proportions that reward Kizashi drivers and passengers with comfort and roominess, Suzuki pursues a contemporary, upscale interior feel - such as standard sport seats - in line with the vehicle's on-road performance characteristics. Driving enthusiasts will appreciate Kizashi's sporty and elegant instrument panel, while consumers seeking a luxury sedan will be pleased with the vehicle's available leather seating, featuring high-density foam and premium quality materials rivaling upscale competitors.
The available premium leather is supplemented by three-stage heated seats and a three-position memory program. In addition, both cloth and leather seats benefit from Suzuki's attention to detail: French seams, hard cover rears and low fatigue foam.
For those wanting high-tech beyond the engine compartment, the Kizashi's interior delivers by the megabyte. Beginning with standard keyless push start system, Kizashi also offers iPod®1 connectivity and optional streaming audio via Bluetooth®2. For your advanced listening pleasure, Rockford Fosgate®3 provides an optional listening experience boosted by 425 watts of power.
Traction and Safety
The all-new Kizashi includes a class-leading list of standard safety equipment, including class-exclusive standard eight airbags, Electronic Stability Program (ESP®)4, an anti-lock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution, projector beam headlamps and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Also included as equipment on the Kizashi is Suzuki's developed synergetic vehicle dynamic control. This system assists drivers control and a fun-to-drive experience with minimal intrusiveness.
Kizashi is offered with Suzuki's next generation i-AWD system, a rare option in its class, as this safety and performance enhancing feature is more typically found among luxury sport sedan offerings. Engineered to provide outstanding traction in inclement weather, the sophisticated all-wheel-drive system also delivers enhanced cornering capabilities. Activated when the driver selects the "AWD" switch on the instrument panel, power to the rear wheels starts immediately upon acceleration. Torque split remains dependent on several factors, including wheel slippage and throttle input.