All-wheel drive a hard bargain
Just when you thought Kizashi couldn't get any better, it does. Suzuki has added all all-wheel-drive capability to its first medium-sized sedan and kept the price under $40,000.
It was obviously over-engineered from the start to cater for the extra weight and stresses and strains of AWD and possibly a more powerful engine.
But for now, the car retains its 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, with Queensland importer Suzuki Auto Co quashing any suggestions of a more powerful or alternative-fuel mill.
Company boss Keith Carroll, who retires in October after 18 years, says the Kizashi Sport AWD now has "higher levels of handling and safety".
"It's a drivers' car that is far, far better than its drivers," he says.
Kizashi hit the streets in May and has been talked about excitedly in terms of car-of-the-year honours. It is a handsome, apt-handling, well-featured package.
Suzuki nailed it in its first attempt at the medium-sized car market.
Now they have gone one better with AWD version at $39,990, $3000 more than the top-selling XLS with continuously variable transmission.
The Sport AWD arrives with only the CVT. Carroll says "that's the future", but a six-speed manual may have better earned the "Sport" tag.
Still, it's a smart-looking machine with a front end that looks more like the concept model. Suzuki Auto Co sales manager Steve Craig says for the extra $3000 "you get a hell of a lot more that just AWD". Outside there is a new-look grille with black chrome mesh, bigger air dams, new 18-inch alloys, chrome side highlights and fog light surrounds, a rear boot spoiler, side skirts and 10mm lower suspension with suffer springs.
In the cabin there is a new leather steering wheel with chromed accents, a silver double-stitching highlight on the leather seats and trim and Bluetooth with controls on the steering wheel and the ability to play your music.
Service manager Mike Turner says the AWD system adds about 70kg to an XLS, but the 50-50 weight distribution is retained with the transfer case in front and the electromagnetic coupling and differential at the rear with a three-link prop shaft linking them.
Any extra noise created by the new drivetrain is reduced by isolating the drivetrain from the chassis, he says.
Turner says that the chassis in 2WD mode, the economy should be about the same as the current XL and XLS CVT models and that AWD losses are about 0.5L/100km. That results in economy of 8.4L/100km.
He says the AWD system works to overcome oversteer and understeer and reduce the need for the stability control to kick in.
A switch near the ignition will flick the car from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive.
In AWD, it runs in FWD while the electromagnetic couple quickly senses front or rear-wheel slip and transfers torque up to 100 per cent in the direction required.
As a further aid, when the driver counter-steers in these situations to avoid under or oversteer, the power steering lightens the wheel weight.
It also features a type of launch control that splits torque 50-50 for maximum grip and take-off acceleration, when more than 10 per cent throttle is applied and the vehicle is moving at less than 10km/h.
There is no centre diff lock and the dampers and shocks are unchanged.
It also retains18-inch wheels from the XLS, but with new alloy designs, and the generous 235mm Yokohama low-decibel rubber from the other models.
Craig says Kizashi sales are on target for 50 a month, and that most buyers are aged over 45, with 70 per cent men.
He says AWD will represent less than 20 per cent of Kizashi sales and might bring in younger cashed-up buyers and more males.
Customers are coming from a range of vehicles, including German brands.
Sport AWD arrives in red, black, silver, white pearl, and a new mineral grey colour, but dropping the blue.
By Mark Hinchcliffe, Courier Mail Carsguide, September 4 - 5, 2010.
Suzuki Kizashi Sport AWD
ENGINE: 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
POWER: 131kW @ 6500rpm
TORQUE: 230Nm @ 4000rpm
TRANSMISSION: CVT with steering wheel paddles; 2WD/AWD mode
DIMENSIONS (mm): 4650 (l), 1820 (w), 1480 (h), 2810 (wheelbase)
SUSPENSION: MacPherson strut (front): multilink (rear)
BRAKES: ventilated discs (front), solid discs (rear), ABS, ESP, EBD
FUEL: ULP, 63-litre tank
ECONOMY: 8.4L/100km combined
WHEELS: 18-inch alloys
TYRES: 235/45, full-size alloy spare