This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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This is a launch report. In other words, it's simply a new model announcement. The driving experience was limited to a short drive over a prepared course chosen to make the product look good. We can therefore not tell you what it will be like to live with over an extended period, how economical it is, or how reliable it will be. A very brief first impression is all we can give you until such time as we get an actual test unit for trial. Thank you for your patience.
Published in Weekend Witness Motoring on Saturday August 27, 2011
The day always comes when we have to venture past our comfort zones, spread our wings, expand and grow. So it is with Suzuki Auto. There is a world removed from compact cars and SUVs, a world where significant money is spent without much consideration for markets, recessions or prime lending rates. It begins just one step above the company’s traditional field of expertise; it’s known as the ‘C’ segment and it beckons.
Suzuki accepts that this price band is currently ‘owned’ by BMW 3-series, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Audi A4 and some others but reckons it’s worth a shot. The company’s client base expects quality, safety, great dynamics and good value, but some of its members might be ready for the added space and comfort of a larger sedan. Hence Kizashi. The official translation is “something great is on the way,” a potent portent or an auspicious augury perhaps? Whatever the exact meaning, Suzuki is ready to move upward and beyond.
Following its introduction as a concept at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show, Kizashi has gained acceptance in Japan, Australia and the US, so it isn’t completely new by any means. To give an idea of size, it’s 4 650 mm long, 1 820 mm wide and 1 480 mm high, on a wheelbase of 2 700 mm – much the same as a C-class or a 3-series. Safety kit is as benchmarked with six air bags, ABS brakes with EBD and EBA, ESP, seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters, ISOFix anchorages for child seats, childproof locks, side impact beams, foot protection design for brake and clutch pedals and energy absorbing trim.
Power is supplied by Suzuki’s tried and tested J24B engine from the Grand Vitara, breathed on slightly to increase power and torque figures to 131 kW and 230 Nm from the SUV’s numbers of 122 kW/225 Nm. A Sport version is available overseas and may yet arrive here. The 3.2-litre V6 engine is no longer available, but Suzuki Automobile SA technical staff hinted that a future turbocharged version of the 2.4 is “not entirely impossible.” Only one level of trim is offered but gear changing is courtesy of either a six-speed manual ‘box or a constantly variable transmission (CVT).
Like other CVTs, this one not only provides the best balance between engine speed and gearing at all times for most power and efficiency, but can be overridden by means of the shift lever or steering wheel paddles into six ‘virtual’ ratios if the driver so chooses. Where it differs from others is that it has several automatic control modes suited to various driving conditions. ‘Start’ mode maintains lower gearing for strong off-the-line acceleration while ‘Normal’ keeps engine speed at best levels for fuel efficiency. ‘Acceleration’ mode keeps things strong for getting away from it all in a hurry, while ‘Downhill’ provides engine braking. You don’t select anything; the transmission analyses your driving behaviour at that moment and adjusts accordingly. Mnthakati!
A rigid and strong unibody provides the platform for suspension components developed for lightness, stability and good dynamic behaviour together with a lower centre of gravity. Special suspension bushings and plastic cladding underneath not only reduce noise but in the case of the undertray, diminish drag as well. Stopping power is courtesy of Akebono, suppliers of braking systems for the Shinkansen bullet train.
Chassis and suspension tuning took place in locations as diverse as Minnesota (cold), Death Valley (hot), rolling English roads, autobahnen and that funny-sounding German racetrack. The result is a pleasantly sporty ride that still manages to absorb the bumps and rumbles of poorly maintained city and country roads.
Standard equipment includes leather upholstery with 10-way power adjustment and three memory positions for the driver’s seat, four-way power adjustment for the front passenger’s chair, automatic headlights and wipers, front and rear parking assistance, a sunroof, leather covered steering wheel with audio, computer and cruise controls, self-levelling HID headlamps, a full information display, power windows (automatic in front), remotely controlled door locks, push-button starting, dual zone automatic climate control and an eight-speaker sound system with MP3 playback and a USB socket. The boot measures 461 litres and the folding rear seatbacks offer a load-through facility via the central armrest.
The touch, test and feel session after the marketing presentation revealed a really big boot, plenty of leg room for tall passengers in the back, excellent fit and finish in a fairly conservative interior and an extremely pleasant ambience. Driving both models on a variety of Highveld roads revealed willing performance, decent handling and an excellent ride over a range of surfaces. My notes read: “solid, well made, good fit and finish, quiet.” Qualities you expect in a C-segment car. Respectably priced too.
Prices: R295 900 (man), R310 900 (CVT)
Engine: 2 393 cc four-cylinder VVT
Power: 131 kW at 6 500 rpm (CVT limited to 6 000)
Torque: 230 Nm at 4 000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 7,8 seconds (CVT – 8,8)
Maximum speed: 215 km/h (CVT – 205)
Average fuel consumption: 7,9 l/100 km (both)
CO2 emissions: 183 gm/km
Tank: 63 litres
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km with roadside assistance
Service plan: 6 years/90 000 km
Triangular tailpipes hint at the company's motorcycle heritage
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
My articles appear every Wednesday in the motoring pages of The Witness, South Africa's oldest continuously running newspaper, and occasionally on Saturdays in Weekend Witness as well. I drive eight to ten vehicles most months of the year (press cars are withdrawn over the festive season - wonder why?) so not everything gets published in the paper. Those that are, get a tagline but the rest is virgin, unpublished and unedited by the political-correctness police. Hope you like what you see, because there are no commercial interests at work here. As quite a few readers have found, I answer every serious enquiry from my home email address, with my phone numbers attached, so I do actually exist.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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