By on August 6, 2009

Suzuki has been slapped around in the U.S. market for years. I mean, how long did it take for them to settle the Samurai rollover suit with Consumer Reports? Eight years. Damn that moose test. Yet seppuku has never been an option for Suzuki. To the contrary, they have decided to move the vehicle line upscale. Introducing the all-new Kashi bar. I mean the all-new Kizashi car. At least it’s all new for this market. The Kizashi has been the number one selling car for five years in a row in Japan, according to their microsite.

Suzuki cars or, rather, their small SUVs never caught on here for whatever reason. Bad marketing, sure. Rollover scandals didn’t help. Unappealing and small 4x4s, bingo. But that’s all in the past. These are Japanese vehicles, how bad could they be? Heck the company is the only car manufacturer to remain profitable every year since 1951. Someone is buying their cars.

J.D. Power states “. . . quality has dramatically improved in recent years, and that its residual values are rising to parity.” So with this in mind, should it be hard to believe that something great is coming from Suzuki? Hopefully not, because that’s what Kizashi means in Japanese: “Something Great is Coming.” Given the economic times and their latest sales figures, I can’t blame them for “projecting.” It clearly took more thought than naming your car Nova then sending it down to Mexico.

It’s just too bad their marketing doesn’t give things more thought. Their ads are all over the place from Mini comparos, cool hip club scenes, Jeep wannabe 4x4s to leaning on its motorcycle line. All in the hopes that hanging out with the cool kid will make them cool. If Suzuki is going to make it with their new car, and the rest of their lineup, they are going to need to send in a Samurai.

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27 Comments on “A Swift Sidekick by a Samurai: New Suzuki Kizashi (Gesundheit!)...”

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I don’t know why Suzuki is even bothering to try with a midsize sedan here. They can’t out-value and out-reliability Hyundai, Kia, and Ford. They can’t out-fun Ford and Mazda. Their selling point seems to be the same “premium for less” schtick that every “value” brand tries. Just because they compare it to a TSX doesn’t make it a viable Acura competitor.

    The SX4 is exactly the right kind of car for Suzuki, and the new upgrades (150hp!) are just what it needs to be competitive. A few more competitive small vehicles and more fuel efficient powertrains for the SUVs wouldn’t hurt either.

  • avatar

    I wish Suzuki well. Their SX4 crossover seems to have exactly what I’m looking for in a small car. AWD that you can turn on and off, availability of manual transmission with said AWD, and not that bad looking. Of course I’m also the kind of person that will have their big cruisers on their list when they go motorcycle shopping too.

    Now the SX4 sedan that they sell…………. ugh.

  • avatar

    Actually the current iteration of the Sidekick, the Grand Vitara, is a damn nice little truck. Much better than an Escape and different and cheaper than the Japanese competition (it has a RWD platform with independent rear suspension, and stickshift is available).

    It’s basically the only RWD based compact ute on the market short of an X3.

    The Samurai is still going also, and looks like a pretty nice little ute, but we no longer get it:

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Edit: The site says Suzuki has a top selling car in Japan: that would be their kei-class cars, NOT this one; it’s brand new!!

    The whole Nova urban legend has been totally refuted many times. Didn’t happen!

    So what are you telling us about the Kizashi we don’t know, that is actual fact?

  • avatar

    Hmmm, I wasn’t sure what to think when I went to the microsite. While I give Suzuki credit for effort, the front end is VERY derivative of the latest generation Jetta. I also have some real concerns about the name and it’s lack of impact and “recallability” with the American consumer. Foreign word, too many syllables, etc.

    I also agree with Brian E above. What is it that Suzuki stands for? It appears that they’re selling value. Can they out “value” the Koreans? What is the unique selling proposition for this vehicle and for the Suzuki line-up as a whole?

    I hope I’m proven wrong. This looks like it stands to be a considerable step forward in almost every sense for Suzuki.

  • avatar

    because that’s what Kizashi means in Japanese: “Something Great is Coming.”

    Sort of. It’s just a common noun that means “omen” or “sign” or “portent.” It’s the Suzuki Omen or the Suzuki Portent. That translation is overly flowery and not really accurate here.

  • avatar

    They need to spend some money and actually market the car properly. When was the last time you saw a Suzuki television car commercial?

    Hyundai spent a lot of money launching their latest version of the Sonata. Suzuki needs to do the same.

  • avatar

    “So what are you telling us about the Kizashi we don’t know, that is actual fact?”

    This piece isn’t a review of the car or it would talk about specs, drive train, looks and the Rockford Fostgate stereo system. The focus is on Suzuki’s commitment, drive and determination to make it in the U.S. by improving their product and bringing more of it over. Suzuki has grown up and people will take notice if they take two parts marketing and mix one part budget.

  • avatar

    When this effort goes bust in N.A. will they follow Marvin K. Mooney’s lead and just go now?

  • avatar

    They need more dealers (Saturn?), and fewer Daewoos. I hope this is their battle plan in the US.

  • avatar

    When was the last time you saw a Suzuki television car commercial?

    I must watch too much TV as I’m always seeing the SX4 commercial where it masquerades as Captain Marvel.

  • avatar

    Seven years/100K warranty sounds good. Also 6-speed with selectable AWD and heated seats are ideal for the snow belt areas. Too bad site does not list dimensions, performance and fuel economy of the car.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Well, let me say that Suzuki has my attention here. I’ve owned several Suzuki motorcycles over the years – all of them just great. And – rebadged Daewoos forced on them by GM notwithstanding – cars, trucks and SUVs actually made by Suzuki have a reputation for being tough as nails, interesting and pretty darn fun to drive.

    Friends who owned the original Suzuki Swift back in the early 90’s still speak glowingly of the car. And talk to the tuner crowd about the engine from the oddly-styled Aerio. Myself, I’ve been looking at the SX4 crossover for a while. But the Kizashi may take me in an unexpected direction.

    This excerpt from Suzuki’s news release makes me feel the Kizashi will be every bit as tough as Suzuki’s best:

    “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.”

    That’s the end of the release excerpt. The power from the new 2.4-liter four is being described as “just south of 200 hp” by auto journalists. Would 190 hp with a six-speed manual and great handling get your attention? And I understand the 3.6-liter V6 that’s on the way will be a variant of the powerplant used in the Cadillac CTS and Chevy Camaro. With those engines and a choice of FWD or AWD, Suzuki may just become my zoom-zoom choice. Sorry Mazda.

  • avatar

    If only the new TL looked this good…

  • avatar

    Well, if you make good cars and back them up, they will sell. Suzuki has a good chance now that they’ve dumped the Daewoo garbage. I think they’ve got the technical knowhow to do it, it’s just a matter of execution. Personally I like the way it looks from what I’ve seen, I hope they do well.

  • avatar

    It’s a shame Suzuki doesn’t sell the Swift there. It’s not competitive versus the Yaris or the Fit in terms of utility, but the top-of-the-line Swift 1.6 Sport is about as close as you can get to a Mini short of BMW’s incredible mark-ups.

    The Jimny is something else… Live axles front and rear… electronic locking center-diff… true low range four-wheel drive, and an on-road ride that’s reminiscent of an original Jeep. Terrible little SUV. Terrific little off-roader. I’ve been longing to own one for a long time.

    Suzuki ought to stay in its niche. Work its way up through compact, and then think about midsizing it. It still doesn’t have “compact” right. The SX4 is an interesting, albeit goofy, alternative to the mainstream, but they should spend another model-generation perfecting it before trying to go a size up.

    Especially considering there’s no market for a size-up Suzuki… not in these troubled times.

  • avatar

    The back end of this car is even more derivative than the front. I’m seeing Toyota taillights, with a Mazda trunk cover and Acura exhausts. If I ever come up behind one in traffic, I will surely be confused ;-)

    The side profile isn’t bad tho.

  • avatar

    “Would 190 hp with a six-speed manual and great handling get your attention?”

    Ummm, no way. Maybe in 1996, but certainly not in 2009. Right now I drive an ’02 Maxima with a 255hp silky smooth V6 and a six speed manual transmission. The Kashi (sp?) to me nothing more than a glorified econobox with a craptacular name. Katana? Kazaki? NM, I already forgot it. Think Infiniti G20 circa 1992. Great car, underpowered engine, and no market for it.

  • avatar

    The exterior design on this is as in congruent as any car I’ve seen recently.

    It literally looks like 3 or 4 different manufacturers took sections of existing cars, and patched them together into this amalgam; simply awful.

    The interior is okay, but certainly nothing to shout about.

    Suzuki just can’t seem to find its reason for being, even as a niche player.

  • avatar

    It looks great. Suzuki is trying something different (a large car for a company known for compact 4WDs and small cars). Many people won’t like it because it looks different from other cars, looks the same, is a derivative, has a weird name, looks a bit funny, looks boring. The naysayers have made up their minds even before seeing the product in real life.

  • avatar

    We used to joke that the office junior had it made with a company “Mighty Boy” for his/her errands.

    You can still see them carrying around all sorts of stuff here in Australia! They even have an owner’s group.

  • avatar

    kbohip: “The Kashi (sp?) to me nothing more than a glorified econobox with a craptacular name.”

    You got it…the model name sounds like a brand of grainy cereal. And I never could figure out why someone at Suzuki never figured out that “Vitara” sounds like an erectile dysfunction drug. Hmmm…model names that sound like whole grain cereal and an ED drug…perhaps an attempt to appeal to older baby boomers?

  • avatar

    @ BuzzDog

    And I never could figure out why someone at Suzuki never figured out that “Vitara” sounds like an erectile dysfunction drug.

    The “Vitara” name precedes the other by about a decade, at least in Australia. Very very little of the other is required in Australia. It’s the quality of the beer.

  • avatar

    PeteMoran, I don’t dispute that Suzuki used the name first, but they still had plenty of opportunities to change it once “Viagra” became a household word, at least in the U.S. (thanks to Bob Dole and others). It’s just not a pleasant association…sort of like the appetite suppressant named “Ayds” that quietly slipped off of the market in the early 1980s, right after HIV made headlines. Their tagline, “Lose weight with Ayds!” somehow lost its appeal…

  • avatar

    @ p00ch

    I agree 100%! This is what the Acura TL should have looked like. I cannot understand for the life of me why Acura clings to the Gladiator look for dear life. As a long time Acura buyer, I would prefer they admit that that they screwed the pooch, fire the designers responsible for their current “look” and start over. If they do not wise up soon, when it comes time to replace my 1st gen. MDX, I will be looking elsewhere.

  • avatar

    @ kbohip

    While more HP is always fun, that gen Maxima has torque steer out the wazoo. A refined ride it is not. And the Maxima is more of a class above standard midsize cars anyway. This car seems likely to be priced about $5-10k below a current Maxima.

    To me, this seems like it combines a Passat-like driving experience (tight handling, good maneuverability, decent though not class-fastest acceleration) with Sonata value. Gotta wait until I drive it to be sure, but I’m definitely interested.

  • avatar

    I’m not trying to be an ass (honestly), but people here actually think the front end and read end of this car are aesthetically pleasing?


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