What is it?
Until now, Japanese car maker Suzuki hasn't had a saloon car. It specialises in small, affordable and reliable hatchbacks along with tough little 4x4s, but the Kizashi is about to change all that. It's a four-door saloon car or 'D segment' model, which puts it in the same league as highly established rivals like the Ford Mondeo and the Volkswagen Passat.
Suzuki doesn't expect the Kizashi to steal many sales from cars like that, those. When it arrives in the UK at the end of 2011, the Kizashi will have four-wheel drive, so it will go head-to-head with models like the Subaru Legacy, the Vauxhall Insignia 4x4 and the Audi A4 quattro.
Is it any good?
When it reaches the UK, the Kizashi will only be available with four-wheel drive and a CVT automatic gearbox, but only the front-wheel drive version with a six-speed manual transmission was available to test. That model is already on sale overseas and, though we won't see it here, it was enough to get a taste for what the UK version will be like when it finally arrives.
Most rival saloons and big hatchbacks are sold with turbodiesel engines or relatively small petrol units with turbochargers or superchargers - but the Kizashi is a little old-fashioned in that it uses a 2.4-litre 176bhp petrol engine. That's pretty large and the engine's size is reflected in its fuel economy and emissions figures - 35.8mpg and 183g/km respectively, which is a long way from the top of the class.
It may not be ground breaking but the Kizashi is actually quite good fun. It thrives on being driven hard and comes alive at high revs - unlike most modern saloon cars. The ride isn't as comfortable as it is in the class leaders, but the reverse effect is that the driver receives quite a lot of feedback, which makes the Suzuki more exploitable than the majority of cosseting rivals.
Inside, the Kizashi is reasonably spacious but it's let down by an interior that's below par next to European rivals. It's tough enough and well built, but lacks the kind of quality and finish that we associate with fellow four-door saloons. Things are different outside, though. You're not likely to see another Kizashi on the road - even after it's gone on sale - and the curvaceous, aggressive exterior makes it even more distinctive.
Should I call the bank manager?
Prices have yet to be confirmed for the UK, but Suzuki says that the Kizashi will cost around £24,000. It will have plenty of standard equipment, too, including electrically adjustable and heated seats, HID headlamps, a full leather interior, 18-inch alloys and much more. The only optional extra will be a satellite navigation system.
The Suzuki Kizashi isn't going to knock the Ford Mondeo or the Volkswagen Passat off the top spots. The lack of a diesel engine and higher than average running costs put it at a distinct disadvantage, while saloon cars without a premium badge on the bonnet always struggle in UK showrooms.
Suzuki is aware of this, though, and it plans to sell only 500 Kizashis in the first year, which seems reasonable. What's more, the Kizashi's unique looks and its generous equipment count make it something of an attractive, leftfield prospect. Four-wheel drive may also be a draw for buyers conscious of more harsh winters in future, while Suzuki's excellent reliability record is also a big selling point.