Sharpening the pencil
No doubt, it’s been a tough year for Suzuki in North America. In Canada, at the end of 2011, the Japanese brand will have sold about 6,000 units throughout the country, which amounts to a 40% plunge compared to 2010. With no new products in sight, the future sure doesn’t look good.
But Suzuki is confident that they will bounce back with dealer-focused efforts to promote their vehicles. And when I look at their product lineup – a small one, admittedly – the vehicles themselves aren’t the problem; the problem is Suzuki’s brand awareness, or lack thereof.
The Grand Vitara compact SUV, the SX4 compact hatchback and sedan as well as the Kizashi mid-size sedan are all competent rides, but nobody seems to know they exist. The Swift+ is officially a goner, and if you’re really lusting for an Equator pickup, they can always build you one if you order it.
In Canada, about half of Suzuki’s sales are concentrated in La Belle Province as 30 out of the brand’s 70 Canadian dealerships are located there. So besides Quebec and Ontario, Suzukis are relatively absent from the automotive landscape.
It’s especially a shame for the Kizashi, the company’s newest offering. Every time we drive this car, we walk away impressed, and it deserves a greater audience than Suzuki can provide it with.
AWD across the board
For 2012, the Kizashi is still offered in three trim levels: S, SX and Sport. However, all-wheel drive is now standard on every model; in 2011, only the SX boasted AWD.
With the Kizashi, Suzuki isn’t trying to hunt down the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. Rather, it has set its sights on a more attainable rival, the Subaru Legacy. Unlike the Subie’s full-time system, Suzuki’s iAWD favours the front wheels under normal driving conditions. Depending on the driver's input or the car’s reaction, it sends power to the rear and from side to side, anticipating that wheels will start slipping. There’s also a button on the dash if the driver wants to manually deactivate iAWD.
And the Kizashi is a terrific handling machine, more so than just about every other midsize sedan rival. Yet despite its willingness to carve up twisty back roads, the car’s ride, in my humble opinion, strikes a sweet balance between comfort and sport; not as soft as a Camry, not as harsh as a Kia Optima.
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