Suzuki Motor Corp in India is synonimous for making small, low cost, no-nonsensical frugal cars that give customers great value for your money, a peppy drive and an after sales network so capable that it makes those cars last a lifetime. At the same time though, the company never hid its so far futile aspirations to move up the ladder and replicate its success with bigger beefier cars. The Baleno was appreciated and loved by all but found few takers. Ditto for the SUV Grand Vitara, which continues to struggle on the sales charts.
The company is now attempting to undo history again with its most expensive and luxurious offering till date - the Kizashi. As it hits the roads, it will find competition from Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Skoda. Will Kizashi live up to the Goliaths?
At the outset, the car carries the look of a winner. It is shorter and less wider than most of its competitors including the Accord. Quite a few things catch the eye none the least than the sparkling grille that has a honeycomb mesh designed with gun metal finish. That is surrounded by wrap around headlamps. At the rear, the triangular dual exhaust pipes stand out as do the inbuilt spoiler in the trunk lid and the rather high-placed sloping tail lamps. Undoubtedly the car scores high in this department.
The good work is carried on inside. The relatively high stance of the car means getting in and out of the car is very easy and one does not need to stoop to enter it. The quality of plastic, upholstery and fit and finish is top notch. Steering mounted audio and criuse controls and keyless push start system are par for the course. A few missing links like bluetooth connectivity however, somewhat undermine the good work.
Ride and handling
The car comes with a six-speed manual transmission and a CVT automatic version with paddle shift gears. The ground clearance in the Indian Kizashi has been raised by 15mm and the transmission tuned to meet our road conditions. The steering is responsive and handling is top notch. Its bigger 17'' tyres ensure that the car maintains its composure well at speed. The drawback - beyond 140 kmph, it suddenly becomes sluggish.
Despite its bulk the car remains true to the Suzuki DNA and offers the best fuel economy figures in its class, a good 12.5 kilometre for every litre of petrol. What is missing, as is always the case with Japanese cars is a diesel variant, which undoubtedly would have been more economical.
Maruti is well aware of what the biggest problem Kizashi faces in the market and it has nothing to do with how good or bad the car really is. A buyer of a luxury sedan is not one who is overly concerned with value for money, fuel economy or after sales service.
He is one who would spend an extra buck for an ego massage and that is where a Maruti does not have much to offer. The car itself is a delightful product that's great to look at, very cosy inside and a comfortable drive. Also at Rs 16.5-17.5 lakh, it is a good Rs 2 lakh cheaper than the Accord but that's a strategy that Hyundai with the Sonata has attempted umpteen times...and failed. Only time will tell if for a Maruti the market will ditch a more aspirational Honda, VW or Toyota brand.