Matt H purchased this Suzuki Kizashi used for $13,990 (including all on-road costs) in 2018. Matt H wouldn’t buy this car again because: “Despite all its great points, I wouldn’t buy a Kizashi with the CVT again. It’s just too much of a reliability gamble, and saps the joy out of what is otherwise a brilliant, criminally overlooked car… if you can drive a manual. “
My tenure with the Kizashi (Ruth, as she was affectionately known) was relatively brief, lasting about two years total by way of my partner buying their first car, but the reliability was definitely a tale of two parts.
In most aspects, the car was faultless. Nothing electrical ever went wrong or played up, the engine was as reliable as the sun rising, and the general build quality was absolutely superb. Save for the directional controls on the front AC vents, and a USB port that decided to sink into the depths of the centre console (which was probably user error), this was easily one of the most well-built and screwed together cars I’ve ever been in.
Sadly, the whole thing was let down by an unwelcome, if not familiar culprit: a Jatco CVT. Not unlike putting power through a papier mache blender, this was very much the weak link in an otherwise lovely car. Aside from the foibles of being an early-ish CVT (more on that later), it was about as robust as a Sydney apartment building.
While I never had any loss of drive, thankfully, the general groaning, starter clutch noise, and screaming agony under anything more than half throttle was very concerning. A hot day would mean the whole box would whine away, and on more than a few occasions, I put my foot hard down only to be met with a sound like an old air raid siren. That’s not even hyperbole.
Not ideal. Over time the problem got worse, and was one of the main factors in deciding to move Ruth on.
CVT aside, the ownership experience was very pleasant! Services were straightforward and easy at the local mechanic, with no odd pricing or problems getting parts, no doubt helped by the fact the engine was shared with the Grand Vitara of the time.
As a place to spend time, it was pretty good. The cabin was far more spacious than the exterior would have you believe, the car was quiet, and visibility was decent all round. The boot did sit a touch high, and the A-pillars were on the larger side, but it was by no means a chore to see out of.
The front seats do warrant a mention though. They’re comfortable enough, and the base fabric in the XL model was nice, but I always found it really hard to get properly comfortable. For my tastes, the headrest sat too far forward and I either felt like I was sitting on a perch, or slouched too far back.
Also, something I think that’s often overlooked by people: headlights. They were pretty decent on the Kizashi in general, but the high beam spread was a bit narrow and low for my liking.
For the price (at the time anyway), the car was exceptional value. One owner and 75,000km, a full service history, and $13,990 out the door? It’s almost too good to be true (spoiler, it was). The car was in great condition overall, having been owned by an old retired couple, and the paint was especially good. It’s so very, very red.
The features of the car were pretty reasonable, although I always found it odd that the car had proximity push-button entry, and a starter button, but no Bluetooth for either calls or audio. Nor did it have an AUX port, only a USB input, which I could never get to work with my phone either.
Safety was covered off well though, with six airbags and the usual brace of ESC, traction control, and a smattering of other branded acronyms which all really mean the same thing. A full-sized spare was nice too, especially handy when an errant bolt decided to lunch the rear left tyre.
I almost feel bad writing this section, as the engine was very much a case of trying its best, but was let down by another team member – like a group assignment at uni. The 2.4-litre unit was, in a word, fine. It developed an amount of power, and another amount of torque, which was perfectly adequate for moving the car about.
It didn’t sound bad, but never sounded ‘good’, and as a daily driver did the job demanded of it perfectly well.
But that CVT… oh, that infernal CVT. Reliability concerns aside, it just wasn’t any good as a gearbox. Slow off the mark, doughy throttle response, and far too keen to keep revs to a minimum, it just sapped all joy, life, and momentum out of the car.
Any moderate acceleration would be ruined by the car’s brain wanting to drop back to just above idle at anything above 40km/h. I’ve heard Kizashis with the manual ‘box are actually quite quick, and I’d believe it too. The CVT was just woeful.
On the occasions I did ask it to get a move on, my flex of the right foot was always met with a lot of noise, but not a lot of movement. I could maybe, MAYBE forgive this if somehow the fuel economy was remarkable, but it wasn’t.
For its size and output, the Kizashi was actually a bit thirsty. Even with a good dose of highway driving, I never managed to average anything less than 9.0L/100km, and would usually sit around the 11L/100km mark – not the best for a mid-sized four-cylinder sedan.
What technology? Okay, that’s probably a touch unfair, but at the bare minimum this car should have had an AUX port. Hell, a Ford Focus from 2004 had one. Either stubbornness, or wilful ignorance on Suzuki’s part there.
A USB port might have been great in 2010, as you plugged in your 16GB SanDisk thumb drive loaded up with Teenage Dream, but it sure didn’t age well. The lack of Bluetooth was another annoyance, and I know you could get it on higher trim levels, but come on. Even then, it was for calls only and not audio streaming.
Push button keyless entry and start was a nice touch though, and unexpected on a base 2010 model. Would I have traded it for Bluetooth though? Yes, absolutely.
For all the ragging I’ve done on the Kizashi, the ride and handling was one of the best aspects of the car. Firstly, the ride. Keep in mind the XL was the base model, with chunky Yokohama sidewalls, but god it was comfortable.
Not wallowy or overly soft, but just so well-judged and damped, especially on crummy SEQ highways. It always felt planted and solid, and really well suited to the sort of roads and driving we have in Australia.
The handling didn’t suffer from the ride quality either. It wasn’t Swift Sport fun (having owned one at the same time the Kizashi was in my life), but the steering was accurate and well judged, if a tad light. It was quick enough too, with enough feel to get a sense of what was going on underneath you. Dare I say it, it was enjoyable, and would have been more so if it wasn’t for the CV… you get the idea.
Design is always subjective, and always will be. But there’s no denying that the Kizashi cut a svelte figure when it was released (even if it was a downgrade from the fabulous Suzuki concepts of the mid/late 2000s), and to my eye still looks good today.
The front lights might be a tad buggy, but the rear profile is great, and still something that catches my eye in traffic. From the interestingly shaped tail light clusters, the compact but reasonably wide stance, to the beautiful satin exhaust tips integrated into the rear bumper (and they’re not fake exhausts either!), it has aged very, very well.