TEStDRIVE It is well-equipped, engineered impressively and has a good ride quality. Shapur Kotwal on the Maruti Suzuki Kizashi

B eing a car company, you'd never want yourself to be typecast. Companies world over are trying harder than ever to shed their stereotypical images. Maruti is hoping to do the same with it's Kizashi, a car that doesn't quite fall into any particular segment. For all its radical lines, the Kizashi's nose is pretty conventional. The sporty wire mesh grille is typically Suzuki, and big headlights make it look like a grown-up SX4 from head-on.

But look closer at the rest of the car and funkier lines start to emerge. This design has a Swift-like vibe to it and the compact and sporty dimensions seem to grow on you the more you look at them. We particularly like the chromed-over alloys, the bulging wheel arches, the tight- fitting roof and especially the heavily sculpted rear, with its integrated boot lip spoiler and chrome exhaust brackets. The Kizashi has been positioned as a sportier alternative to cars such as the Accord at one end and as a larger, more spacious alternative to cars such as the Skoda Laura at the other. And Suzuki wants drivers to enjoy this car. The all-round independent suspension comes attached to rigid sub-frames and you get an impressive 176bhp under your right foot.

Performance-driven

Maruti however has diluted some of this sportiness for India. You don't get the stiff set-up present in other markets, the suspension has been raised by 15mm to help deal with Indian roads better, and the four-wheel-drive system has been deleted as well.

We tested both the six-speed manual and the CVT automatic but it was the manual that we preferred. The gearbox is positive and easy to slot accurately and the action is nice and light despite the fact that the gate is a bit wide. Performance is strong though and the wide powerband allows the Kizashi to shoot to 100kph in 9.13 seconds, 150kph coming up in 20.12sec. The 2.4-litre motor is very torquey and the Kizashi responds instantly to a tap on the throttle, making it an enthusiastic performer. So there's always plenty of performance on hand for city overtaking and you don't really need to swap cogs often. You can pull the motor all the way to 6500rpm, and it does so willingly, but it does get a touch throaty towards the top. We also found that the Kizashi carried a Japanese speed limiter, the car unable to cross a real speed of 181kph (approximately 193kph on the speedometer).. And Maruti won't remove this limiter for you either.

The performance of the automatic, as expected, is not as strong. It takes 10.1 seconds to reach 100kph, due to the initial sluggishness of the CVT 'box. It's only marginally nicer when you use the paddles and put the gearbox in manual mode. The ‘rubber band' effect is now a bit less and you have some control over the gearbox, which improves things a bit. And there is less droning and whining from the belts in the gearbox as well. We suggest you opt for the auto if you are going to do a lot of city commuting only. The upside of the CVT is that it delivers greater fuel efficiency than a torque converter equipped auto. The Kizashi automatic consumed a litre for every 7.9 kilometres covered in the city and efficiency on the highway was even better at 12.2kpl.

On its softened suspension and large wheels, the Kizashi delivers a fantastically pliant and absorbent ride. Broken surfaces don't faze it in the least and you can drive confidently over any poor patch. Agility and handling however aren't as good. Body control becomes loose as you push the Kizashi hard and this is a bit disconcerting. What's disappointing is that you can tell there's a lot of potential in the chassis. It turns in beautifully at slower speeds, is well-balanced in long corners and, while the steering isn't great, the wide tyres really provide a lot of grip.

What feel special are the interiors. This car may not be big-sized and legroom at the rear especially is not good, but the Kizashi feels comfortable and sophisticated in its own right. The V-shaped dash has a smart design, the steering wheel is beautifully built and the cabin does have the ambience of a luxury car. There are plenty of shiny chrome bits, the sunken dials on the instrument panel look good and the doorpads are pretty substantial too, generously padded and detailed.

The dimpled leather seats are well-constructed and both large and very supportive. There's plenty of shoulder- and headroom at the front and features such as powered front seats, seat memory and keyless go only add to the ‘feel good' the cabin delivers. What spoils the ambience of the insides are some carried-over Suzuki buttons, such as those on the driver's doorpad and others on the right of the steering wheel. Legroom at the rear is better than you expect — you are seated high and seat comfort in isolation is really quite good. But that's not to say it's perfect, for the seat squab is a bit short and the backrest slightly upright.

Drives with enthusiasm

That the Kizashi is a grown-up car with a much larger body and a bigger engine is not too hard to see. Engineered well and with the same high standards as its more experienced rivals, the Kizashi is assembled well and good looking as well. It scores on performance and comfort levels too. It is well-equipped, drives with enthusiasm and the ride quality is excellent. It may not be a winner in its segment but reasonably sporty and luxurious saloon car, the Kizashi is a very good option.

The Kizashi delivers a pliant and absorbent ride. Broken surfaces don't faze it in the least and you can drive confidently over any poor patch

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