As Maruti Suzuki venture into the as yet unexplored luxury car segment with the Kizashi, the designers seem to have taken inspiration from an athlete in motion, to give the sedan the sporty look, rather than that of a run-of-the-mill saloon.
The Kizashi’s three-dimensional curved bonnet lines make for a strong presence while giving the impression of forward motion. The headlamps with their elliptical rings add to the muscular look of the car, aided and abetted by the mesh-design front grille. The taut shoulder lines run from the nose to the tail, giving the car a dynamic and sporty stance from the side and, at the same time, making it look elegant.
The sporty and aggressive design theme is more pronounced at the rear with the high, rounded boot line and twin exhaust outlets.
The minute you step inside the car, there is an unmistakable air of luxury emanating from the leather upholstery and the fit-and-finish of the plastics and the switchgear. One has never seen this kind of quality in any Maruti product in the past, not even in their high-end SUV. The sportiness of the car is evident inside too as you get behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel and take a first look at the driver-centred instrumentation layout.
The Kizashi hides a 2,400-cc, DOHC 16-valve J-engine under its hood, which develops a healthy 178 PS at 6,500 rpm and 230 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. The engine is mated either to a six-speed manual gearbox or, depending upon your choice, a continuous variable transmission (CVT) with a six-speed paddle shift on the steering.
As I examined further, the rigidity of the body and suspension were a true revelation. The straight under-floor members and comprehensively reinforced joints play an important part in increasing the tensional rigidity of the monocoque along with the reinforced pillars and suspension mounts. The suspension up front is standard McPherson strut and there is a multi-link set-up at the rear.
The people from Maruti Suzuki had selected the Udaipur-Mount Abu highway for our test drive. It is basically a dual carriageway with some really high-speed corners, allowing one to see if the sports sedan lived up to one’s expectations.
I had the manual six-speed car. Once we hit the highway and got up to speed, the first thing I noticed was the NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) – hardly any road or wind noise infiltrated the interior of this car.
The Kizashi is truly a sports luxury sedan and a fun car to drive right from the short-throw six-speed box to the 2.4-litre engine. The gear shift is slick and precise. The pull from this 2.4 engine is very strong up to 4,000 rpm and then it goes a little flat until it hits the rev limiter at 6,700 rpm. The CVT option is good as one can cruise along without having to shift gears and use the clutch. At the same time, one can also have some fun by selecting the manual mode and using the paddle shifters on the steering.
The Kizashi’s engine and gearbox lived up to its sports sedan billing, but it was the suspension and steering that really completed the sports package. The steering was light yet precise and gave an excellent feedback. The firm suspension set-up with 215/55/17 tyres gave the car a leech-like grip and it was put to full test when I took some of the corners well in excess of 170 km/h. Most cars behave themselves under normal circumstances, but I had to manoeuvre the Kizashi as I came round a corner in excess of 170 km/h and, ran into a stretch that was dug up.
It was then that the Kizashi showed its true colours. As I simultaneously slammed on the brakes and steered the car, it neither misbehaved nor lost poise, with the result that I was able to steer it without a problem through that rough patch.
The Kizashi is a fine sports sedan, but Maruti Suzuki have their work cut out for them in changing the mindset of their dealers and, of course, their customers.