LOS ANGELES -- Reeling from a 60.2 percent sales decline in the first half of 2009, American Suzuki hopes the launch of its Kizashi mid-sized sedan in December will help reverse course.
But first Suzuki must convince U.S. shoppers that the Kizashi really is a mid-sized sedan. It is smaller than such vehicles as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
As a small company, Suzuki does not have the resources to create a different platform just for the United States. So the Kizashi is more of a tweener. It fits between the Toyota Corolla and Camry, rather than directly challenging the mid-sized segment leader.
Also, every entrant in the mid-sized segment offers both a four-cylinder and V-6 engine. But the Kizashi will offer only a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine. Horsepower and torque figures were not given, but the 2.4-liter in Suzukis Grand Vitara crossover generates 166hp and 162-pound-feet of torque.
Steve Younan, Suzuki product planning director, said American Suzuki still is negotiating with Japan on equipping the Kizashi with a V-6. But the Kizashis expected volumes, not yet announced by the automaker, likely will be too low to make a V-6 version pencil out, Younan admitted.
We needed to be sure the four-cylinder is robust enough to carry the vehicle if there is no V-6, he said. The engine will be teamed with a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is optional.
Suzuki says it will market the Kizashi as a premium car without the premium price. Standard features will include eight airbags, stability control, 16-inch wheels, projector-beam headlamps and Akebono disc brakes with Bosch ABS control.
Rather than chase the Camry and Accord, Suzuki is comparing itself to smaller, premium vehicles such as the Acura TSX and Volkswagen Passat. Prices will be announced closer to the vehicles launch.
The Kizashi will be built in Sagara plant, alongside Suzukis SX4 compact car.