The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi was the overall winner in this year’s AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award rankings among 2010MY vehicles, meaning that it not only was best in its mid-size car segment, but was more satisfying to its owners than any other 2010 model year vehicle on the market. Yes, more satisfying than Camry, Accord, or Altima. Heck, it was rated as more satisfying by its owners than Lexus LS460, for crying out loud!
Who Says You Can’t Get Standard Navigation for $18,500? Not Suzuki
We called up the kind folks over at Suzuki this winter and asked if we could check out one of their latest additions, the 2010 SX4 Sportback. Specifically, we wanted to check out the standard integrated Garmin navigation system. Having spent a reasonable amount of time with systems that range from $1500 to $2500, the idea of a cheap but functional system appeals. The expensive systems generally have great graphics, bigger screens, and are nicely integrated into the car’s center stack. But are they worth it?
Suzuki is also making some noise with what is now the second-oldest vehicle in its range, the five-door SX4, for 2010MY. Launched for the 2007MY, this five-door hatchback was introduced as an AWD model, causing some to initially confuse it with a small SUV. The range was expanded to include a sedan with the 2008MY, and a front-drive version of the hatchback became available for 2009MY. With 2010MY, these cars take a new engine that boosts power to 150HP and also comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission.
Suzuki Kizashi arrives in showrooms in December 2009. When the car was revealed this summer, we talked about how its size fits into the market (click here), but Suzuki recently invited us to spend an afternoon flogging the car around rural roads in North Carolina and at the Virginia International Raceway. We happily obliged.
Should Americans recent appreciation for cheap chic develop into a sustained shift, Suzuki is ready. Kizashi is a sporting, stylish sedan with premium features and finish at a mainstream price–a mainstream price, not a value price. For Suzuki, if keeping up with the Joneses now means how little did you spend to get fancy tricks of premium cars, Kizashi represents well. Comparing Kizashi against its development targets (Alfa Romeo 159, Acura TSX, and Volkswagen Passat CC), and you find a responsive drive, lots of features, and generic uplevel cues. Suzuki’s target was good for the consumer: It resulted in a better car.
Kizashi is smaller than Mazda6, larger than compact Chevrolet Cobalt; smaller than Ford Fusion and larger than Volkswagen Jetta. Kizashi is ahead of the segment offering AWD; sure, Ford Fusion does, but only with more expensive V6 models. Speaking of V6, Kizashi launches without one. AutoPacific’s research shows most buyers would put a six-cylinder in their next ideal vehicle–even if they often end up buying a four–and Suzuki has one we wouldn’t be surprised to see later.
Suzuki unveiled the company’s very first mid-size sedan this week, and VehicleVoice staff were on hand to witness the car’s global debut. The importance of the car to Suzuki cannot be overstated. The company has long been known for small vehicles, specifically compact cars and SUVs. But, buyers of small vehicles tend to want to move up to larger vehicles next time around and by and large, Suzuki has not had larger vehicles to move owners up into (we’ll ignore the forgettable Verona, a rebadged Daewoo sedan). Thus, the company has not been able to retain its customers as they progress through their lifestages.
Tustin, California, June 30, 2008 –
An “ideal” is defined as an excellent or perfect example. In the annual Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA), announced today by automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, owners rate their new 2008 model year cars and trucks by how close they come to their ideal, as measured by 15 key vehicle attributes. The cars or trucks that owners would change the least are the most ideal.
Cadillac Top Brand, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Top Car, Toyota Sequoia Top Truck and Top Vehicle
Tustin, California, May 29, 2008 – A study released today by noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc
. summarizes the results of its 2008 model year vehicle satisfaction research. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA) is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new passenger car or light truck.
In a year that promises to be the toughest in a decade, owner-based awards like AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award will help customers make their purchase decisions.
The brand with the highest satisfaction rating is Cadillac. The vehicle – car or truck – registering highest overall satisfaction in 2008 is the new-for-2008 Toyota Sequoia Large Sport Utility Vehicle. The passenger car with the highest overall satisfaction score is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
There are twenty-eight Vehicle Satisfaction Award categories. At the manufacturer level, multiple top ranked award winners include: General Motors
(eleven categories), Toyota (nine categories), Ford (six categories), Volkswagen
(four categories), Honda
(three categories) and Hyundai
“Cadillac wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award as the top brand in a close race. Strong satisfaction performance by Cadillac cars and trucks has Cadillac winning over other leading luxury marques including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Top ranked finishes by Cadillac’s Escalade, CTS and DTS helped cement their industry topping position.”
Peterson continues, “Vehicles that are all new received top rankings in several categories: Cadillac CTS, Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion xD, Toyota Sequoia, Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Hyundai Veracruz, GMC Acadia, Saturn Vue and Nissan Rogue. These new-for-2008 vehicles were strongly rated by their owners showing that the industry continues to improve as new vehicles are added to the hotly contested American car and light truck markets.”
From a vehicle type perspective, Traditional Sport Utility Vehicles received the highest ratings as a class closely followed by Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles. Peterson says, “Clearly, SUVs continue to be one of the most popular and satisfying vehicle types available in the USA today. Even with skyrocketing gas prices, SUVs are attractive and Crossover SUVs fill the bill for most SUV buyers with better fuel economy.” Cars scored slightly below industry average followed by minivans and pickup trucks.
Suzuki Goes to Nissan for a Truck
Looking at Suzuki‘s new Equator, introduced at the Chicago auto show, you can see a Nissan Frontier shape. This isn’t an accident or a copycat design, as Nissan will build the Equator for Suzuki. Suzuki has a stronger image among buyers of ATVs, marine engines, and motorcycles than they do with people looking for cars and trucks. A compact pickup seems natural for a brand selling toys that need to be towed, especially as their toys have terrific reputations for quality and value. Suzuki won’t sell enough Equators to justify creating and building a pickup of their own, but partnering gets them a strong product at a price they can afford.
Officially, we haven’t yet seen the production Equator (on sale until fall 2008), as Suzuki presented three concepts in Chicago. Each highlighted another branch of Suzuki’s recreational business, carrying Suzuki ATVs and motorcycles and hauling a boat with Suzuki engines. Supporting the relationship between Suzuki cars and trucks, Suzuki’s Gene Brown drove on stage on their V-Strom motorcycle. And in the Windy City in a February snowstorm, images of warm-weather outdoor activities were all the more compelling. Suzuki linked the two sides of the company and demonstrated why a truck can be a sensible addition.
The concepts should inspire customizers and Suzuki’s planning teams, looking for possible special editions and factory-backed accessories. Suzuki showed the Equator being used to maximizing free time, giving it a fun image from the get-go. Equator has a solid foundation, if a weak name, and a team behind it with a clear sense of what buyer to target and a good road map for getting there.
Concepts at Frankfurt and Tokyo Foreshadow Suzuki’s Mid-Size Intentions.
The Kizashi at the 2007 Frankfurt show and the Kizashi 2 a month later at the Tokyo motor show, according to Suzuki, “illustrate Suzuki‘s progress toward developing a D-segment entry.” For American buyers, those are cars similar in size to the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Hyundai Azera. Suzuki’s GM-Daewoo-supplied Verona tried to compete here, but was not a particularly good example of a family sedan, expensive for the Suzuki franchise, and it was dropped from the range after a short sales run in the USA.
Among the interesting elements of these two international concept cars is that both carry a wagon bodystyle; Suzuki is due to show a third development next year in the United States and it would be a good bet that that car is a sedan and closer to what the production vehicle will be. Suzuki is well aware of the need for the production car to at least include a sedan, having indicated that they are planning a new flagship sedan, despite theses wagon concepts. In the States, four-door sedans dominate car segments. Few wagons survive for long in the cutthroat U.S. mid-size market, and those that do sell a fraction of their sedan counterparts. Wagons fare much better in international markets, where buyers did not take SUVs to heart quite as deeply as Americans. Simply, in the USA, SUVs killed the idea of a conventional station wagon.
The Kizashi 2 in Tokyo takes more aggressive, nearly SUV cues, compared with the sleek Kizashi, but it is still a wagon. Suzuki is looking for a D-segment entry that focuses on status and signals the maturity of the brand.