Suzuki Grows Up: While others downsize, Japan's quiet achiever grows bigger
June 24, 2008
While other automakers race to bring smaller cars to the U.S., longtime small-car specialist Suzuki is moving into the midsize and pickup truck segments. Bad timing? Or just another clever zig while the others zag by one of Japan's most quietly successful low-profile automakers?
First, Suzuki gets a pickup truck, although the 2009 Equator is a compact pickup, based on the Nissan Frontier and built by that automaker in the U.S.
Suzuki's 2010 midsize car, based on the Kizashi concept, will enter the most competitive auto segment in the business, battling Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Chevy Malibu with the Malibu's own 3.6-liter "high-feature" V-6 as an option. The Kizashi-cake's icing (Suzuki may hold a contest to name the car for North America) is that it one-ups the current Malibu with the gas direct-injection version of the 3.6, so far available only on the Cadillac CTS and 2009 GM Lambda crossovers, plus Suzuki's own all-wheel-drive system.
Suzuki promises its new midsize will be on the sport-sedan side of this segment. The base front-drive model will feature an all-new Suzuki four-cylinder engine in the 2.5-liter range.
There's also a mid-cycle refresh of the Grand Vitara on the way. Then, in 2010, the U.S. market will see the return of the Suzuki Swift as a 2011 model. While the Swift, dropped from the U.S. lineup in 2001, was a boring little B-segment car, the current model, not available here, has been a hit in Europe with engines leading up to a 124-horsepower, 1.6-liter.
We'll get the generation following. If Suzuki can pull that off, it may finally find its intended place in the U.S. as a small, scrappy motorcycle manufacturer with a full range of fuel-efficient fun cars and trucks, like Honda, circa 1979.