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Kizashi set to underpin Suzuki SUV and small-car range

Grand Vitara: Suzuki is forging ahead with the development of its next-gen Grand Vitara SUV.

Suzuki is poised to spring a variety of models off its midsized sedan

8 Feb 2011

SUZUKI is poised to spread its SUV wings with a two-pronged strategy to attract lifestyle crossover buyers as well as off-road focussed customers who traditionally have bought the Grand Vitara.

The softer product is likely to be spun off the existing FR Kizashi platform in the shape of a wagon-cum-crossover.

Due in about two years, it will compete against the likes of the Subaru Outback as well as the Nissan X-Trail, and act as a performance and dynamic flagship.

Word is that this vehicle may even use Volkswagen-sourced four-cylinder turbo petrol and diesel, as well as V6 powerplants and even the dual-clutch ‘automatic’ gearbox.

Meanwhile, development is forging ahead with the replacement for the existing third-generation Grand Vitara.

Rumoured to include a three-row seven-seater wagon for the US (and Australian) markets in the mould of the old XL-7, as well as a regular five-seater wagon in both three or five-door guises, the fourth-generation SUV may retain separate chassis construction in order to keep Suzuki 4x4 traditionalists happy.

Today’s Grand Vitara, released during 2005, features a longitudinally mounted engine and rear or all-wheel drive set-up, and is loosely built off General Motors’ Theta platform – although those vehicles have transverse and front-drive applications.

30 center imageTop: Suzuki Grand Vitara. Middle and bottom: Suzuki Kizashi.

Whether the replacement vehicle will be developed and/or shared with shareholder Volkswagen is unknown.

According to Suzuki Australia managing director Takeshi Hayasaki, the company is debating the future of the Grand Vitara, which has acquired a dedicated following over the last 23 years over three generations.

He said that keeping the brand’s uniqueness in the face increasing automotive homogeny was one of the biggest obstacles that Suzuki needed to overcome if it was to succeed.

“This is the big discussion we are having right now,” Mr Hayasaki revealed to GoAuto at the launch of the fourth-generation Swift light car near Melbourne this month.

“The question is: do we stay unique with ladder frame construction or change to monocoque construction.

“Some markets demand a change because it is what everybody else is doing. But others want Suzuki to stay unique.

“I think it is very important that Suzuki stays unique.”

Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers,said a decision on the Grand Vitara was likely to be made soon.

“Grand Vitara sales are very consistent around the world, and so it is a very important model for Suzuki,” he said.

“I am going to Japan to a product planning meeting later in February, and that’s where I will find out more.

“But we have a two-wheel-drive version on the drawing board. Suzuki’s DNA is always 4x4 and we’ll always retain that too. The Grand Vitara will always be part of that.

“But whether we create an additional, different type of soft roader, that’s what I will find out.

“But Suzuki will never walk away from a true 4x4 heritage. In what form, or what volume, or what segment – I don’t know.

“We dominate for people who want a genuine off-road-capable compact SUV. We sell 3000 per year, and those people are very satisfied.

“But there are other people in the suburbs that don’t need 4x4 and things like that. I think that’s becoming a very different segment. They want a more versatile car with space.”

Another model believed to be on Suzuki’s drawing board is a C-segment hatch to replace the slow-selling SX4 in key markets like Europe, North America, Australia and Japan.

Designed to give Suzuki a small-car contender against the likes of the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 as well as the massively successful Nissan Qashqai/Dualis, this model too may spill into a separate wagon/crossover niche.

Suzuki’s Kizashi-based multi-model strategy mirrors that of Subaru, which essentially employs the same underpinnings for the Impreza, Forester and Liberty/Outback.

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