Suzuki has always been a specialist in small car design, so the new Kizashi is a significant step out of its comfort zone. Just launched in South Africa, this midsized sedan was created to take on the likes of Honda's Accord and Subaru's Legacy, with the Mazda6 being perhaps its closest competitor perception-wise.

Said to combine European-style design with Japanese craftsmanship, the Kizashi boasts straightforward lines that do tend toward the sporty side but perhaps not enough to ensure that it stands out in a crowd.

The Kizashi sits on 18-inch alloy wheels and measures just 4650mm in length, while its wheelbase of 2700mm ensures ample cabin space. Boot space is nothing special though, with just 461 litres available.

On the upside, designers aimed to a strong sense of quality in the cabin and it appears to have paid off.

In the words of our launch correspondent, Jesse Adams: “Suzuki's first attempt at a semi-luxurious sedan is a pretty good one quality wise. Attention to detail in areas like unbroken door rubber seals, sunlight sensors on the dash to adjust display lighting accordingly and vibrating washer nozzles that more effectively spray the windscreen all add up to give the Kizashi a fairly classy feel.

“The cabin's well insulated but nowhere near as much as in similarly sized German cars that Suzuki named in its launch press conference. Front seats don't go low enough for westerner body sizes, but rear seat legroom is very good.”

Interior kit is very generous, with standard amenities including a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, 10-way electric adjustment for the driver's seat, a powerful seven-speaker CD/MP3/USB sound system and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers. Six airbags (front, side and curtain-level) are standard.

There's nothing groundbreaking beneath the bonnet, with the Kizashi employing the Grand Vitara's 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine but it should meet most needs with 131kW on tap at 6500rpm and 230Nm at 4000rpm. The engine is mated to either a short-throw, six-speed manual gearbox or a CVT continuously variable transmission.

Jesse Adams cautions against the CVT version, however: “Power from the Grand Vitara-sourced 2.4 is adequate but the added weight of Suzuki's big four door body is evident. I'd go for the six speed manual, as the CVT gearbox option is a big disappointment. It's typical in its slipping clutch feel, and the monotonous engine note can be very irritating under long spells of acceleration.”

Suzuki claims that the manual version will dart from 0-100km/h in 8.8 seconds at sea level and reach a top end of 205km/h. Claimed combined consumption amounts to 7.9 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of 183g/km.

On the chassis front, the Kizashi has all the ingredients that you'd expect in this class, those being a conventional McPherson strut set-up at the front with a cradle-type frame and a multi-link arrangement at the back, but it's not entirely sporty as Jesse explains:

“Suzuki says that the Kizashi brings an enthusiastic driving characteristic to its local range, but it hardly compares to some sportier rivals. The gummy suspension settings definitely lean more towards comfort than performance, and the steering is too light to transfer feedback from the road. It will twirl easily into parking places though, without much need for bicep flexing as in more performance oriented models.”

The bill? Expect to pay R295 900 for the 2.4 SLX and R310 900 for the CVT version. Hardly the most affordable option in its class then, but it does offer a very generous list of standard features for the money. Also included is a six-year/90 000km service plan.