Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – American Suzuki Motor Corp. is returning to the midsize sedan market by 2010 with a production version of the Kizashi 3 concept, shown at the auto show here.

Suzuki was a bit player in the fiercely competitive sedan segment when it pulled its utilitarian and mundane Korean-built Verona from the U.S. lineup in 2006.

This time, however, Suzuki is lavishing attention on its new entry in an effort to establish the sedan as the company’s near-luxury flagship for North America.

Unlike the Verona, the Kizashi makes a bold styling statement, with a dramatic waterfall grille, high beltline, short overhangs and steeply raked windshield. The elegant sheetmetal exhibits an upscale, aspirational flair.

“Kizashi means ‘prelude’ in Japanese, and that’s exactly what this design represents for Suzuki from both a business and a product standpoint,” says Mark Harano, president of American Suzuki Automotive operations.

The vehicle shown here is Suzuki’s third Kizashi concept in less than a year. The first Kizashi 5-door hatchback debuted at the 2007 Frankfurt auto show, followed by the athletic Kizashi 2 at the Tokyo auto show in the fall.

Suzuki considers the Kizashi 3 to be closest to production ready. The production model will be built at Suzuki’s new Sagara plant in Japan, currently under construction. Suzuki’s Advanced Design Group led development of the Kizashi concepts.

Power for all three concepts comes from a normally aspirated 300-hp 3.6L DOHC V-6 mated to a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The 5-seat concept incorporates advanced all-wheel drive.

The auto maker sold 101,884 vehicles in 2007, a slight increase over prior-year, according to Ward’s data.