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Hooniverse Asks- Would You Buy a Suzuki Car Now?

Robert Emslie November 9, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 72 Comments

The first cars Suzuki officially sold in the US were not even under their own name. Marketed here in 1985 as the Chevy Sprint, the tiny three cylinder car was known as the Cultus back home. Hoping to start a cult-like following, Suzuki hit the US Car market under their own name with the hardtop and convertible Samurais as ’96 models. The handling of these two mini-Jeep like vehicles so frightened the testers at Consumer Reports that the magazine branded them with a scarlet letter – upside down of course – and recommended its readers stay away.

That was nearly two decades ago, and it is hard to say whether that black mark on the brand had anything to do with its decision this week to pull its current 4-wheeled offerings out of the US market. Maybe instead it was the fact that those offerings were simply five-years out of step with a rapidly shifting American car market that’s only two-thirds its pre-economic downturn size. 

Still, some of the Suzuki cars and trucks weren’t that bad – I mean, if you were looking for something like a Jetta GLI without all the reputational baggage that comes with the Vee-Dub, the Kizashi was, and is, worth considering. But would you buy a car from a company that’s already got its bags packed and the cab driver honking at the curb?

All manufacturers wanting to sell cars here in the US need to maintain parts availability for five-years – likely part of the $46M that Suzuki’s going to need to barrow just to turn out the lights here – so that shouldn’t be too big an issue. And you can bet that the dealers will be cutting some pretty sweet deals to get these dead-man-walking iron off their lots.  But is that enough of an incentive? Would you buy a Suzuki car or truck now?

Image: [zouda]

  • If i was in the market for a Nissan Frontier I would buy a Suzuki Equator.

    I would buy a car if it was cheap enough and still came with a warranty and extended warranty.

    I still wouldn't mind having a Samurai.

    • Dan

      I considered the Equator when I was shopping for a small truck. Unfortunately, no one sells a small truck any more (they're all midsize), so I was stuck with the Canyon/Colorado, Frontier, Tacoma, and Equator. At the time the Dakota and Ranger had just went out of production. Weirdly, the Equator was more expensive than the Frontier. I eventually got a really sweet deal on a brand new next-year Frontier, and I'm quite content and happy with it (although I do wish the turning radius wasn't so horrible).


    There's just not enough of this kinda stuff infused into their streetable cars, so no.

    <img src="http://www.autocarmagz.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/2011-Monster-Sport-Suzuki-SX4-Hill-Climb-Special-01-610×398.jpg"&gt;

    …and maybes that is why they have the failings.

  • SSurfer321

    After the difficulties I've had as of late with our Subaru, NO.
    No more sensitive AWD systems. No more $70 to replace a sunvisor. No more proprietary brake rotors ($400 one axle brake job). No more furrin cars.

    • Alcology

      What year is your subaru?

      • SSurfer321

        08 Impreza 2.5i Wagon. Tried aftermarket brakes and couldn't eliminate the vibrations they caused or the brake squeal. Confirmed with a former Subaru owner that indeed aftermarket brakes do not work on them. So I bought $100 in brake parts that wouldn't work and had to spend another $400 on a dealer brake job for the front axle.

        Still living with a minor vibration thanks to the super sensitive AWD system. Symptoms seem to be that something (valve stem excess) is loose inside the tire as the vibration comes and goes. It isn't the first time I've had this problem.

        Maybe its just this particular car that's cursed but I'll never purchase another foreign car based on the experience.

        • Alcology

          That's a bummer! Sounds like a particular car issue, but that would be a lot of hassle for me too. I have a 97 legacy wagon and so far so good, but then again I haven't owned it for too long. I've done a brake job and it was cheap and some other stuff too. The newer subaru's have all kinds of crazy specific crap going on.

          • SSurfer321

            I don't like owning a car I can't wrench on. That thing has made me doubt my wrenching abilities on more than one occasion. I'm sure something will go wrong when I try to install the replacement sun visor that's arriving on Saturday.

            • Alcology

              Heh, yeah I know how you feel! Hopefully it works out for you

              • SSurfer321

                At least the sunvisor install went well…

            • aastrovan

              I have a friend with a parts yard,if he does not have at least one,I will not consider it.But I like older vehicles.

          • facelvega

            95-99 legacy is a vastly different proposition from an 08 impreza (if you ever get a chance to wrench on the later car you'll see what I mean). I have one too and they're built without nonsense, don't really break much and are cheap to maintain when they do need it. Just keep an eye on the head gasket if it's a DOHC!

        • HoondavanDude

          I usually do my own brakes as well, but I once had a shop lose the anti-rattle spring on my E30…which made for some very loud rear brakes.

    • danleym
    • Manic_King

      Wait, there's probably thousands of different possible brake/pad combos available for Impreza The Lego car, no? You've been somewhat unlucky with 1 or 2 sets but that comment from former Subbie owner can't be true for all the aftermarket brakes. Are You sure American car's brakes will not squeal…..

  • quattrovalvole

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: no.

    As tempting as it may be to get a heavily discounted Kizashi or SX-4, parts availability is still my biggest concern. Unless you have the "Swift+" (which really is an Aveo with Suzuki badge slapped on it), I don't know of any other car in the market that shares parts with those Suzukis.

    I should point out that out of their latest line-up, those are the only 2 I'd consider buying, even if Suzuki wasn't going under.

    • The Equator truck is a rebadged Nissan.

      • quattrovalvole

        Not sold in Canada, unfortunately.

        Good point, though. I completely forgot about the Equator.

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

          And the SX4 is a FIAT I think, but also not sold in Canada I guess.

          • Devin

            The SX4, Kizashi, and Grand Vitara are all sold in Canada still. And they claim Suzuki is staying within the country, but it hasn't exactly had the greatest presence. The nearest Suzuki dealer to me didn't even have it on their marquee last time I drove by there.

        • Vairship

          " I completely forgot about the Equator."

          So did everyone else, which is why they're leaving. 😉

  • Mark Stevenson

    As someone from a Suzuki family, who already owns a vehicle from another dead brand (Saturn), and has been watching this situation unfold for months, it really depends on which model you are interested in.

    The Equator is a no-brainer buy. Suzuki has said they will still provide warranty coverage, plus Nissan would be providing parts over the lifespan of the truck. The engines are Nissan. The architecture is Nissan. The only things about the truck that's Suzuki are the headlights, grille, some sheet metal, and maybe some interior components.

    As for the rest of the range (SX4, Kizashi, and Grand Vitara), you are going to see issues in the long run. Again, warranties are not going to be a problem as ASMC has committed to provide that coverage. Also, there will be a parts network north of the border (hopefully) for a while. After that, though, you're on your own.

    I have a 2004 Vitara in my driveway. Thankfully, it has a clone in the Chevy/GMC Tracker. When I go to a local parts store, I always price out both models and the same parts for the GM twin always seem to be half the price. You won't have that option with the newer models as there is no genetic equivalent with another brand.

    So, would I go out and buy a Grand Vitara, with available rear-wheel-drive, manual transmission, and the best towing capacity in its class, even though they are about to go bunk? You bet your ass I would. The deals are going to be stellar and there is nothing wrong with the GV. Same goes for the Kizashi. But, there are better options out there than the SX4.

    • MVEilenstein

      Excellent comment, and great information.

      Have you considered registering?

  • JayP2112

    I'd been on the 'no' group but this morning I saw a white SX4 sedan with nice wheels.
    It looked really good. If it were super discounted I'd consider it.

    EDIT: They'd need a considerable discount.
    The Focus, Dart and Cruze are all in that ballpark.

  • erikgrad

    If they actually perform a fire sale, and drop prices dramatically, I'm in; I cannot resist a great deal. But if we are looking at a maximum of 10-15% off MSRP, no thanks.

  • njhoon

    I was slowly working on Mrs Hoon for the SX4. I like it and is perfect for what we / she would use it for around town driving and city parking. Now that they are going bye-bye for the 2nd time, nope not going to buy one.

  • jtk2

    I'd consider one of their SUVs if for some reason I was buying an SUV and the price was right. Same with the Equator. But not one of their cars.

  • DemonXanth

    Sorry Suzuki, if I want to get an AWD SX4, it's going to be from an automaker that's been a dead for just a little longer.
    <img src="http://theamcpages.com/images/sx4/2557750_2_full.jpg&quot; width=400>

    Suzuki as a brand has had some high points, but just never really caught me.


    I guess you could say they're….. Hyabusted!

    <img src="http://gifsoup.com/webroot/animatedgifs1/1139482_o.gif"&gt;


    • dukeisduke

      Overacting FTW!

  • pj134
  • No. I have 2 Suzuki motorcycles. I'm not totally thrilled about this because the brand doesn't have the sex appeal of H-D or Triumph, or the snob appeal of a BMW. However, if you want a dual sport bike with a little more oomph than a Kawasaki KLX 250 but not an expensive racer like a KTM or a Husqvarna, you get a Suzuki DRZ 400. If you want a smaller adventure class bike but don't want an expensive BMW or KTM, you get a Suzuki DL 650 or perhaps a Kawasaki Versys if you're never going off pavement (not that my DL will as long as the DRZ is around). I'm not into them but I hear that if you like total crotch rockets, a Hyabusa is hard to beat.

    Suzuki bikes seem to hit their performance target at an appropriate price point better than most. I just don't see the same in a Suzuki car. Sure you could crunch the numbers and decide a Suzuki car is a good deal but to me at least, there's no appeal to the product itself.

  • Irishzombieman

    I'd buy an SX4 in a second if I were in the market.

    I love my Geo Metro (rebadged Suzuki Swift). It is seriously one of the most under-rated cars of all time. No pretensions, no apologies, just simple and reliable transportation. And great fun with a manual transmission, in the slow-car-fast school of driving.

    In other parts of the planet, that's all people want. If Suzuki failed car-wise in the US, it's because they couldn't figure out how to market their products to a population where there were so many choices that the commodity of simple transportation wasn't the deciding factor in a car-buying decision. When they tried hard (X-90) it was almost funny, but when they had a really great product, like the Swift or SX4, no one there had any idea how to sell the thing.

    • MVEilenstein

      Honestly, I always thought of the Metro as a piece of junk, but I've heard from several people, including you now, that it's actually a very good car for what it does. I was smitten with a Storm for a few months back in high school. Shoulda bought it.

  • mnm4ever

    I would definitely consider it if I could get a good deal on one. The local dealer has a pearl white SX4 manual for $16k, and I have always liked those. I have considered replacing our old CRV with one, but I cannot make a move on a car for about 6 months, so who knows if there will be any left then.

    • Dan Gray

      PUPLIC NOTICE, SUZUKI LIQIDATION SALE, Visit Orca Bay Suzuki at 20115 Fraser Highway
      Langley, BC (Canada) V3A 4E4
      WAS $25,580 – SAVE OVER $8,500 BUCKS?
      Ask for Dan Gray

  • HoondavanDude

    For the right price I'd consider it…they're pretty simple/pedestrian cars when compared to other orphans (here's looking at YOU SAAB). It's a shame Suzuki didn't do more to make their cars more fun to drive (turbo?!?). Their 4cyl mills just aren't competitive with the power and economy of newer designs.

    I owned a Saab 9-2x during their bankrupcy and wasn't worried…probably because my car shared so many parts with Subaru. I also DD The Wife's old Vibe, but since its GM and shares parts with Toyota, orphan status isn't much of a concern.

    I nearly bought a new SX-4 hatchback (AWD 5-speed) a few years ago. The car offered a lot of value for the money and I feel like it really should have been a bigger seller. At the time I had a long commute and the 11 gallon fuel tank just wouldn't cut it. The Kizashi seems like a quirty alternative for the right price, except it appears you can't get a manual transmission with AWD (facepalm). With FWD and so-so fuel economy, it would have to be very heavily discounted for me to drive one home…but I would.

    • Dan Gray

      PUPLIC NOTICE, SUZUKI LIQIDATION SALE, Visit Orca Bay Suzuki at 20115 Fraser Highway
      Langley, BC (Canada) V3A 4E4
      WAS $25,580 – SAVE OVER $8,500 BUCKS?
      Ask for Dan Gray

  • More now than ever!

  • don fehlio

    If I was in the market for a brand-new car, then yes. That Kizashi is super nice, and the Equator is just a Frontier with a better warranty. But I work for an auto parts distrubutor, and I know how hard it can be to find parts for, say, a 2003 Isuzu Rodeo. I'd buy one cheap and dump it when the warranty is over.


    Pretty much every Suzuki car I've driven has been a surprisingly good, if conservative, car. They always seem to be slightly underwhelming from a performance standpoint (but not by much) while being very solid and competent. It's like when they were making design decisions they always landed on the side of the safe approach and never took a risk that might have made the car exciting enough to get noticed. They were always just the forgotten cheap and competent also-ran. I had a loaner Suzuki Aerio for a couple of days while the Mustang I bought used from a local Suzuki dealer was getting some warranty work done. It was a surprisingly capable little car. I looked over the suspension, and it's actually stunningly beefy under there. Everything is quite heavily built and durable looking. The engine was actually pretty fun, as was the manual transmission. But, the conservatism shone through. Handling was just a little too conservative and understeer prone to be memorable. The drivetrain was very competent, but not exciting in any way. In all it was a very good little car that was almost surprisingly unmemorable.


      I was however considering a Kizashi for a while. They were selling brand new 2011s for like $4k under list and offering $3k over value for a trade in, so I could've effectively picked one up for like $12k. I imagine the deals will be even crazier now, so yeah, I'd totally consider a Kizashi or SX4.

  • Devin

    From what I understand, they're not pulling out of Canada just yet, so parts availability will probably be fine. That said, I just kind of don't want one, I tried out an SX4 last time I was in the market and it was okay, but then I didn't get it anyway.

  • danleym

    No. Mostly because I think buying a new car is generally silly and a waste of money (or maybe I'm just cheap). And since I'm completely satisfied with what I am driving now, and none of their cars do anything for me, that just makes it even more of a no.

    But, let me put all that aside and pretend I'm in the market for a new car. Eh, still no.

    I do, however, have a pretty intense yearning for one of these:
    <img src="http://www.bikez.com/pictures/suzuki/1981/17646_0_1_4_gs%20450%20t_Image%20credits%20-%20kulek.jpg&quot; width="500/">

    • The only GS400/450 I have an intense yearning for is this one:

      <img src="http://www.tanshanomi.com/temp/Suzuki-GS450S.jpg"&gt;

      • danleym

        That would work too, but I'd have to ditch the faring. I'd go for just about any of that line, though I'd rather have the higher output engine. Hell, I'd rather just have the time to make this actually happen. I've got the cash sitting around for it, just don't have the time to learn how to ride, and now with winter setting in I think it'll be another 5-6 months until I might actually pull the trigger.

        • Be prepared to discover that the GS400/450/500 is actually a pretty underwhelming engine.

          • danleym

            Actually, since I've never ridden before, I think that's what I want in a first bike. Something that can be fun, but isn't too crazy. I don't think I want to go over 500cc to start with.

            Good info, though, thanks! I've been slowly trying to read a little more and get to know bikes more, but there definitely isn't the same amount of information out there as there is for cars. Do you know any good websites for late 70s/early 80s Japanese bikes? I'm not dead set on a Suzuki, but that's the general style I'm looking at.

            • Funny you should ask…

              There are a couple reviews there…very well done, IISSMS

              • danleym

                Cool site! Thanks!

            • topdeadcentre

              As the many, many years owner of Suzuki GS bikes (I'm on my second one now), they are a great choice, though parts are just a little more scarce when I bought my first one in 1998.

              They're comfy, not too hard to fix and maintain, ride well and unsurprisingly.

              For a first bike, any of them will do, but you should be able to go up to an 850cc engine without a problem. The engines and bikes were designed for ease of use, not feeling like a Superbike race rider.

              My first bike was a GS650GL, and I replaced it with a GS1100GL. They accelerate smoothly and unsurprisingly, and the handling is predictable and steady. The second "G" in the name means shaft drive, which is excellently designed, and means no chain maintenance (and shaft maintenance is once every decade or so), and the L means a "cruiser" model with stepped seat, chrome fenders, but not really all that different.

              The late 70s/early 80s were a fantastic time for basic motorcycles. The Universal Japanese Motorcycle was king, and they sold a huge number of them.

              There is a dedicated and friendly Suzuki GS-bike community at http://www.thegsresources.com
              A friend of mine is nuts for the same-era Honda 4-cylinder designs, check out http://sohc4.net

              • danleym

                Thanks for the info, and the links!

  • rpdred6

    absolutely, Kizashi is one of the best (and most underrated) cars out there.

  • Vavon

    Only if they have the old Swift GTi on sale!
    <img src="http://home.brisnet.org.au/~jmiller/suzuki_gti/ssgti_nov86_1.jpg&quot; width=400>

  • buzzboy7

    In my eyes Suzuki has made one car.
    <img src="http://cfb.bizspeaking.com/image/bizitem_7edb87558aab909d35129e952ac162f460052ba5.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • BobWellington

    I definitely wouldn't mind a manual Kazashi. What a silly name, though. Am I right or what?

  • I would love a Kizashi, and parts availability really doesn't scare me too much, but it all comes down to price, price, price — which has been the problem with the Kizashi all along. It's always been about 20-25% too high for what you get. The Kizashi is, in my mind, a four-door sedan Miata: great handling paired with unremarkable power, a somewhat cramped interior, and a conspicuously Asian name. (Unfortunately, the Miata analogy goes askew when you consider the Kiz's weight, which is actually a little porcine for its class.)

    Oh, and another roadblock for me is that I have yet to see a 6-speed Kizashi in a local dealer's inventory (and I've checked on numerous occasions). With only 180 HP on tap, the CVT is a non-starter for me.

    • HoondavanDude

      I've checked as well. Only 1 dealer nearby and not a single MT vehicle.

    • facelvega

      I don't think the price was ever really that serious on the Kizashi– my sister shopped one against an impreza a while ago, and having haggled with the dealers a bit, the Kizashi came out several grand cheaper than the by-the-sticker cheaper Subaru. So she bought it. Personally, I think she made the right choice as the Suzuki is simply a much better car. I'd buy one in a second right now if I needed a new car.

  • wisc47

    I think in a couple years if I needed a winter car and found a Kizashi in the right spec, for the right price, with around 60k miles I would get one. It really is a good looking small sedan and I'm willing to bet it's probably a bit fun to hoon around. Remember, Top Gear's first reasonably priced car was a Suzuki Liana and they spoke pretty highly of it. Also, parts availability shouldn't be too big of a problem considering Suzukis are still sold in Canada and other countries. They aren't dead all together, unlike Saab (RIP), so I'm sure Suzuki will set up a parts distribution system for the US.

  • Spring-heeled Jack

    Pontiac in Canada sold the Swift as the Firefly. There was even a turbo model with a hood scoop for the tiny intercooler. They were an absolute blast to hoon, I mean drive, no I mean hoon, that's it, hoon.

  • MattC

    I would buy an Equator in a second if I was in the market. Essentially a Nissan with Suzuki badges, parts would not be a problem and just enough difference to set you apart from the other Frontiers on the road. Seriously, these are terrific mid size trucks.

    I like the Kizashi very much and by all accounts they are pretty reliable cars. But the biggest problem for me were the dearth of dealerships for any warranty service. I live in between Baltimore and DC,part of the most populated region in the country and you can count all the Suzuki dealerships on two hands.

  • Manic_King

    SX4 is sold as Fiat Sedici in Europe, maybe Fiat could sell it in US too, all the possible bureaucracy and testing for US market is taken care of already by Suzuki so should be quite easy thing to arrange for Fiat if there's potential.

  • fhrblig

    I have bought an orphaned car before. Back at the end of 2001 I got a great deal on an Olds Alero, and it lasted for ten years. I owned it for five, and then sold it to my sister who drove it well past 200k miles. I'd have no hesitation on getting a Suzuki now, but only if it's dirt cheap.

  • kenny

    I just sold my 87 Sprint Turbo with 193k. Same price I paid for it in 93. GREAT little car. Fast. Reliable.

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