It’s almost been ten years since Suzuki stopped selling cars in America. Call it a casualty of the Great Recession, a small player gasping for air, or a niche manufacturer crushed by the weight of U.S. vehicle homologation, the fact remains that America hasn’t seen new Suzuki cars for a very long time. But while Suzuki’s American office was closing up shop, Suzuki Canada still had a small supply of optimism stashed in office cupboards.
Everyone at the office in Richmond Hill, Ontario had a little bit of hope that the Suzuki car line could carry on for at least a short while longer, and this hope ended up bringing a whole host of changes to the Suzuki lineup that America never got. Suzuki Canada even told Global News that they’d sell cars through the 2014 model year. Sadly, the optimism ran out quicker than a Juul pod at a college mixer, and Suzuki called it quits in Canada after the 2013 model year.
During the 2013 close-out, dealers were clearing out cars for dirt cheap in a frenzy of absolute panic. Kizashis marked down from $27,995 to around $23,000 Canadian Dollars. All-wheel-drive SX4s under $20,000. Not only were dealers left in the lurch, the whole corporate network was in disarray. Fun story, a colleague of mine was testing a Kizashi press car when Suzuki closed up shop and had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Also, I tried calling the Suzuki Canada roadside assistance number of 1-800-263-3331 out of pure curiosity, and found that it just redirects to CAA, the Canadian equivalent of AAA. Honestly, I can’t believe it still works.
As of right now, Suzuki’s Canadian automotive service network is a bit of a patchwork quilt. Some dealerships converted to other franchises, some became used car dealerships, some simply became automotive service centers. Suzuki’s website can direct owners to places that might have parts, although some bits are likely getting a touch hard to find. Anyway, let’s jump into the 2013 Suzuki lineup and see what changes Americans never got to experience. It’s worth noting that Canada’s federal vehicle standards, CMVSS, are largely a mirror of American vehicle standards, so these 2013 Suzukis likely could’ve been sold in America with minor tweaks. Also, shoutout to Suzuki’s 2013 Canadian auto show team. They gave me, a teenager at the time, their press kit, likely under the guiding principle of “fuck it, we ball,” so I have some high-res pics and brochure scans ripe for the picking.
The biggest changes for 2013 came to the Grand Vitara SUV. Really just the successor to David’s Tracker, the Grand Vitara got a brand new front fascia for 2013 which genuinely looks like it’s from a different universe. The 2012 model’s smiling expression was replaced with a pout moodier than a 14-year-old La Dispute fan. It’s certainly a more modern front end than the previous model, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s better. The new alloy wheels for 2013 did look great, though. God, it’s so nice to see a nice set of silver wheels. Manufacturers need to knock it off with the black or machined-face alloys, it’s a trend these days that’s grown beyond stale.
Speaking of different, a new Urban trim set the entry-level stage for the Grand Vitara lineup. Listing for $27,495 Canadian, or $1,140 cheaper than the next trim up, the Urban ditched the roof rails and external spare tire carrier in favor of a sleeker look. Not only did this decision drop length by 200 mm (7.9 inches), it didn’t take any other content away from the base Grand Vitara. Honestly, it’s hard to see why more people didn’t go for this bargain trim. Sure, a can of tire sealant can be messy and inconvenient, but what’s $1,140 Canadian worth to you?
Rounding out the Grand Vitara’s changes, the beige interior got a black upper dashboard, while literally every single trim got this weird double-DIN head unit with Garmin navigation that looks like a genuine afterthought. Look at the auxiliary input jack just sitting exposed on the faceplate. Honestly, I remember this head unit being fairly alright to use. The 6.1-inch touchscreen was fast and responsive for 2013, and the voice commands felt surprisingly natural. Then again, my laptop in 2013 was a tiny netbook running Ubuntu, so some perceptions might be a touch warped. Still, get used to seeing this infotainment system, it’s going to appear a lot in this article.
Next up, it’s the SX4! This plucky little subcompact with available all-wheel-drive may have a remarkably similar name to a certain AMC, but it offered the rare combination of a manual gearbox and all-wheel-drive that you could sort-of, kind-of lock the torque split on at low speeds. These things are absolute winter warriors and I’d love to pick up a cheap one, throw on some Hakkapeliittas, and have an absolute blast. Anyway, the SX4 also got a facelift for 2013, albeit a much lighter one than the Grand Vitara.
Believe it or not, the entire front bumper is different, with grille-framing contour lines like a Volkswagen Golf, wider fake-grille fog light bezels, and brand new upper and lower grilles. Honestly, there’s a good chance that nobody noticed, which is a shame because this update does a nice job of refining things. However, the update’s subtlety isn’t the only thing unusual about it. The front bumper on Canadian-market 2013 Suzuki SX4s is completely different from the one used in Europe. In fact, it’s shared with Australian-market SX4s, a weird moment in commonwealth solidarity. Hey, that explains why the press photos don’t show any amber reflectors in the headlights.
Elsewhere, the SX4 gained new alloy wheels, while all-wheel-drive and sedan models came with that aforementioned double-DIN head unit. Flanking the double-DIN head unit are two giant pieces of dark chrome trim that are certainly welcome, if a bit strange. They look fabulous, but I’m not sure if they’re supposed to recall iPods or what. They don’t really match with anything, but don’t clash with anything either. Still, it beats piano black or fake carbon fiber any day of the week. More giant slabs of chrome-look trim, please.
Finally, we get to Suzuki’s crown jewel, the Kizashi. Think of this incredibly over-engineered sedan as Suzuki’s Lexus LS400 moment. It still feels modern, refined, and incredibly well-built even by today’s standards. Sure, it was a bit expensive for its size class and nameplate, but it was engineered to a standard rather than a cost. If you can find one, drive it. It’s incredibly good. Anyway, the Canadian-market Kizashi got some mild changes for 2013, largely consisting of equipment and trim variations. The manual gearbox was dead, every trim got all-wheel-drive, and the Rockford Fosgate stereo simply vanished into thin air. However, the Kizashi wasn’t exactly spared from weirdness? Remember our old friend, the double-DIN head unit? Suzuki rounded up every Kizashi that wasn’t a base model, threw their wonderful, cohesively-designed stock stereos in the bin and simply chucked in double-DIN head units. Hmmph.
While I’m glad that Suzuki held on to the Canadian market just long enough for a few facelifted gems to make their way into driveways, I can’t help but imagine how awesome it would be if Suzuki stuck around. The current Ignis crossover looks awesome, as does the Swift Sport, a nice-looking warm hatch with 127 horsepower and 173 lb.-ft. of torque in a light, one-ton package. Then of course, there’s the Suzuki Jimny, that pint-sized retro off-roader that’s taken the world by storm. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to see these nifty small cars stateside?
I honestly see tons of Kizashis here in West Virginia, at least one w day. In Los Angeles, I remember seeing exactly 1 when they were first released and never again.
Two things about the pictures:
The pretty lady in the SX4 pic looks like she can barely contain herself before she rips a big juicy one with her friends nearby to hear it.
The last pic was so obviously Canadian, what with their desire for the A/C to go all the way down to 22 and 25 degrees. Loonies.
“The pretty lady in the SX4 pic looks like she can barely contain herself before she rips a big juicy one with her friends nearby to hear it.”
And is that a shadow or did she pee in her pants?
Yes! And her friends in the background are all “Claire, you goofball!” while secretly knowing that she’s gonna rip ass all the way to Montreal. Well, at least they’ll be able to listen to that great song “It’s Cold In Here” by the band Break Room off of the Hot Tub album (if I’m reading the stereo correctly). You know, while Claire is just ripping ass…
Either that or Claire’s friends don’t know she is planning on driving, giving her sole control of the window lock. They think she is funny now, but by the end of the trip… a conspiracy to commit murder is born.
Oh how I miss my 03 Suzuki Aerio SX
I still have my 2005 Aerio sedan. It looks like the one used on Top Gear back in the day. It was originally a dingy for a motor home. I used it as my commuter car for years. I still drive it when I need the manual transmission experience as my other cars are automatic.
I loved the look of them – the hatchback always looked like something vaguely out of Blade Runner (that alone made it desirable to me), but how did they drive?
I considered an SX4, but ended up getting a Ford Focus instead…
You think that in dash Garmin is chintzy, you must have forgot about the year prior. The SX4 and Grand Vitara both had a “Pop Up Navigation” system, which was literally a flip up Garmin Dock with a Suzuki branded Garmin that clicked into it. They even tried to make it a selling point that it could be removed and used “On the go.”
I worked for a local Ford/Suzuki dealer back then and they all ended up getting recalled because the batteries would catch fire. Suzuki never got us our customer replacement units, so we ended up buying a bunch of Garmins at Best buy instead.
I had a rental Kizashi one time, I agree it was a great car. but orphans over time are a real pain
^^THIS^^. Unless it’s a domestic orphan, it becomes a royal pain. Especially if it was low volume.
Too bad Suzuki left. Their cars are better than a lot of shit we still get here 🙁
The manual SX4 was a fun to drive little car. I test drove one in 2011 and it was a nice little car. A bit buzzy on the highway and 30 mpg in a highway test drive loop knocked it from consideration. That was a time I needed a long range car, and the little ‘Zuk just didn’t meet that need.
Shoot if you got a whole 30 on the highway you did great! I owned a 2009 and unless you were under 60 it was 25 mpg all day. I liked everything else about the little guy though. I got mine for a STEAL in 2011 due to a dealer incorrectly listing the price on their website. The 50/50 lockout was a pretty handy feature and you could use it for some legit light off-roading.
They were good cars, but they had pretty bad NVH at speed. The cabin turned into an echo chamber. But it was fun to drive in manual form and the damn thing had not only AWD on its rocker switch, but a bonafide 50/50 lockout. Pretty cool.
La Dispute? Who in the hell brings up La Dispute in an automotive article? I come here for the obscure and goddammit, you delivered.
Curiosity got me – according to autotrader.com there are still some Kizashi’s available in all of America.
Can The Autopian buy 5 or 6 of them and have some type of deathrace, only the cars die, not our favorite writers/drivers?
I stan for #TeamMercedesStreeter
Makes me long for the days when I still had my ’99 Grand Vitara. Ladder frame, fairly short wheelbase, RWD (with no traction control) and the privilege of three-pedal operation. Engine tossed a rod at 70k miles and I weeped. IIRC, the vehicle I bought to replace that one was a ’94 Caprice 9C1 with the LT1 plant. I bought that at a Naperthrill cop auction for about two and a half grand. Even at 130mph, you’d mash the go pedal and it would still snap your neck back hard. Alas, it was as reliable as any other GM of that era, which is to say that it wasn’t reliable. Shoulda bought two – one to drive and one for parts.
“Manufacturers need to knock it off with the black or machined-face alloys, it’s a trend these days that’s grown beyond stale.”
I like machined-face alloys, but I’m with you on black wheels.
“Sure, a can of tire sealant can be messy and inconvenient, but what’s $1,140 Canadian worth to you?”
Not getting stuck someplace inconvenient and/or having to deal with an angry tire guy because I filled the tire with sticky goo before bringing it to him is worth quite a lot to me, actually. 😛
“More giant slabs of chrome-look trim, please.”
Says someone who has obviously never had slabs of chrome trim in a vehicle. It sucks. A lot.
Chrome is a borderline safety hazard in the interior of a car because it has a habit of reflecting sun directly into your eyeballs. I hate piano black, but I’d still take it over chrome.
Black wheels are awful – they’re almost invisible, so whatever design they have just disappears. Silver/chrome is really the way to go.
Maybe I’m just getting a bit old and crabby, but most aftermarket wheels seem to range from unattractive to terrible. Is it just me?
Meanwhile, Suzuki continues to sell pretty much everything they can make in India…where they are the top selling automotive brand.
Tom, I’m just going to go ahead and assume this is somehow related to my castigation of Suzuki in the Daewoo article.