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?