2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS AWD

  Back in 2003, a book titled Trading Up: The New American Luxury by Michael J.

 

Back in 2003, a book titled Trading Up: The New American Luxury by Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske with John Butman was published. The fundamental argument that the authors make is luxury, or what they call “New Luxury,” is something that more people are aspiring to. Or, as they write of consumers, “They are willing, even eager, to pay a premium price for remarkable kinds of goods that we call New Luxury—products and services that possess higher levels of quality, taste, and aspiration than other goods in the category but are not so expensive as to be out of reach.” While the book was published pre-Great Recession, I think this still holds. One bit of evidence that an increasing number of people are opting for New Luxury can be discerned by looking at sales numbers for companies like Audi, which has been setting record after record, month after month. In fact, the whole premium market has been on a growth pace that is a proportional indicator that those that can do—buy.

It needs to be pointed out that there is another side of this coin, which is that these consumers are generally opting for things with a deep, deep discount at the other end of the purchase spectrum. Or, as the authors put it, “Consumers shop more selectively. They trade up to the premium New Luxury product if the category is important to them. If it isn't, they trade down to the low-cost or private-label brand, or even go without. They scrimp and save across a broad swath of spending in order to afford their New Luxury purchases—polarizing the household budget. Almost every American engages in this practice of ‘rocketing’—spending a disproportionate amount of his income in a category of great meaning. The combination of trading up and trading down leads to a ‘disharmony of consumption,’ meaning that a consumer's buying habits do not always conform to her income level. She may shop at Costco but drive a Mercedes, for example, or buy private-label dishwashing liquid but drink premium Sam Adams beer.”

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So the challenge is the middle. This is something that every brand needs to think hard about because if there is this polarity of purchasing, then the middle gets squeezed to a point of irrelevance.

Good isn’t good enough. Good and inexpensive, yes. Really good, good enough so that there is serious desire, is, as well. But good alone? Nope.

Which is a long way to get to the Suzuki Kizashi. At the risk of damning it with faint praise: It is a good midsize car. Stylish, but not as stylish as a Hyundai Sonata. Appointed well on the inside, but not exactly where the Ford Fusion is. A decent powertrain setup, but not notably different than a Nissan Altima (that is: The Kizashi has a 2.4-liter engine that produces 180 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque; it has a continuously variable transmission; it is rated at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. The Altima is available with a 2.5-liter engine that produces 175 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque; it has a continuously variable transmission; it is rated at 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.). The Kizashi has all-wheel drive, but so does the Subaru Impreza.

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All of which gets you to a place of little differentiation. And a place in the middle of the market. It has an MSRP of $25,749.

The point that needs to be made about the Suzuki Kizashi is that it is a car that merits consideration if you’re in the midsize market. You may not even have the car on your list, but it certainly belongs there.

The authors of Trading Up talk about why it is important for products to engender an emotional response in consumers. Maybe the Kizashi will do it for you.

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Selected specs

Engine: 2.4-liter four cylinder

Horsepower: 180 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 170 lb-ft Transmission: Continuously variable

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Length: 183.1 in.

Width: 71.7 in.

Height: 59.9 in.

EPA: 22/29 mpg city/highway