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2010 Suzuki Kizashi: Sporting Personality and Value

Suzuki Kizashi arrives in showrooms in December 2009. When the car was revealed this summer, we talked about how its size fits into the market (click here), but Suzuki recently invited us to spend an afternoon flogging the car around rural roads in North Carolina and at the Virginia International Raceway. We happily obliged.
Should Americans recent appreciation for cheap chic develop into a sustained shift, Suzuki is ready. Kizashi is a sporting, stylish sedan with premium features and finish at a mainstream price–a mainstream price, not a value price. For Suzuki, if keeping up with the Joneses now means how little did you spend to get fancy tricks of premium cars, Kizashi represents well. Comparing Kizashi against its development targets (Alfa Romeo 159, Acura TSX, and Volkswagen Passat CC), and you find a responsive drive, lots of features, and generic uplevel cues. Suzuki’s target was good for the consumer: It resulted in a better car.
Kizashi is smaller than Mazda6, larger than compact Chevrolet Cobalt; smaller than Ford Fusion and larger than Volkswagen Jetta. Kizashi is ahead of the segment offering AWD; sure, Ford Fusion does, but only with more expensive V6 models. Speaking of V6, Kizashi launches without one. AutoPacific’s research shows most buyers would put a six-cylinder in their next ideal vehicle–even if they often end up buying a four–and Suzuki has one we wouldn’t be surprised to see later.

Kizashi offers reasonable front and rear legroom. The trunk is nicely sized with a deep opening, though the rear suspension components intrude. The stylish interior features soft-touch plastic in strategic places, nice switchgear, and a clean design–including a multi-information display in the gauge cluster. Still, in some vehicles at the long lead gaps were cavernous and some dashboard elements didn’t align properly. These cars were early build and these issues could be corrected, but Kizashi is not as well finessed as some competition, even in its own price class.
Global cars often have prioritized needs of markets outside U.S. In this case, and to positive effect, the U.S. car gets the same suspension tuning and setup as the European car. The car was responsive on Virginia’s backroads and entertaining at the track, all in the six-speed-manual-equipped, big-tire car. The six-speed manual offered a light, forgiving clutch, though the engine was most responsive in gears four and five. Sure, I have fond memories of driving a Dodge Charger R/T on that same track, but the Kizashi proved more lively and entertaining, honestly, than expected. With a short afternoon, we didn’t spend much time in the CVT, which can be had with paddle shifters for the aggressive among us.
Kizashi rewarded a sharp-edged ride with real response and decent handling. With an I4 delivering a strong, usable 185HP, more power would be appreciated; Suzuki has a 3.6L V6 available and is testing it in the Kizashi. In fact, we had the chance to take a test mule V6 out, with a six-speed automatic and AWD–all while Suzuki says the engine may not be offered in Kizashi. A few laps around the rolling, sweeping curves of VIR showed AWD seemed to have tamed torque steer and the extra power gave a more lively performance, waking the car up. In the context of mainstream mid-size sedans, the I4 offers capable performance and, housed in a responsive chassis, a sporting drive.
Strong Features List
Hooking up with Garmin, there is an available in-dash navigation system with traffic and weather at a fraction of the cost. Perhaps not the most elegant interface, with Kizashi you get some of the hottest features with less cash outlay. Suzuki can claim most features Acura offers in the TSX, at notably lower cost. But so can the Fusion or Jetta.
Standard: keyless entry/start, rain-sensing windshield wipers, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls (using a premium-feel rotary button), stability control, automatic dual-zone climate control, eight airbags, projector beam headlights, and chrome-tipped dual exhaust. Kizashi meets 2014 safety standards, which include more offset crash testing.
The SE adds standard CVT, alloy wheels, power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and cruise control. The GTS and SLS add moonroof, eighteen-inch tires, Rockford Fosgate speakers and audio system with Bluetooth hands-free phone and streaming audio, and paddle shifters for the CVT. Homelink, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic headlights, heated seats, heated outside mirrors, and rear parking sensors are available options.
Solid Value, Responsive Drive, but Not a Leader
Suzuki told us that Kizashi will start just under $20,000 for the base car, with the SE moving to $21,500 and SLS with navigation about $25,500. AWD will be offered on all trim levels, but not with the manual. Suzuki is entering a highly competitive arena with pricing straight up the middle of the road. The longer standard equipment list isn’t clear when comparing its base price against I4 sedan competition.
With pricing higher than VW Jetta or Kia Optima and about the same as Ford Fusion, Mazda6, or Dodge Avenger, getting buyers past that first number might be tough.
Kizashi offers respectable fuel economy, but is not a leader in this race. Depending on transmission and drive wheels, the Kizashi’s highway mpg runs from 29 to 31.
Final Analysis: Pretty, but Average
The Kizashi, a Japanese word to say something important is coming, is a nice sedan that checks all the boxes, and is rewarding in driving dynamics, styling (inside and out), and content list. Styling takes an upscale view, with big headlights and taillights and more jewelry and chrome than has graced many Suzukis. A nice car overall.
But when it comes to dollars out the door, fuel consumed, and overall size, Kizashi may be just another pretty face in the crowd.

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