|2010 Suzuki Kizashi
By Michael Leroy
- Great 6-speed manual transmission
- Good looks inside and out
- Excellent value and warranty
- Standard USB audio port
- Some hard plastics in parts, particularly covering the child seat hooks
- Does not offer a V6, hybrid or turbo option engine
- Could use more suspension fine tuning
- Perhaps too Japanese of a name
Believe it or not, Suzuki has been in the American market for 25 years. Since 1985, the company offered a range of funky little cars and SUV’s that filled a niche, but were never mainstream. Cute compact cars like the SX4 and the Samurai did not appeal to everybody in the US market. Suzuki must have realized this and knew they had to produce a larger car with more mainstream appeal. The Suzuki Kizashi is not a hip little car, it’s an adult mid-sized sedan designed to compete with Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord. For the price, the Kizashi may have them all beat.
At first glance, the Kizashi is rather upscale looking for its low base price of $18,999. The exterior is conservative, but striking and the front end gives off an almost VW vibe. In the back are two aggressive looking exhaust ducts that are reminiscent of the MAZDA6. The model we tested was equipped with great looking 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Dunlop SP7000 tires.
The interior looks every bit as good as the exterior and is good for a car as affordable as the Kizashi. The leather-wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel on our SLS model was equipped with a number of handy controls for the stereo, Bluetooth and cruise control. The buttons were relatively easy to reach and operate. The car comes standard with keyless entry and a push button starter.
There is very little hard plastic in the interior and the dash is covered in a soft material. Creature comforts like cup holders and heating vents are plentiful front and back. The SLS model features front seats that are leather and heated. Also the driver’s seat has a three-person position memory.
Attractive leather back seats offer plenty of room for a six-foot passenger behind a driver of the same height. This is surprising considering that the Kizashi is a good deal smaller than its mid-sized sedan competition. The LATCH system for the child seats is a mixed blessing. The bottom hooks are easy to reach compared to models that tuck them under the seat, but have cheap looking plastic covers that detract from the otherwise good looking back seats. Suzuki should have wrapped the plastic covers in leather to match the rest of the car.
The HVAC controls are easy to operate and are intuitive. The dual climate controls work well, but it would of been nice if temperature control was a knob instead of a toggle switch. Pressing a toggle switch up and down is far slower than just having a knob. Regardless, all of the Kizashi’s center controls are well designed and do not resemble a convoluted Transformer like some models.
Unlike many cars that offer just a generic MP3 auxiliary jack, the Kizashi has standard the ability to control and charge an iPod/iPhone. Tracks can be changed with ease from the steering wheel controls. An optional 10 speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system is also available.
The 2.4L, 185-hp engine is a great match for the Kizashi. The engine never feels like it is lacking in power. Freeway merging and hill climbing is hassle free. The engine is smooth thanks to balancing shafts and happily revs to redline. The engine also features drop-forged rods and a forged crank so it should be very dependable. It’s a real shame a V6 option is not available. A high-revving V6 combined with the affordable $1,250 AWD option would be amazing.
A manual 6-speed transmission comes standard on the Kizashi. The transmission has a great feel and shifts are precise. Gear ratio’s are well spaced out and are a good compromise for gas mileage and performance. The clutch is easy to engage and is fairly forgiving. The car will comfortably cruise in 6th gear and achieve a claimed 31 highway miles per gallon. An automatic continuously variable transmission is available for $1,100. The standard 6-speed is great and unless you are stuck in a lot of traffic, the manual is the way to go.
Suzuki boldly claimed they had the famous Nürburgring in mind when designing the Kizashi. While the Kizashi is no sports car, it is still a fun car to drive on a twisty mountain road. The steering feel is good and the car is perfectly capable at legal speeds. Forward visibility is good and the A-pillars are not distracting. The included KYB shocks did a decent absorbing most bumps, but bigger potholes were still a little jarring. The car still has a good amount of body roll when cornering hard and it would of been nice if the car had a little bit more suspension refinement.
The cabin is in general quiet, but there is still some wind and road noise. The large heated side mirrors are wonderful for visibility, but do produce wind noise due to their large size. The car is comfortable and composed on the freeway. The Kizashi seems like it would be a great car for a long trip.
A minor ding against the car is its very Japanese name. Kizashi (pronounced Kee-Zah-She) means ‘something great is coming’ which is a wonderful phrase in Japanese, but may scare off American buyers. This car was made to change many of the perceptions Americans had for the brand, so it seems strange that they would choose such a name for the car. I applaud Suzuki for breaking the boring letter and number car naming system, but nearly everybody I talked to instantly had a bad impression of the car based off the name.
Priced at $25,184 Kizashi SLS is a great value and has many features you would have to pay much more for from other manufacturers. A similarly equipped Camry costs at least $4,900 more and comes with a far worse standard warranty. Suzuki offers a standard 7-year, 100,000 mile warranty. The Suzuki is well equipped even at the base $19k model. Those in the market for a mid-sized sedan should take a long look at the Kizashi. The Kizashi proves that Suzuki can make more than just quirky compact cars.
|Official website for Suzuki Auto – www.suzukiauto.com|