After a few concept test runs, the Suzuki Kizashi debuted last December in the Japanese carmaker’s attempt to “deliver the sophistication and driving experience of a premium sport sedan for the price of a modest midsize car.”
With the exception of the choice, definition and pronunciation of its name (KEY-ZAH-SEEE), the 2010 sedan is an unqualified success.
Often manufacturers’ claims are suspect. But Suzuki touts the Kizashi with the following, and all are hard to dispute:
* The best equipped mid-size sedan starting under $19,000, with volume models averaging between $22,000 and $24,000.
* The most standard safety features in its price class and already meets the NHTSA’s 2014 safety standards.
* The AWD Kizashi, available in all trim levels with CVT transmission, can be purchased for less than some of the segment’s volume-leading FWD sedans.
The Kizashi is the most expensive Suzuki on the market, and that means two things. Suzuki has entered the near-luxury status market with the vehicle whose top-of-the-line price ($25,000) is still $5,000 less than the average price of a new car in the United States. And Suzuki offers a lot of car for the money.
As such, Suzuki is promoting the car as “delivering a premium package and experience without the premium price tag.”
Again, it’s appropriate. Standard features on Kizashi S include: eight airbags (front/rear side and curtain); push-button keyless start, Dual-zone climate control, nine-speaker audio with steering controls, EPS Stability Control and ABS, projector beam headlamps, power windows, doors and mirrors, ambient and footwell lighting.
The FWD Kizashi SE, priced $2,500 more than the S FWD (manual transmission) and features continuously variable transmission (CVT), P215/55R17 tires on alloy wheels, power driver’s seat with 10-way adjustment (including power lumbar), 3-position memory driver’s seat, and leather wrapped parking break handle and steering wheel with cruise control.
The sporty GTS model, available with six-speed manual or performance tuned CVT with steering wheel paddle shifters, starts at $22,499 (plus $735 for destination and handling) and includes multiple upgrades from the SE model: 425 watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with 10 speakers, Bluetooth®1 streaming audio capability (with compatible MP3 and iPod®2 connectivity) and hands-free calling with voice command, P235/45R18 tires, fog lights and power moon roof. GTS pricing extends to $24,849 for AWD CVT (plus $735 for destination and handling).
The top-of-the-line SLS model, the trim version I test drove for a week, builds on the GTS and includes leather seats, power passenger seat, heated front seats, auto dimming rear view mirror with Homelink Universal garage door opener, heated outside mirrors, automatic rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and rear proximity sensors with audible warning and graphic display. The SLS ranges from $24,399 for FWD M/T to $26,749 for AWD CVT (plus $735 for destination and handling).
There’s not much to dislike. The 185-horsepower, six-speed manual is a blast to drive, particularly considering its short shift box and nimble maneuvering. Driving the Kizashi in Anytown, USA, might as well be on a cobblestoned street in Anyville, Europe.
The translation of the name Kizashi is “something great is coming.”
And that may be Kizashi’s only concern. Suzuki is an omnipresent spotlight in the motorcycle world, but it’s often in the dark in the car world. But pitted against mainstays like the Nissan Altima, Ford Fushion and VW Jetta, the Kizashi holds its own.
It’s getting car buyers to consider a Suzuki with a funny name that’s the problem.
What Others Say:
“The Kizashi’s six-speed manual transmission, which we highly recommend, shifts lightly and smoothly and is enjoyable to operate.” —- automobilemag.com.
“On the whole, it’s pretty amazing how much Suzuki gets right with the Kizashi. This midsize sedan handles well, rides well and accelerates respectably. It’s also attractive in an unconventional way and has all the features you’d expect in a mainstream car.” — Edmunds InsideLine.com.
“The vehicle offers the common and necessary features, providing a new alternative for drivers looking to stretch every dollar.” — Detroit News.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“Whether it’s the Kizashi or its smaller sibling, the SX4, Suzuki is on an upswing with good-valued, well-designed, efficient cars that more buyers should consider instead of relying only on the most popular brands.”
Facts & Figures: 2010 Suzuki Kizashi
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 7 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 3 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
Safety — Driver and passenger, side, rear, side head and rear head airbags.
Gas mileage (EPA estimates) 22 mpg (city), 29 mgg (hwy).
Price — MSRP: $18,999—$26,749; Invoice: $18,239—$25,679.
For additional information, visit: www.suzukiauto.com/kizashi