The most important part of the car is the door handle. Why? It’s the first part of the car you touch.
In my case, it was love at first touch with the all new 2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS.
What Suzuki has managed to build is a $20,000 car that looks and feels like a $30,000 car.
For me, the mark of a good car, make that a great car, is its ability to make you feel special when you drive it. And I felt like a C list movie star in the Kizashi.
The Kizashi GTS isn’t a great car but it’s a very good car.
Let’s start with what keeps it from being a great car.
The 2.4L engine and 6-speed manual were just all wrong in my tester. At 185-HP the Kizashi’s I-4 engine is nowhere near powerful enough to make shifting the 6 speed anything but a painful exercise in fuel economy.
Imagine going up a hill in sixth gear and actually having to downshift into 3rd for any sort of meaningful passing power. It makes you wonder why the car needs six gears in the first place.
Of course, the upside to all of excessive manual gear rowing is as tested real world combined EPA number of 29.2 mpg. That’s hybrid great for a car the government says should get 20/29 mpg. And believe me when I say I didn’t “baby” the Kizashi GTS around town or in the mountains.
FYI: I got a 0-60 time of 9.03 rowing the car’s sluggish gear box myself, and a quarter-mile time of 16.99 at 89 mph. The car stopped from 60-0 in a sports-car -like short distance of 108 feet.
Now let’s talk about the good of the car, which is pretty much everything else that makes you feel great driving a car.
The exterior and interior styling are a nudge below Audi, which many consider the best in the car industry.
The soft-touch materials, secondary controls, and fabrics are first rate. And the strangest and perhaps most wonderful surprise it that the Kizashi GTS just feels completely honest.
For instance, some cars have all the bits and bling while other have all the off-road cladding and plastics, but you’d never want to get them muddy or dirty.
The Kizashi GTS has no pretense. It says “I’m a family friendly, high-quality sedan so take me for a drive and just try not to be impressed at what you get for an as tested price of $22,749.00.”
What’s amazing is that for $23,000 get you, among other things:
Dual Zone Auto Climate controls, Rear Passenger air vents, 425W Rockford Fosgate 10 speaker iPod/MP3/USB ready stereo, 8 standard airbags, Electronic stability/traction control, Performance y=tune suspension, Bluetooth Hands-free calling, and much more.
Think of the Kizashi GTS as a VW Passat or an Audi A6 at the price of a Jetta. Come to think of it, it even looks like a Passat.
The basic “S” Kizashi starts at $18,999, and you still get the same materials quality included in my more expensive tester.
Finally, for those living in snowy climates, you can also get a Kizashi with all-wheel drive as a $1,250 option available at all of the trim levels but only with a CVT transmission.
Would I cross shop a AWD Kizashi with an Audi? Probably not, but if you wanted the Audi driving experience for $10-$15,000 less, the Kizashi is a realistic and worthy car to consider.
Article Last Updated: April 22, 2010.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.