SUZUKI KIZASHI – Review
Spread the word Suzuki, you have something to talk about.
Editor: Eric Bewley Photo: E. Bewley / ASMC
PORTLAND, OR – The new Suzuki Kizashi demonstrates a bold step forward for a company with economy and value perceived as it’s primary focus. The Kizashi builds on those sensible values and elevates by adding ideals of driver enthusiasm and passion. Suzuki has stepped up their engineering, testing, and production on this new sedan and it shows. Incredible quietness, tight and right build quality, and bit of performance spice up this newest creation. As the 11th largest automaker in the world, Suzuki has been primarily known for motorcycles, simple and effective 4×4 SUV, and forgettable small cars that have offered good value in the U.S. marketplace but have never seemed to strike a chord with buyers. Suzuki has set their sites at the near-premium portion of the mid-sized sedan market segment and we believe that they have successfully came up with a new car that competes well against the Camry, Mazda6, and Passat.
The first thing noticed when we walked up to the vehicle was that it looked very contemporary and that if one was to remove the enlarged “S” logo on the front of the grill it would be really difficult to tell this car apart from most other manufacturer’s automotive offerings in this class. Is this a good thing? There were some great looking design features in the concepts that seem to have been lost. Not a problem though; the Kizashi still looks very good. Let’s go for a drive… I was immediately impressed. The car’s vibration dampening is better than most anything available today. It is nearly impossible to feel or hear the engine and drive train at any speed. Steering is smooth and the handling very safe. The suspension is supple enough for an average commute but firm enough to take the twisty two-lane highways that the Pacific Northwest is famous for with a bit of zeal.
Journalists were treated to track time at Portland International Raceway. As an enthusiast local to the area with many races and days spent observing at PIR, driving on track with professional drivers was an indulgence that will be remembered quite fondly.
The Kizashi has a good list of features that help add value. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, side-curtain air bags and side-impact air bags are all standard and AWD or All-Wheel Drive is available at the push of a button on the upgraded versions.
Suzuki is looking towards the future and offering more value right now. Kizashi, unlike Camry and Accord, comes in front or all-wheel drive and though Suzuki is no longer a part of the General Motors family, Suzuki will offer a gas/electric hybrid Kizashi in calendar 2011 developed with an assist from GM.
But these are points of value and economy, something that Suzuki has owned the market on for some time. What’s new is that the Kizashi does add an enthusiastic driving experience to those that will seek it by offering the 6 speed manual transmission with the most ‘loaded’ trim package. This is something that personally resonates, luxurious trim that feels good and involved driving via the manual that feels great.
Looking at the specs focusing on power and economy, the new Kizashi appears middle of class segment, offering a 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine pushing out 185 HP and 170 lb-ft of torque. This nets a 0-60 MPH time of 7.5 seconds, on par with the Accord EX and slightly faster than the Mazda6. Mileage ranges depending on which trim package from, at best, 23city/31hwy MPG with the CVT in FWD to 20city/29hwy with the manual FWD. Adding AWD to the mix doesn’t reduce mileage significantly.
Here’s where I wanted more. The 2.4liter engine has enough performance when one keeps in mind the target audience and the class segment jabber. As a Suzuki enthusiast, I always want more. Whether that be more power or more capabilities, I like to see Suzuki vehicles offer as much as possible all the time. It was enjoyable to drive the 4-cylinder equipped Kizashi but at every gear change or corner exit I was wanting a bit more power. There just isn’t much bottom end torque with this engine and I think the car could use more power to help compliment it’s excellent handling.
Suzuki may think so to. They had a V6 Kizashi test mule at the track for demonstration. Executives stated that this package was not going to be an option but that this was merely a test vehicle to test the chassis and suspension of the new car. I for one, would really like to see them re-consider and offer this as a SWT package or some type of special edition.
The new Kizashi interior is well featured for its expected starting price of under $20,000. Some offered highlights include iPod connectivity, steering wheel audio buttons, dual-zone climate control, comfortable seats and my favorite feature, a telescopic steering column that helps this car fit my 6’5″ frame. Upgrade trim packages include a 425 watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with Bluetooth music streaming and hands-free calling. An overall good design that is far superior to anything at this price range.
Following the SX4, the Kizashi represents a vastly superior and rapidly improving product line of autos that unfortunately few American buyers are aware of. Bottom line; the vehicle is built well and is a quality product. The success of the Kizashi will depend on a bold Suzuki marketing strategy and Suzuki dealers placing this car on their front row to show it off. Spread the word Suzuki, you have something to talk about.