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2010 Suzuki Kizashi SE Review

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2010 Suzuki Kizashi

SEE ALSO: Suzuki Buyers Guide

Suzuki Gave Kizashi The Goods To Stand Out In The Crowded Midsized Field


2010 Suzuki Kizashi SE Review

If you're looking at sporty small cars, at this point in time you're probably not thinking "Suzuki". Doesn't Suzuki make motorcycles and SUVs? Aren't their cars merely re-badged Daewoos?

There have been some major changes at Suzuki recently. Yes, the company still makes motorcycles, of all varieties from off-road to MotoGP. And they still make SUVs like the Grand Vitara. But the long-standing agreement with General Motors that saw Suzukis sold by GM and GM products by Suzuki is history. Suzuki is on its own.

"Kizashi", according to Suzuki, means "something great is coming" in Japanese. And Suzuki is attempting to reposition itself in the automotive marketplace from a bought-on-budget brand to one that is more aspirational. That's hubris, chutzpah, and/or just plain marketing drivel without product to back it up.

The Kizashi is the product to back that claim up.

It may be the most important vehicle in Suzuki's history in the American automotive marketplace. The Kizashi is pure Suzuki, in both design and manufacture. It is far more European in concept than Japanese or American, and is meant to be an alternative to more expensive sporty compact and mid-sized European sedans, not necessarily the popular Japanese and American models. It's also meant to attract people who otherwise would buy a used European entry-sport/luxury sedan. In the Kizashi, Suzuki wanted something that was not a basic transportation appliance, and would appeal to mostly young, young-at-heart, or young-in-wallet people who wanted a European sedan but didn't want the associated price premium.

If the time I've spent in Kizashis is any indication, Suzuki has succeeded. In its chassis dynamics and road manners it is much more European than Asian, as is the overall feel of the car because of its design and finish. And it has potential to be tapped for more…

Trim levels are S, SE, GTS, and SLS. All have a 2.4-liter twincam four-cylinder engine with 180+ horsepower, push-button start/stop, front sport seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, a good audio system with auxiliary controls on the steering wheel, standard stability control, and eight airbags, so the S is hardly a "base model" -- particularly with the standard six-speed manual gearbox. A high-tech continuously-variable transmission (CVT) is optional. The SE adds popular conveniences including cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and leather trim for the steering wheel. The CVT is standard. It's expected to be the core model. The GTS adds a moon roof, foglamps, and upgrades for audio and wheels, with either transmission, and the SLS adds leather, seat and external mirror heating, and more, also with both transmissions available. A sophisticated all-wheel drive system is offered in all models, even the S. It's paired with the CVT. That's a lot of content for the price -- from $19,734 for the S to $25,134 for the SLS including the destination charge. And it's not merely features over an indifferent car.

My first time in a Kizashi was in a GTS 6-speed on a short ride and drive event. With its torquey engine, good reflexes and supple ride, and convenient size, it made a very good impression. Then I had some track time in the Suzuki PR department's toy of the year -- a 6-speed with racing seats, competition-spec suspension and tires, but stock engine with more-or-less street-legal intake and exhaust de-restriction. Big fun, great handling, and proof of potential.

Now, I've just finished a week in an SE. Yes, the CVT decreases acceleration a bit, although manual shifting helps bring it back some. But that CVT feels more like a regular automatic than any other CVT I've experienced, and the engine is torquey enough that for most people most of the time there will be no complaints. And there is a stick available. In refinement, think a class above. Ditto for equipment. Ride and handling are sporty, not sports (but that can be done…), and comparable to the best in the entry-sports classes. You could go all day comfortably. Fuel economy? At low 20s around town and high 20s to low 30s on the highway, no complaints. With the Kizashi, Suzuki has a serious alternative in the midsize sedan class.

APPEARANCE: There is no visual boredom here. Suzuki is developing its design language, and the Kizashi is a fine first step. If you look hard, you can pick out influences (as with just about any car), but the overall concept is original and distinctive. The rounded front is dominated by a large two-piece grille split horizontally by the front bumper. It's flanked by projector-beam headlights on all models. Proportions are standard for front-wheel drive sedans, short hood, larger greenhouse, and short, high rear deck. The sides are graced with strong shoulder lines, and a highly-arched tail with huge wraparound taillights distinguishes the rear. What appear to be oversized exhaust tips protruding through the rear bumper are actually trim pieces in the bumper, into which the exhausts are set -- clever.

COMFORT: Good design and efficient packaging results in more interior space than expected given the Kizashi's modest exterior size. As mentioned, the standard equipment level is high. Even better, interior styling is tastefully simple, functional, and gimmick-free. Vertical surfaces on the dash and doors are textured soft-touch material. A leather steering wheel rim is a pleasant touch, ditto for the easy-to-see backlit main instruments. A useful data center nestles between the speedo and tach. The center stack houses the AM/FM/XM-ready/6-CD audio and dual-zone automatic climate control systems; a USB port and power point live in a covered compartment at the juncture of the stack and console. A locking glove box, overhead sunglasses holder, and bottle holders and storage in all doors add convenience. Front seat comfort is very good, and there is space in the rear for two adults, plus a standard split-folding seatback, center armrest with cupholders, ski passthrough, and rear floor heat vents and end-of-console AC vents. A space-saver spare is hidden under the usefully-sized trunk.

SAFETY: Eight airbags and a strong structure that meets 2014 side pole and rear offset collision standards are among the Kizashi's passive safety features. Active safety is enhanced by the ESP® Electronic Stability Program, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake-force distribution, and predictable handling characteristics and response.

RIDE AND HANDLING: How best to distinguish your car in a class that is often described as "automotive appliance"? How about ride and handling characteristics that make it enjoyable to drive, and comfortable? In the Kizashi, Suzuki has done exactly this. Its rigid steel unibody structure allows its fully-independent MacPherson strut / multilink suspension to be tuned in the European manner -- no surprise since much of the development work was done in Europe -- with springs supple enough for comfort even on poorly-paved roads, and shocks and stabilizer bars that prevent excessive body roll when having fun. Steering is not overly-assisted, and good soundproofing results in a pleasantly quiet interior experience.

PERFORMANCE: Unlike most competitors, there is no V6 offered for the Kizashi. Nor is one needed -- the 2.4-liter four does a fine job. It's an aluminum alloy unit with dual overhead cams and strong internal components that makes 180 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 170 lb-ft of torque (at 4000 rpm) when matched to the CVT. A slight tuning difference with the six-speed manual gives a little more power, for 185 hp @ 6500 rpm. A balance shaft quells vibration. A relatively large displacement and good torque characteristics make it an easy engine to live with as it doesn't need excessive revs to make enough power to move the car quickly, but has no quarrel with being pushed hard, either. This means it works well with the CVT, which is tuned to keep revs down to maximize fuel economy. If, at times, this impedes quick acceleration, a quick flick of the shift lever, or in higher-trim models, paddles behind the steering wheel does the trick. And for the targeted low-budget enthusiasts, a six-speed manual is available.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is an interesting new entry that stands out in the crowded midsize sedan field.

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Base Price			$ 21,499 with CVT
Price As Tested			$ 21,754
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 16-valve
				 inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 145 cu. in.
Horsepower			180 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			170 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			CVT with 6 simulated speeds
				 in manual mode
Wheelbase / Length		106.3 in. / 183.1 in.
Curb Weight			3329 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		18.5
Fuel Capacity			16.6 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P215/55R17 93V
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		23 / 30 / 24
0 to 60 mph				8.3  sec

Premium floor mat set			$ 125
Premium metallic paint			$ 130
Destination charge			included at no extra cost