2010 Suzuki Kizashi — Review
This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2012.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Subject to the whims of a monolithic General Motors for much of the past decade, Suzuki has been stuck with an underwhelming version of the Chevrolet Equinox and uninspired products based on cheap GM-Daewoo designs.
Even so, the company has offered a couple of genuinely good vehicles developed internally, the high-value SX4 and the surprisingly capable Grand Vitara.
No longer under GM's thumb, Suzuki has introduced a new midsize sedan called the Kizashi. In Japanese, Kizashi means "great things are about to come." Does this entry-level luxury car live up to that promise? Yes.
Standard safety features across the board include dual-stage front airbags, front and rear side airbags, side-curtain airbags for both seating rows, a tire-pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control.
Under the Hood
Fuel-economy ratings vary by equipment. A front-drive Kizashi with the CVT and 16-inch wheels is rated at 23 mpg city/31 mpg highway. The manual with 16-inch wheels is rated at 21/31 mpg. The AWD version with 16-inch wheels is rated at 23/30 mpg. Depending on the transmission and drive system, choosing the 17- or 18-inch wheels can cost up to 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway.
Suzuki has confirmed that a hybrid system developed with General Motors will be offered in the next two years. Turbocharged 4-cylinder and/or V6 engines also are likely.
The Kizashi also offers some upscale features and amenities; iPod connectivity is standard, and buyers can opt for a powerful 425-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system. Heated seats are offered, and so is a navigation system with access to information on the weather, traffic, stocks, movie listings and fuel prices. With or without these features, the interior looks and feels classy.
Small-items storage is just adequate, with a 2-tiered but small center console, a handy slot at the base of the center stack, and six cupholders. The sport bucket seats are nicely contoured, with enough bolstering to keep spirited drivers in place during daring maneuvers, but we found the seat bottoms didn't raise high enough, especially at the front, to offer sufficient thigh support. We had plenty of room, but very tall drivers will probably want more seat travel and headroom.
Given the car's tight proportions, it's surprising that the rear seat has enough room for average-size adults. Rear-seat comfort is aided by a fold-down armrest with a pair of cupholders that leads to a ski pass-through.
The trunk is also surprisingly roomy, with 13.3 cubic feet of volume. Fold the seats down and it's easy to get long items inside. Like many cars today, though, the Kizashi won't swallow large boxes because the trunk aperture isn't that big.
On the Road
Even with the optional 18-inch wheels, we also found the Kizashi to be forgiving over broken pavement, without the wheel patter that often accompanies today's ever-growing wheels. That type of ride and handling balance can be achieved only through a sturdy and rigid body structure, which is the first sign of a quality car. Suzuki didn't make models with the base 16- or optional 17-inch wheels available to drive, but the ride and handling will certainly be softer the smaller you go.
The only engine offered at launch is a smooth 2.4-liter four cylinder. It doesn't feel as strong as Suzuki's claimed 7.5-second zero-to-60 mph time with the manual transmission, but it runs smoothly and is a match for any of the fours powering today's midsize cars. The manual transmission is easy to shift, though the feel is somewhat syrupy. While the CVT is usually responsive, we found that it retained low rpm in some 25- to 35-mph cruising situations, making the car chug along for a bit. It happened only occasionally, and the problem can be easily remedied by using the steering-wheel shift paddles to choose one of the lower gear ratios.
The real issue, though, is the lack of a more powerful engine. The midsize class is replete with powerful V6s that turn up the straight-line fun. There are also a few turbocharged fours that add excitement without the weight of a six. Given the Kizashi's sporty aspirations, a turbo four with about 250 horsepower would make it a truly fun little burner. Suzuki is experimenting with a V6, and company executives seem open to the idea of a turbo four, so we wouldn't be surprised to see a new engine option or two within a few years.
Right for You?
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.