2012 Suzuki Kizashi


2010 Suzuki Kizashi — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2013.
By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.5

Bottom Line:

The 2010 Kizashi is a solid little car that is far better than the company’s previous midsize sedans. Though small for its class and without the V6 or turbocharged 4-cylinder engine options offered by most competitors, we find it appealing thanks to its nicely assembled, classy interior and excellent balance of sporty handling and forgiving ride quality.
  • Sporty handling
  • Planted feel
  • Firm but forgiving ride
  • Not enough seat adjustments
  • Smaller than competitors
  • No V6 or turbocharged 4-cylinder engines

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.

Model Lineup
The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is offered in four trims: S, SE, GTS and SLS. Standard features on the S include cloth upholstery; dual-zone automatic climate control; power windows, door locks and mirrors; push-button starting; an AM/FM/CD stereo with USB port; and 16-inch tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. The SE adds a 10-way power driver's seat with memory, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels. The GTS comes with fog lights, a sunroof, a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming and cell phone connectivity, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Standard on the top-line SLS are leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 4-way power front passenger seat, a universal garage door opener, rear park assist, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic headlights. Options are light. They include a navigation system with a rearview camera and the all-wheel-drive system with heated outside mirrors.

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
At launch, the Kizashi offers only one engine with a choice of two transmissions and front- or all-wheel drive. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 185 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 170 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm when paired with the standard 6-speed manual transmission, or 180 horses (with the same torque) when teamed with the available continuously variable automatic transmission. The CVT comes with steering-wheel shift paddles and six preset gear ratios on the GTS and SLS trims. The all-wheel-drive system, which is available only with the CVT, uses an electronic clutch pack that normally sends most of the power to the front wheels but can transfer up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear wheels when needed. Although it is a full-time system, AWD can be turned off with a dashboard switch to increase fuel economy.

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.

Inner Space
Hop in the front seat of the Kizashi and your first thought will most likely be: "This is a Suzuki? I thought they only built economy cars." With its mixture of soft-touch surfaces, sturdy plastics, tight tolerances and careful assembly, the Kizashi's cockpit is richer than the class norm and worthy of an entry-level luxury car. There are even some details that surprise and delight, such as the little bits of chrome trim on the controls and around the CD changer, and the electroluminescent gauges with white graphics on a black background. The controls move with precision and are simply arrayed on the center stack.

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
A turn behind the wheel reveals the Kizashi to be a pleasant and sporty car to drive, with a balance of handling and ride quality that is positively European. Drive the car into the first corner and you notice that it feels planted and composed. It stays very flat in corners, with no unwanted bobbing or swaying. While it steers into turns nicely, the steering feel is a bit light and disconnected. Compared with the slushy larger cars that lead the midsize sedan category, however, the Kizashi is simply a pleasure to pilot.

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?
Offered only with 4-cylinder power, the Kizashi is appealing as a fun-to-drive sedan with some nice equipment for the dollar and enough room for a family. Available all-wheel drive is another plus. Suzuki calls it "premium without the premium," but the Kizashi lacks a premium engine or the premium size of its top competitors. If you don't want the extra power or need the extra space, the Kizashi is the first midsize Suzuki that we would recommend.

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.


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BB04 - 8/22/2014 6:50:37 PM