Although 'Kizashi' sounds more like the name of some special-edition sport bike, it's what Suzuki is calling its new flagship sedan. The name—meaning "something great is coming"—along with the flamboyant brush-stroke script used by the nameplate badge, hint that Suzuki is striving to be seen and heard above the din of mid-size sedans—or, as Suzuki officials put it, not "another vanilla sleeping pill on wheels."
The overall design of the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi doesn't bear much of a strong likeness to the concept cars of the same name that precede it, though it borrows a host of details and promises way more excitement—in terms of design and performance—than bread-and-butter segment leaders like the Toyota Camry.
But the 2010 Kizashi isn't exactly Camry-sized either. When the Kizashi arrives to dealerships late this year, it's landing in an interesting place of the market, right between what we consider compact and mid-size in the U.S. market. At 183 inches long, the Kizashi's overall length is just a few inches longer than compacts like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, and Volkswagen Jetta. Yet wheelbase, at about 106 inches, is several inches longer than the compact crowd and quite close to some mid-size sedans. Just going by the specs, the Kizashi's closest rivals for size are the Ford Fusion and Kia Optima—as well as the previous generation Subaru Legacy and Mazda6. And for an even better idea of its size, think Acura TSX, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Unlike Suzuki's last mid-size sedan entry, the Verona, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi will be built in Japan and was designed and developed entirely in house. Suzuki has established a reputation of making sturdy, reliable vehicles in house, though the brand's product perceptions had been muddled in prior years with the sale of several vehicles—the Forenza, Reno, and Verona—that had been Suzuki-badged but built by Daewoo in Korea.
With a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox or CVT automatic, and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, the Kizashi has all the basics covered in appealing to a wide range of shoppers. A European-tuned suspension, with a five-link rear configuration and extensive use of lightweight aluminum components has been tuned for enthusiastic driving, while Akebono brakes are supposedly a step better than what comes with most mid-size sedans. Inside, expect well-bolstered sport seats to complete the package, while Kizashi definitely has the safety bases covered with a class-leading eight standard airbags (including rear side bags) and electronic stability control.
The combination of in-between size, the emphasis on performance, and the anticipated affordability of the Kizashi should place Suzuki in a portion of the U.S. market that's not currently occupied by any other model.
That's about all we can tell you for now; TheCarConnection.com has just returned from a daylong drive of the Kizashi, both on the track and on a variety of roads in and around Portland and we've agreed to stay mum for a few more days. Stay tuned next week for more details, driving impressions, and TheCarConnection.com's definitive Bottom Line on the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi.