First Drive: 2010 Suzuki Kizashi

October 15, 2009
2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Enlarge Photo

Typically, when a manufacturer brings competing models out on a drive event for a vehicle—especially one that involves track time, such as what TheCarConnection.com recently attended—it's a signal that they're serious to prove a point. Such is the case for Suzuki, who very soon will re-enter the mid-size sedan arena and roll out an all-new flagship sedan, the exotically named but quite normal-looking 2010 Kizashi.

Turns out, the most eye-opening part of the day involved a relatively simple exercise involving a slalom of cones and a very wet section of tarmac. Driving an all-wheel-drive 2010 Suzuki Kizashi back to back with a 2009 Audi A4 and 2010 Subaru Legacy, we were able to sample each car past its limits of adhesion, and sample how well its stability control worked. At a speed that sent the stability control chirping on the other two vehicles—with the cruise control on—we negotiated through the cones with just a little bit of slip, the tail out the slightest bit and tucking right back, but still very much in control. We know the exercise was carefully chosen by Suzuki, yet it proved the point to us: Suzuki has engineered a capable sport sedan with a chassis that can take on much more expensive vehicles.

As we've reported before, the Kizashi lands somewhere between mid-size and compact, with an overall length that's just a few inches longer than compacts like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, and Volkswagen Jetta but a longer wheelbase of 106 inches that's more in line with mainstream mid-size sedans—and close to the Camry and Altima. But to give you an even better idea of its size, think Audi A4, Acura TL, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Suzuki actually benchmarked the Kizashi in Europe against vehicles in the near-luxury sport-sedan class, though it starts at less than $20,000 (a fully loaded Kizashi SLS will total about $24,000).

The first time we walked up to the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi, we couldn't help but notice that the Kizashi has a lot of details that are a bit borrowed. Yes, there are hints of other recent models in many of the Kizashi's details (ehem...VW perhaps), inside and out. But overall, the Kizashi's proportions just work—much better in person than in pictures, we should add. And yep, a little bit of Bangle Butt never hurt anyone; it sure works here.

The 185-horsepower (or 180 hp), 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's standard on all Kizashi models (a V-6 is on the way) provides spirited acceleration, though our choice between the two gearboxes is the manual. Out on the racetrack, we learned that there's no point in winding this engine all the way to its 6500-rpm redline, though; it's happy toward the middle of the rev band. The automatic CVT is a bit sluggish in its response to raise the revs, so there's a substantial lag from the time you ask for a quick squirt of power for passing until it's delivered. But paddle-shifters alongside the steering wheel allow access to six simulated ratios on all but base 'S' models, and pre-ordering one of those ratios allows better responsiveness. With the CVT, the Kizashi comes either with front-wheel drive or the new i-AWD system, which is configured for enhanced cornering and managed via the stability control system.

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