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Driven: 2010 Suzuki Kizashi

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2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

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2010 Suzuki Kizashi

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

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For daily-driving needs, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi feels right-sized in many ways. It's just large enough to carry four adults across town in comfort, yet it's compact enough to fit into a smallish parking space. And it feels quite light and nimble yet tracks with enough heft for reassuring high-speed cruising.

Those impressions mostly agree with the ones we gleaned in our first drive last fall, but recently, in more of a daily-driving routine, we had a week to mull over the Kizashi's traits.

Just as with our first time with the Kizashi, we were thoroughly impressed with the well-bolstered sport seats, the pleasing upholstery, the quality feel of the plastics, and the nice tactile touches like the nubby rubber outer edges of knobs and dials. Legroom is incredible.

About the only complaint remains road noise at highway speeds; on coarse surfaces, although the Kizashi is pretty well insulated, you might wish for a little less humming and thrumming.

During a day of racing around corners and pushing the Kizashi hard at the track last fall, we said that the steering was nicely weighted but a little lifeless on center. But for real-world driving, we stand corrected; it's about perfect, and that heft on center means you won't be making a lot of small adjustments. And the brake pedal felt about perfect, with impressive stopping power that's easy to modulate.

In that first drive—involving plenty of time on curvy mountain roads and on the track—we focused on models with the six-speed manual transmission and had only a short driving opportunity with the continuously variable (CVT) automatic that will be sold in much larger numbers. A follow-up visit with a CVT-equipped Kizashi seemed ideal for a week that involved a lot of dashing across town on various small errands.

Provided you're just easing along with traffic, the CVT does its job in an unobtrusive way, letting revs rise—often toward the 3,500-rpm mark—at first in moderate acceleration with traffic, then they gradually fall as you reach cruising speed. It tends to take full advantage of the flexible nature of the 180-hp engine and brings revs down quickly whenever you back off the gas. Try to hotfoot and take off more quickly at stoplights, and some of the CVT's halo is lost; the CVT seems a little less decisive with more throttle and lets the revs go freely into the upper ranges, then bringing out a bit more boominess than you ever get from the engine with the manual gearbox.

While the SE tester didn't come with steering-wheel paddle-shifters (upscale GTS and SLS models do), it does have a manual shift gate that allows access to six set ratios. The system allows some slip if you try to lock in one of the higher gears at too low a speed, but within reason it locks that ratio in.

The AWD model we drove is rated at 22 mpg city, 29 highway, and we saw about 23 mpg altogether, over a week and about 140 miles of mixed driving. It should be noted that if you want all-wheel drive, you have to get the CVT.

The Kizashi's sound system also proved easy to use. Our test car didn't have satellite radio enabled, so we simply plugged in our iPhone and hit the USB button and we were in business to listen to This American Life episodes and Pandora streaming audio. One note: for media players the sound system attempts to display track information but the dot-matrix-like letters are so huge and limited that it's indecipherable. Sound quality was great, however.

As tested, the 2010 Kizashi SE AWD model was optioned only with floormats and metallic paint, coming to a grand total of just $23,004, including destination. And as we've already reported, the Kizashi comes with all sorts of equipment like cruise control, dual-zone climate control, and steering-wheel audio controls at no extra cost.

This editor had the Kizashi within a week of having a Jetta, and the two vehicles have a very comparable feel. While the Jetta is a bit quieter at speed, we preferred the excellent, buttoned-down ride and handling balance of the Kizashi.

All the buyers who've heard good things about this model but have crossed it off the list because they're not familiar with Suzuki should reconsider. Open up your mind to this longtime second-stage brand, or you're going to miss one of the best new sporty sedans.

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Comments (6)
  1. I had hoped that this would be a hit for Suzuki but so far it is selling like only ~400/month

  2. This Suziki is an unknown player in unknown territory.
    I don't see why would anybody pick it above Jetta GLI, Civic SI, or Mazda 3 from fun-to-drive point of view, nor it is large enough to be real-life mid-size/familty sedan.

  3. Gorjira - this will be a hit for Suzuki once their FULL advertising campaign kicks in. Kizashi was released on a very limited basis to test the market and gather information for the California based marketing firm to create a national marketing approach. Considering that Suzuki has done minimal advertising on this car and most people still don't know about the car, the sales numbers are where they should be. That will change as people begin to discover the car.
    Ben - Suzuki is hardly an unknown player. They have been selling cars in the US since 1985, and their recent models such as the SX4 are really starting to catch on. Between fall of 2010 and spring 2011 they will start selling their Swift model here in the U.S. and that car has been a world wide success.
    Why Kizashi instead of Jetta, Civic, Mazda3? Because Kizashi has already been tested against all of those cars and it handles all of them, at a similar price and a much better warranty. That's reason enough. In addition, some people DO like to be unique and don't feel the need to be just like everyone else ;)

  4. Because Kizashi is not a huge boat like Honda Accord and Mazda6 have become is one of the main reasons I went to test drive this car! Kizashi really gets the whole size thing right. It's what the Accord and Mazda6 used to be before they got SuperSized. The only thing I didn't like about Kizashi was the Ipod display screen because it didn't show a full list of tracks, but that's pretty minor. In everything else Kizashi is right at the top, and in handling the only thing I've test driven lately that even comes close is Audi A4, and even then, Kizashi has a handling edge. Kizashi wasn't even aimed at mid-sized sedans, Suzuki designed it to compete against cars like Audi-A4, Acura TSX, Apha Romeo 159, WV Passat. The fact that it's still beating most of the LARGER mid-sized sedans is evidence of just how good Kizashi is.

  5. Can you post a link to a comparison test? So, far my narrow-minded opinion is: not large enough for mid-size, not efficient enough for economy. May be it does have all that impressive performance???
    "compete against cars like Audi-A4, Acura TSX, Apha Romeo 159, WV Passat" - I am sure their marketing wants you to think this way. Good luck with that.
    "selling cars in the US since 1985" - so? Which one was known as the great Suzuki?

  6. Ben, I can understand your skepticism. I have driven all kinds of cars including Saab, BMW, Mercedes, and VW. So, I had very high expectations for a car's performance. For me, Kizashi's road manners and handling easily beats all of them, even my Mercedes (that I treated like my first born child). I suggest you see the Kizashi in person and do a test drive before forming a final opinion. Kizashi is about the size of a VW Passat. I own the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi SLS AWD CVT.

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