All photos: Anne Proffit
This was not my first encounter with Suzuki's Kizashi four-door, front-wheel-drive sedan and I surely hope it's not the last time I get to drive one of these truly fun cars. Suzuki has managed to make its competitors look somewhat less dashing and to-the-minute than, perhaps, they thought they were.
I've driven a FWD Kizashi in stick and automatic and I surely prefer the most recent opportunity to drive the up-market SLS model with 6-speed manual. This car is so handsome with its swoopy lines and athletic physical demeanor that's backed up by excellent mechanicals beneath the surface.
Just for starters, the looks of the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi lend an elegance to a package that's 183.1 inches long, 71.7 inches wide, 57.9 inches tall, riding on a 106.3-inch wheelbase. Weight is 3241 pounds. There's a good 5.3 inches of ground clearance to the Kizashi that gives it the chance to get over most steep driveways. Turning circle is 36 feet.
The nose is rounded and fog lamps are set into the enlarged black egg-crate front grille area. Every Kizashi model has an upswept rear deck and its dual pipes are set into the rear bumper cover, giving a very cohesive look. Slight side sill extensions give added aerodynamic efficiency to this triple-box sedan
This car has a medium Azure gray exterior and the interior is black leather, a standard item on the SLS. Other standard features include for the top-line SLS are one-touch two-way sunroof, power 10-way driver's seat with triple memories, 425-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with 10 speakers, USB, auxiliary and 12-volt plugs, power operation for the front seat passenger and more.
The Suzuki Kizashi is available with a single engine and it's a good one: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making a usable 185 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 170 ft-lb of torque at 4000. As a reference, redline is 6500. The engine is peppy and willing and, with the delectable six-speed manual transmission installed (instead of a CVT) the gearing package allows the Kizashi to hit 2600 rpm at 70 mph. It's quiet but it's also ready to run hard.
MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspensions with stabilizer bars keep the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi well planted to the ground and with P235/45R rubber mounted to twinned, 10-spoke alloy rims, getaways are easy from any stop light. Handling is quite exceptional on this car; it's a total smile inducer.
As customary these days, the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi SLS has antilock brakes with brakeforce distribution, brake assist, hill hold, traction and stability controls, front, side and head curtain airbags, along with tire pressure monitoring. Some of these items are required by law; all of them assist drivers in terms of safety and capability behind the wheel.
Inside all is a delight with easy-on-the-eyes gauges in black with white numbers and red pointers. There are both fuel and temp gauges to go with the speedo and tach. Aluminum pedals are rubber tipped to keep feet properly placed and heel-toe shifting is easily accomplished thanks to their placement. Front seats have great lumbar and lateral support; back seats have air flow to keep three occupants heated or cooled. The cross-stitching on the seats and into the sides of the car are elegant. I like the electrochromatic mirror as well. Rain sensing wipers do a grand job and have a single pass.
Suzuki's multi-function leather-covered steering wheel does the job with audio controls on the left, phone at lower left, cruise on the right side and display (multi-function computer) and trip functions on the lower right side of the three-pronged wheel. There are three positions for the seat heaters. All the nubby plastic covers in the interior have high quality looks to them and appear to be quite durable on a car with around 5000 journalist-driven miles (equal to about 15,000 in normal use).
The trunk is a good-sized one at 13.3 cubic feet and finished quite nicely. The fuel tank is large enough too at 16.1 gallons and the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi SLS is rated at 20/29 mpg using regular fuel. I'm sure it can achieve those figures - maybe better - but this most recent review period was a bit short to log many miles. With nearly 70 hard-driving miles in the can, the trip computer showed well over 300 miles remaining.
The cost of this particular Suzuki Kizashi SLS is quite reasonable when compared with some of its Japanese counterparts. The total came to $26,049 and included modest fees for floor mats, paint and XM satellite radio, which wasn't activated on the car (90-day free period likely ran out).