- Pleasant materials and trims
- Quiet, well-isolated cabin
- Handling and maneuverability
- Tight headroom with sunroof
- Engine is gruff when worked hard
- Reflections in shiny center stack
If you can get past the Suzuki badge itself, you'll be pleasantly surprised. The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is sophisticated, well designed, and a lot more fun to drive than most other four-cylinder mid-size sedans.
The 2010 Kizashi is the all-new flagship of Suzuki's U.S. lineup, a sedan focusing on performance, all-weather capability, and upscale interior appointments. It's sized right between what we consider compact and mid-size in the U.S. market, though with a long 106-inch wheelbase, its cabin is almost as spacious as that of mid-size mainstays like the Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima.
The overall design of the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi doesn't bear much 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. In the production Kizashi, there are also a number of styling details seemingly borrowed from other vehicles, but after taking it all in, the Kizashi looks like one of the better-proportioned sedans. The profile itself is elegant and a bit conservative, but it's more daring from other angles, particularly the back. Like nearly every other sedan today, it has character lines that follow from the grille and headlights, through the hood, to the beltline. And its smooth, uncreased flanks are contoured just enough to avoid being called slab-sided.
On the inside, the 2010 Kizashi feels upscale and stylish—and far from the Spartan interiors of some other four-cylinder mid-size sedans. The swoopy instrument panel design of the Kizashi could very well be that of a sports coupe. The instrument panel has two tiers, with the upper tier culminating in a hood over the gauge cluster and the lower tier curving downward toward the center console and accented with tasteful bright trim. The hooded tach and speedometer gauges ahead of the driver are simple but classy, with a now-typical multifunction trip display between the two, and heavily bolstered sport seats with a coarse cloth or ventilated leather round out the sport-sedan impression.
A gutsy 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is the only choice in the Kizashi for now. It makes 185 horsepower (180 hp with the continuously variable transmission, or CVT) and 170 pound-feet of torque. The engine provides quite spirited acceleration either with the six-speed manual transmission or continuously variable (CVT) automatic. The manual transmission is the best choice of the two. The shift action of the gearbox is a little imprecise, but the clutch takeup is smooth and overall the Kizashi feels especially lively in the low gears of the manual, which also has a rather tall, relaxed fifth and sixth gear. The engine feels at its perkiest from 2,500 rpm up to 5,000 and there's little reward for revving it all the way to redline; at higher revs, it tends to become coarser and slightly boomy, though always isolated and smooth. With the CVT, the Kizashi is a less exciting car overall; it doesn't feel nearly as responsive, even if it can accelerate quickly. In Drive, the CVT takes too long to ramp up revs for brief passes or squirts of power. 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. In a Kizashi with the six-speed manual, TheCarConnection.com observes 27 miles per gallon over more than 150 miles of varied driving, much of it quite spirited. CVT models of the 2010 Kizashi are actually easier on gas; EPA ratings for the Kizashi range up to 23 mpg city, 31 highway for the base CVT S model.
The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi has a firm yet very absorbent ride; on coarse surfaces, it soaks up irregularities, and even minor bumps don't boom into the cabin as in other sporty sedans. The Kizashi handles very well overall, with nicely weighted electric-boost steering that lends some feel of the road—though it tends to come across as a bit lifeless on center. The brakes, which are larger than those in rival vehicles and incorporate Akebono calipers, impart a firm, confidence-inspiring sensation, and they don't fade appreciably even with heavy use out on the racetrack.
Though the Kizashi's exterior is smaller than mid-size, its cabin manages to feel nearly as spacious as most true mid-size interiors. There's lots of legroom in front—this very tall editor didn't even need the seat back all the way—and reasonable legroom in back. The tallest drivers will want to avoid the sunroof, which cuts into precious headroom in front, and those riding shotgun might be a little disappointed that the passenger perch doesn't adjust for height. In back we found headroom just fine thanks to good seat contouring, though the position is a bit low and the back of the front seats is covered with hard plastic that isn't delightful against knees.
When there's no middle passenger, backseat occupants of the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi have a folding armrest with a sturdy double cup holder, where there's also a pass-through to the trunk. Rear-seat heating and A/C outlets are included. The backseats are split 60/40, and each side folds easily forward with the flick of a lever. No need to worry about headrests either—they get out of the way.
Overall, the Kizashi feels a little more sophisticated and detail-oriented than other mainstream mid-size sedans (or at least their base versions). Throughout the 2010 Kizashi, materials are a pleasant surprise. Nicely grained plastics pair with soft-touch and padded surfaces in most of the places you'd brush against—except for the hard side of the center stack (knees), and controls are backlit in a soft red hue, with gauges lit in a pale blue, matching the vacuum fluorescent audio and climate control displays. Controls for audio and climate have a positive, high-quality feel with a textured grip, as well as slightly angled buttons that remind us of Mercedes-Benz interiors; they wouldn't be out of place on a car costing twice as much. The USB input, for iPods or other media players, is located inside the large storage bin just ahead of the shifter, so you can close the lid and leave the electronics out of view. All trims of the Kizashi—not just the more expensive models—get sport seats that are everyday-comfortable, with enough side support for taking on mountain switchbacks. Only one factor interrupted this feeling of refinement: The pre-production test car we spent the most time in also had pronounced wind noise around the passenger-side mirror above 70 mph.
Although the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi hasn't yet been crash-tested, it comes with a class-leading eight airbags, including front side airbags, side curtain bags, and rear side bags. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are also standard across the model line. In Kizashi models with AWD, the stability control system can momentarily send more power to the rear wheels and help counter a skid, whether or not AWD is currently engaged. The stability control system also enables stronger steering boost in these situations for quick countersteering.
Suzuki typically offers few if any options on its U.S. vehicles, instead including a strong list of standard features, and the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi takes that to a new level. It's offered in four different trims. The base S includes a surprisingly high level of standard-feature content, such as push-button start, sport seats, dual-zone climate control, and steering-wheel audio controls. Next up is the SE, which adds a power memory driver seat, cruise control, 17-inch alloys, and upgraded trim. A 425-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, Bluetooth hands-free calling, Bluetooth audio streaming, fog lamps, a moonroof, and 18-inch wheels are all part of the GTS, while the top-of-the-line SLS includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, rain-sensor wipers, rear parking sensors, heated mirrors, an auto-dimming mirror, and a garage-door opener. Later in the model year, an in-dash nav system will be optional.
The 2010 Kizashi is made by Suzuki in Japan and is covered by a seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, with three years or 36,000 miles for the vehicle warranty and roadside assistance.