The manual gearbox is definitely the best of the two, with a smooth, well-coordinated clutch takeup, even if the shifter feels a little imprecise, and a tall fifth and sixth gear bring relaxed high-speed cruising. Zero to 60 mph takes as little as 7.5 seconds. With the CVT, the Kizashi is a less exciting car overall (and the engine makes 5 hp less, technically); 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.
While the powertrain is good but not stellar, the Kizashi is very remarkable—and by some accounts class-leading—with respect to steering and handling. It has excellent steering response; it loads up predictably—and better than most electric-boost units—though it doesn't have much road feel. Overall, though the Kizashi feels athletic, and excellent suspension tuning, body control, and grip give it a nimble, tossable feel. Brakes employ Akebono performance calipers, and they feel strong but a little touchy.