The Car Connection Suzuki Kizashi Overview
The Suzuki Kizashi is a sporty sedan that straddles the line between compact and mid-size. The Kizashi didn't altogether fill a new product spot for Suzuki in the U.S.—it had previously sold the short-lived, Daewoo-built Verona mid-size sedan from 2004-2006—but it's the first sedan this size to be designed and built by Suzuki itself. With mid-size sedans becoming somewhat longer and larger, the Kizashi ends up competing most directly against larger compact-sedan models like the Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Cruze, and Ford Focus in the current market.
While the Kizashi's size is closer to that of compact cars, its interior is a league above those—far from the Spartan trims and materials in some of them, and more in line with appointments in near-luxury models, or optioned-up versions of mid-size sedans. With a two-tier instrument panel design, heavily bolstered sport seats in some models, and nice coarse cloth or ventilated leather upholstery, the Kizashi's interior could be mistaken for that of a more expensive sport sedan.
In straight-line performance, the Kizashi won't quite be mistaken for a sport sedan, however. The 185-horsepower (180 with the continuously variable automatic), 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is gutsy, and provides pretty satisfying performance with the six-speed manual gearbox. The CV automatic can bring out the boomy nature in the engine and ramps down the excitement level—unfortunately it's the only way to get the Kizashi with all-wheel drive, if that's a must—but you get access to six simulated ratios through steering-wheel paddle-shifters on all but the base S. We've found suspension and handling to be the strong point for the Kizashi; this is a model that truly does feel like a sport sedan—just a modestly powered one—with nicely weighted steering; predictable, athletic responses; and strong brakes with Akebono calipers.
Take a look at the rear seats and you'll find the one weakness—especially if you're gauging the Kizashi against mid-size sedans; while legroom can be a bit limited, there's enough headroom and space for two average-size adults. Ride comfort is in general quite good in the Kizashi—on the firm side, but compliant enough to soak up road harshness. And on the safety side, the Kizashi includes eight airbags, including rear side bags, which aren't common in this class. The Kizashi hasn't been rated by the federal government, but it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.
In value for the money, the Kizashi is well positioned. Even the base S includes dual-zone climate control, push-button start, and steering-wheel audio controls. SE models get cruise, a power memory driver's seat, and upgraded trims, while the GTS gets fog lamps, upgraded wheels, a moonroof, and Rockford Fosgate premium sound. At the top of the line is the SLS, which has leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, among among other extras. Navigation with real-time traffic and a rear camera system are an option that's just $1,399.
The Kizashi has changed very little in the several years it's been on sale; but for 2011, the Kizashi GTS and SLS were given the Sport treatment, with a suspension that's lowered 10 mm, bolder wheel designs, a trunk spoiler, sill extensions, and more of an aero look. Inside, these Sport models also get perforated leather trim, contrast stitching, and more heavily bolstered sport seats. For 2013, the optional navigation system is now part of a fully embedded infotainment unit that includes a backup camera, real-time traffic, Bluetooth streaming audio, and integrated voice commands.
Unfortunately, sales have been slow thus far for the Kizashi, which Suzuki had hoped would stoke appeal and interest in the cars from this brand that's better known for its motorcycles. That's mainly because of Suzuki's poor (and shrinking) network of U.S. dealerships, and thin budgets for advertising and marketing. If you can look beyond that, the Kizashi is a genuinely appealing sporty sedan.