2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS AWD: does it compare to more expensive German sport sedans?

January 27, 2010

4237028868_80d28dfe28_m.jpgWhen I found out I would be getting a Suzuki Kizashi for the week, I didnt know if it was going to be a car or some new kind of sushi. Kizashi actually means "something great is coming" and is pronounced "Key-ZAH-shee". And it is not something to eat but is Suzuki's all-new sedan, which made its North American debut last month.

Suzuki has said that they used the Volkswagen Passat, Alfa Romeo 159, and the Acura TSX as benchmarks to design the new Kizashi. Even if they fall short of matching the driving characteristics and refinement of those three automobiles, at least you cant knock Suzuki for not setting their goals high for the new car from the Japanese auto maker. Their advertising says that the Kizashi delivers sophistication and driving experience of a premium sport sedan for the price of a modest midsize sedan. Well thats a fairly aggressive statement considering all the luxury sport sedans from Europe to compare it to. But as I began to drive and see what Suzuki had designed, it began to come into focus.

I test drove a Kizashi GTS with AWD and I think that puts it in a different class all together. As far as sedans go, only the Subaru Legacy and the Ford Fusion offer all-wheel-drive on similar-size cars. The Kizashi is smaller in size than the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry, but neither of them offer all-wheel drive. It is relatively wide and tall for a four door sedan, and about the same as the Lexus IS and Acura TSX, which puts it in the compact/mid-size category. The GTS I tested ($24,849) was well appointed and the appearance and finish materials are competitive with most others in the market. Eight standard airbags include rear seat side airbags designed to accommodate child seats. Trunk space is decent for a car this size, and it has a 60/40 split-fold rear seat. It came with Bluetooth, wireless iPod/MP3 capability, moonroof, power driver seat memory system, dual climate control, and keyless start. The sound system has a 9 speaker audio with steering controls. The GTS is a sporty version and comes with fog lights, 18 sport wheels and performance tires. Also included in the base price are projector beam headlamps and a convenient ambient footwell lighting.

The  Kizashi is powered by a 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine producing 185 horsepower and 170lb-ft of torque that is class-competitive. It is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), with the all-wheel drive system. The suspension is fully independent, strut in front and multilink in back for maximum rear seat room. EPA fuel mileage estimates are 22 mpg city / 29 mpg hwy using regular unleaded fuel. The Kizashi had plenty of power for both city and interstate driving. It doesnt have throw you back in your seat power, but adequate for most driving situations. The primary advantage of the Kizashi is the button on the dash labeled AWD. You can switch from 2WD to AWD with the push of a button. For those who live in colder climates, this will be a viable alternative to some more expensive sedans that dont offer this option. Even in dry climates, the AWD will give any driver a stable footing for more aggressive driving. The real ace up the Kizashi's sleeve, though, is its steering and suspension. The suspension is comprised of MacPherson struts up front and a five-point multilink setup in the rear with KYB dampers at all four corners. One overlooked fact is that fun-to-drive vehicles don't have to be lightning fast. A number of other things can make up the difference in performance slack, and steering is a big one. The GTS has 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45R18 performance rubber that make a big difference in handling. Another is the Akebono brakes that bring it to a stop. The result is a car that is more than transportation and fun to drive.  After a week with the car I began comparing the GTS model to Acura and Audi.

The Kizashi GTS starts at $22,499 and comes standard with an array of features. The Acura TSX 2.4 starts at $29,310 and the Audi A4 2.0T at $31,450. Both cars feature more powerful four-cylinder engines but a fun to drive car isn't necessarily the quickest to the next stop light. Suzuki is betting that the cost difference will make up for the difference in acceleration. The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS AWD is an affordable, stylish, all-weather sedan that is fun to drive and easy on the wallet.

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