2010 Suzuki Kizashi Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 27, 2009

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.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the new 2010 Suzuki Kizashi on a variety of roads and even on the racetrack, and they have included a host of observations and road-test driving impressions in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com will also compile a Full Review, including some of the most useful comments from other reputable review sources.

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.

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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.

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2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Styling

The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi doesn't break the mold in any way, but its interior feels especially upscale and stylish.

The 2010 Kizashi is the all-new flagship of Suzuki's U.S. lineup, and while it's based on several very daring concept-car designs of the same name, the production Kizashi has ended up quite conservative.

MotorWeek says that the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi "certainly looks great," and sees "design elements from all three of its conceptual namesakes." Car and Driver agrees, remarkng, "Styling is conservative by the uninhibited standards of Suzuki’s three Kizashi concepts, but it’s far from wallflower." Popular Mechanics likes it, commenting, "With an exterior design blending Japanese and European flavors, the Kizashi stands out in a largely bland crowd."

Several sources see similarities to other vehicles up close, in the details, with the Volkswagen Jetta coming up more than once. "In a market crowded by vehicles dull in appearance, it at least looks like an angrier VW Jetta in red," says Jalopnik, while MotorWeek asserts, "The split-level grille and twin lower intakes reminds us a lot of the current VW Jetta, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi feels upscale and stylish inside—and far from the Spartan interiors of some other four-cylinder mid-size sedans. MotorWeek calls the interior "airy and upscale," notes the soft-touch dash, and says that its "sharply-drawn lines are intended to mimic the precision of a Samurai's blade." Popular Mechanics deems the interior appearance "richer and more tasteful than what one usually finds in the midsize category."

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8

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Performance

The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi handles and brakes with the verve of a more expensive car, but its powertrain too easily reveals its economically minded origins.

Nearly every review TheCarConnection.com read confirms that the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi offers a lot more driving enjoyment than mainstream mid-size sedans like the Toyota Camry or Chevrolet Malibu. And although there is plenty to rave about, there are also a few disappointments.

The Kizashi comes with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, making 185 horsepower with the standard six-speed manual or 180 hp with the optional CVT automatic—which includes steering-wheel paddle-shifters. All-wheel drive is offered, but only with the CVT.

USA Today opines that the manual and CVT automatic versions of the Kizashi feel like entirely different cars. The reviewer likes the manual, saying, "The clutch effort was light, the four-cylinder engine had enough low-speed torque for lug-along traffic, and the gearshift moved with easy grace." But USA Today calls the CVT version "unpleasant," with jerky responses and very unsporty behavior.

MotorWeek finds that a test Kizashi with the CVT could get to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds. They call it "not quite up to pure sport sedan pace." According to Suzuki, the manual-gearbox version can hit 60 in 7.5 seconds. Edmunds Inside Line points out that the Kizashi is faster than most non-premium luxury sedans, yet Jalopnik isn't convinced in real-world driving, saying, "It feels underpowered compared to cars it's apparently more powerful than."

Reviewers are quite positive about the way the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi handles, but not all are delighted. Jalopnik deems it "unexpectedly spry" on twisty roads, "making the most of its five-point, multi-link rear suspension and 18-inch tires." MotorTrend also has generally good things to say about the way the 2010 Kizashi performs, though they report that "steering, pedal feel, and shifter precision all left something to be desired."

"Grip, not understeer, is the prevailing sensation here, thanks to some inspired suspension tuning and an above-average set of all-season tires," says Edmunds Inside Line, explaining that the electric power steering is well-weighted even though it doesn't include much feedback. However, after pushing the Kizashi to the limit, MotorWeek judges that it is "a very safe car, but not as much fun as we hoped."

As if they drove a different vehicle altogether, these two sources differ again on the brakes. Edmunds Inside Line calls the brake pedal feel "a tad abrupt" initially, but likes their powerful response and fade resistance. MotorWeek reports "more fade than expected," and a "squishy pedal" when they really put the brakes to the test.

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2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Comfort & Quality

Without an expensive price tag, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi manages to feel luxurious, thanks to pleasing materials and impressive refinement.

Overall, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi feels a little more sophisticated and detail-oriented than other mainstream mid-size sedans (or at least their base versions), with pleasing materials and an interior that's nicely detailed and just roomy enough by most accounts.

"A bit small for a car likely to be marketed as midsize," contends USA Today. "The passenger space doesn't suffer much, but the modest trunk makes the point."

MotorWeek says those six feet and shorter will be OK in the backseat, but "Like the typical German sport sedan, the backseat is somewhat confined." According to USA Today, "Tall drivers may find it difficult to have a perfect relationship with the steering wheel and pedals." "The only thing that gives us pause is the somewhat snug rear-seat headroom and legroom," warns Edmunds Inside Line, adding that you shouldn't try getting in the backseat if you're over six feet tall. MotorTrend reminds shoppers that "for starters, the Kizashi is undersized for the segment." Despite all this controversy, this editor, at six-foot-six, had no problem getting into the backseat, where he discovered just enough headroom and legroom.

Except for some isolated reports of road noise, there are plenty of positive remarks about the Kizashi's ride and refinement. MotorWeek describes the ride as "compliant." Edmunds Inside Line points to the "composure on the highway. Even with 18s, our Kizashi SLS never rides harshly. Road noise isn't a problem, either." Car and Driver also reports that ride quality is smooth, and "fit and finish is first-rate, and the interior is above average in terms of materials and design."

Reviewers are split down the middle on whether the four-cylinder engine is refined or raucous. USA Today thinks there is "too much engine racket when revved hard." Popular Mechanics contends that although the powertrain doesn't make the Kizashi especially fast, "A balance shaft minimizes vibration, so the Kizashi's engine never feels or sounds strained."

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2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Safety

Test results aren't yet available, but the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi has more safety features than most other sedans.

Although the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi hadn't yet been crash-tested at the time of writing, the safety outlook for this all-new sedan is very promising.

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. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are standard across the model line as well. The entire Kizashi model line comes with a class-leading eight airbags, including front side airbags, side curtain bags, and rear side bags.

MotorTrend offers that the Kizashi "meets the newly mandatory Euro NCAP pole side-impact test" because it's a global model, while Popular Mechanics says that the Kizashi is "engineered to meet upcoming 2014 crash standards." That reviewer also points to the optional rear sonar parking aid and backup camera.

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8

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Features

There are few if any options on the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi, but it offers lots of thoughtful details and way more features than most mid-size sedans at a bargain price.

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.

USA Today makes note of "power almost-everything, trip computer, even a motion-damped glove box door—an array seldom found on a base model." The same reviewer is surprised to see "LED map and dome lights, costly bulbs that illuminate brightly without distracting the driver with spilled light."

Several sources criticize the audio display, which can show only a few characters of channel information or MP3 tags at a time.

Jalopnik sums up the Kizashi as well equipped for its starting price of less than $20,000, which includes "iPod connectivity, soft-touch plastics everywhere, steering wheel audio buttons, dual-zone climate control and comfortable seats."

MotorWeek points to standard push-button ignition and dual-zone climate control, and likes how the controls for Bluetooth and the optional Rockford Fosgate audio system are in easy reach on the steering wheel, "leaving the center console relatively uncluttered."

Reviewers apparently have drastically different ideas about whether the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is a deal. MotorWeek says that considering the 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, it "could be the premium car bargain of the year," while USA Today calls it "perhaps too pricey."

Later in the model year, an in-dash nav system will be optional at a price of $1,300.

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