2013 Suzuki Kizashi Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 9, 2012

Suzuki might be off the radar for some shoppers, but the 2013 Kizashi offers a lot of sophistication and value for the money.

The Suzuki Kizashi is in some respects a better-than-average compact sedan. Yet you don't see it on U.S. streets nearly as much as you should—due mainly because Suzuki, and Suzuki dealerships, simply haven't made much of a name for themselves here. But i value for the money takes precedence over brand cachet, the Kizashi stands as a premium, sport-flavored alternative to the likes of the Chevrolet Cruze or Volkswagen Jetta. And it's well worth putting on your shopping list.

While we wouldn't call the design or styling of the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi particularly fresh, it's handsome and nicely detailed--albeit a little conservative on the outside. At about 183 inches long, the Kizashi is more than a foot shorter than most mid-size sedans, yet it remains on the upper edge of what might be considered a compact. Compared to most other value-conscious four-cylinder compact or mid-size sedans, the Kizashi stands out for incorporating a little more sports-car swoopiness and excitement into the instrument panel and interior trim.

There's a lot to love about the way the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi performs--and it's much more about the way the Kizashi steers, handles, and responds than its outright speed or quickness. It feels athletic, and excellent suspension tuning, body control, and grip give it a nimble, tossable feel. Strong brakes--in the form of Akebono performance calipers--also tend to feel far stronger than what's usually provided in an inexpensive car. The 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is no standout on its own; it's gutsy, though, and it moves the Kizashi plenty quick, providing spirited performance either with the available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) or standard six-speed manual.

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'Just right' is probably what many Americans will think when they size the Kizashi up. It's about right for young families, empty nesters, or just urban commuters who want a reasonably roomy vehicle that's also not a burden to park. Factor in the well-designed cabin, pleasing materials, and refined ride, and it's a compelling package with a lot of passenger appeal. The back seat is definitely kid-friendly, but if you have taller drivers in front, it's only going to work for a couple of adults for a short distance. Trunk space is tight, but the rear seatbacks are split 60/40 and can easily be flipped forward. There are some clever smaller storage spaces, and materials and finishes are top-notch for the price. The Kizashi rides in a measured, upscale, and sporty way, yet manages to tune out road noise and harshness.

The base-level version of the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi, at less than $20,000 including destination, is quite a value, as it includes features like keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, sport seats, and steering-wheel audio controls--all things that aren't usually found in the least-expensive model, let alone as standard equipment. 

The Kizashi remains offered in S, SE, GTS Sport, and SLS Sport models, and from the S you move up to an equipment set that, read from a list, looks like it should belong to something with a luxury badge. At the top of the line, the SLS includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, rain-sensor wipers, rear parking sensors, heated mirrors, an auto-dimming mirror, and a garage-door opener. And if you opt for either the GTS Sport or the SLS Sport, you get a lowered suspension that rides 10 mm lower (but not really any harsher) than the base setup--in addition to a bolder look.

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.

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2013 Suzuki Kizashi

Styling

The 2013 Suzuki Kizashi has a look that's sporty, yet at the same time conservative, elegant, and finely detailed.

The Suzuki Kizashi has been around for several years, and while we wouldn't call its look or its styling particularly fresh, it's handsome and nicely detailed--albeit a little conservative on the outside.

At about 183 inches long, the 2013 Kizashi is more than a foot shorter than most mid-size sedans, yet it remains on the upper edge of what might be considered a compact. That leaves it pretty much in line with the Chevrolet Cruze or VW Jetta. Up next to those models, the Kizashi strikes some great proportions and is a handsome, if restrained sedan. With its traditional sedan profile with a dressed-up look and sportier stance, the Kizashi predictably has subtle character lines that follow from the grille and headlights, through the hood, to the beltline; and smooth, uncreased flanks are contoured just enough to avoid being called slab-sided.

The Kizashi Sport trim brings a lowered suspension and flashy alloy wheels, giving the Kizashi a more hunkered-down performance look particularly from the back.

Compared to most other value-conscious four-cylinder compact or mid-size sedans, the Kizashi stands out for incorporating a little more sports-car swoopiness and excitement into the instrument panel and interior trim. It would be a stretch to call it a cockpit-style layout, but the design's deeply hooded gauges and full-length console bring a sportier feel, while the two-tier instrument panel design (with central vents built into the upper tier) and just the right amount of chrome leave it feeling somewhat upscale inside. That's further accented by quality materials plus stylish, well-bolstered sport seats done in ventilated leather or a sturdy coarse cloth.

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2013 Suzuki Kizashi

Performance

Although the Kizashi's powertrain is ordinary, this is a car that's exceptionally fun to drive.

There's a lot to love about the way the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi performs--and it's much more about the way the Kizashi steers, handles, and responds than its outright speed or quickness. 

Overall, the Kizashi feels athletic, and excellent suspension tuning, body control, and grip give it a nimble, tossable feel. Strong brakes--in the form of Akebono performance calipers--also tend to feel far stronger than what's usually provided in an inexpensive car.

The 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is no standout on its own; it's gutsy, though, and it moves the Kizashi plenty quick, providing spirited performance either with the available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) or standard six-speed manual. The only downside with the CVT is that when you're tapping into the engine's full potential, you're also tapping into a lot of engine noise.

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; but of the combinations, our favorite remains the front-wheel-drive Sport model with the manual gearbox. With the manual gearbox, the shift linkage is a little imprecise but you get well-coordinated clutch takeup. The CVT doesn't drone quite as much as some other such setups on the market, and with paddle-shifters and six simulated gears in all but base S models, it's pretty easy to live with.

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2013 Suzuki Kizashi

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Suzuki Kizashi isn't any roomier than you might guess from the outside, but it's impressive in its materials and refinement.

'Just right' is probably what many Americans will think when they size the Kizashi up. It's about right for young families, empty nesters, or just urban commuters who want a reasonably roomy vehicle that's also not a burden to park. Factor in the well-designed cabin, pleasing materials, and refined ride, and it's a compelling package with a lot of passenger appeal.

We're not saying that Suzuki has accomplished any packaging magic here, though. The Kizashi is more of a compact sedan than a mid-size one on the outside, and the same rings true inside. But what you get helps make the most of the space--like nice, supportive bucket seats that bring plenty of support for taller drivers, as well as a great driving position.

The back seat is definitely kid-friendly, but if you have taller drivers in front, it's only going to work for a couple of adults for a short distance. When there's no middle passenger--which we advise--you can fold down the rear armrest, which includes a cupholder.

Trunk space is also where the Kizashi reveals that it's not quite mid-size. The trunk opening is quite narrow, too, but the seatbacks are split 60/40 and can easily be flipped forward. It's not quite a flat floor in the end, but however headrests tuck nicely away without needing to be removed.

If you love the detailed feel and upscale materials of luxury models, but you see no need for their image or higher price tag, the Kizashi is a good fit. It really shines in the details--better than most other models in this class--with nicely grained plastics plus soft-touch and padded surfaces in most of the places you'd brush against. Controls for audio and climate have a positive, high-quality feel with a textured grip; they wouldn't be out of place on a car costing twice as much.

Otherwise, we appreciate how there are some clever smaller storage spaces: There's a large storage bin just ahead of the shifter, with a lid to leave electronics out of view, and a conveniently located USB input, for iPod connectivity.

The Kizashi rides in the same measured, upscale, and sporty way. It's somewhat firm, but not so much as to be jarring, and it damps out road noise surprisingly well. At the same time, there's not all that much road noise or coarseness, thanks to some smart tuning and cabin insulation.

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2013 Suzuki Kizashi

Safety

Respectable ratings and standard rear side airbags help distinguish the Kizashi for safety.

The 2013 Suzuki Kizashi isn't at the top of its class for safety, but it remains one of the better picks, thanks to some reasonably good ratings and a few security-minded features that aren't so common in this class.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the Kizashi has earned top 'good' ratings for frontal and side impact, as well as rear impact, but they earned just 'acceptable' for roof strength. On the other hand, it's one of just a few new models to earn top 'good' ratings in the new small overlap frontal test. Federal NCAP scores for the Kizashi aren't available--and since it's a relatively slow-selling model it likely won't be included as part of that program.

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The Kizashi includes eight airbags as standard, as well as rear side bags. And in Kizashi models with all-wheel drive (AWD)--which may in itself provide more secure handling in some all-weather situations--the stability control system can enable stronger steering boost to quickly countersteer and encourage the right corrective action in a skid. The all-wheel-drive system is a multi-mode system that allows front-wheel drive operation, but that safety feature works in either mode.
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2013 Suzuki Kizashi

Features

The 2013 Suzuki wraps in a lot of features for the money--especially at the base level.

The base-level version of the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi, at less than $20,000 including destination, is quite a value, as it includes features like keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, sport seats, and steering-wheel audio controls--all things that aren't usually found in the least-expensive model, let alone as standard equipment. 

The Kizashi remains offered in S, SE, GTS Sport, and SLS Sport models, and from the S you move up to an equipment set that, read from a list, looks like it should belong to something with a luxury badge. The SE adds a power memory driver seat, cruise control, 17-inch alloys, and upgraded trim, while the GTS gets a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, fog lamps, a moonroof, and 18-inch wheels. And at the top of the line, the SLS includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, rain-sensor wipers, rear parking sensors, heated mirrors, an auto-dimming mirror, and a garage-door opener.

If you opt for either the GTS Sport or the SLS Sport, you get a lowered suspension that rides 10 mm lower (but not really any harsher) than the base setup. These models also include a flashier, lightweight wheel design, a trunk spoiler, body sill extensions, a more aggressive front fascia, and a bolder, 'aero' look. Sport models also get snug, leather-trimmed sport seats with contrast stitching, in a different design with more side bolstering.

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.

Review continues below
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2013 Suzuki Kizashi

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage simply isn't one of the reasons to consider the Kizashi.

As fully competitive as the Suzuki Kizashi is in so many respects, fuel efficiency isn't one of them. With fuel economy ratings range from 20 to 23 mpg in the city and 29 to 31 mpg on the highway, the Kizash's gas mileage falls short of many mid-size sedans--even some mid-size sedans with big V-6 engines.

It's surprising, considering that we've noted that the Kizashi's transmissions are geared quite tall, and it's no heavyweight. And in real-world driving, we've managed to easily meet those numbers, or possibly exceed them. In a Kizashi with the six-speed manual, we saw 27 miles per gallon over more than 150 miles of varied driving, much of it quite spirited. And we got 23 mpg on average in a Kizashi with the CVT and all-wheel drive.

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