“It’s a good car.” I heard that opinion expressed over and over here from automotive scribes who came to test drive the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi, the automakers new midsize sedan. For Suzuki, this car is a big step. But first let’s deal with the Kizashi. It was a small midsize sedan powered by a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine that made 185 horsepower and 170 pounds-feet of torque with a six-speed manual transmission. The four-cylinder made 180 hp when mated to a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. Suzuki officials were somewhat mum when asked whether a six cylinder would join the lineup.
The Kizashi will come in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations when it goes on sale in December. My driving partner and I selected an AWD Kizashi with a CVT. This car impressed us as we headed north on two-lane narrow roads headed to a race track just on the other side of the Virginia state line. The car was relatively quiet for a four banger with a CVT. Both are notorious for whining under hard acceleration. Still, the Kizashi handled well, it was solid on the twisting two lane roads and the build quality was solid. The Kizashi seemed to be put together well. I was particularly impressed with the car’s interior. The fit great; I could hardly see the seams between the panels. The center stack was black and matted that gave it a distinctive hue. And the trim looked like brushed aluminum which was a very nice contrast.
The 2010 Kizashi sedan was a really comfortable to drive. The steering centered well, I didn’t have to continuously make adjustments to get the car go where I wanted. And the suspension was nicely tuned. It gave when needed but never bottomed out on the steep depressions. And though it was a 2010 model, The Suzuki Kizashi meets some safety regulations that are scheduled to take effect in 2014. It had standard eight airbags (including side air bags for the back seats), electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and a tire pressure monitoring system. The car also some 2014 crash standards including rigorous side pole crash, rear offset collision, and European pedestrian protection standards.
It has standard projector beam headlights, supplemental side mounted signal lights, fold-down rear headrests and available rear sonar and backup camera. The Kizashi is a lot of car for the buck. Suzuki gave the Kizashi three-stage heated seats with a three-position memory program for the driver’s seat. In addition, both cloth and leather seats had hard cover rears and high-density, low fatigue foam. There was push button start, Bluetooth audio downloads as well as hands free cell phone connectivity. The audio system included iPod connectivity, 450 watts, a CD player and satellite radio.
The Kizashi was a we’’ equipped with ambient overhead and foot well lighting, felt flocked glove-box and center console storage tray, soft-woven headliner and a-pillars and leather door pull-straps. Suzuki has gotten over the first hurdle and that’s was creating a midsize sedan that can compete with the likes of Honda, Nissan and Toyota. The second hurdle may be more difficult. Can the company create an innovative advertising and marketing campaign for the Kizashi that stands out from all the clutter in an automotive market that is recovering from the worst sales in decades, if not generations.
The company is known for its motorcycles and marine equipment. In other words, people have heard the name but may not know exactly what Suzuki does. The question for Suzuki is whether it is will to put marketing dollars behind and a very capable midsize sedan. Kizashi prices start at about $19,000 and rise to upper $20Ks.