I like Suzuki.
For me, they represent an ever evolving automaker (who makes killer
motorcycles) that has some big dreams. Stars in their eyes they have;
focusing on an expanding future is their determined mantra. Around the
world, Suzuki is well respected for high quality machines. America has
yet to accept that point of view.
Say it with me: Key-xash-che – it means, “something good is coming.”
Was I rewarded by something good? You bet. I was one of the lucky
ones to drive a manual FWD version in Southern California (on a race
track) and recently abused one all over Colorado… in the slush. I can
say with confidence that Suzuki’s days of building the forgettable Areo
and Reno are gone. This is a great car, especially for the price.
A base model Suzuki Kizashi (which still has good standard
equipment) runs about $19,000. Now that base model comes with a zippy
185 horsepower, 170 lbs feet of torque 2.4 liter 4 banger. A slightly
lower 180 horsepower is max output for CVT equipped Suzuki Kizashis.
Options obviously increase the price, but what Suzuki is banking on is
a great deal of folks wanting the continuously variable transmission
(CVT). You see, it is the only transmission available for the Suzuki
Kizashi with all wheel drive (AWD).
“But Nathan, don’t you HATE CVTs!?”
Yup – I do indeed. Still, this CVT works fairly well, reminding me
of the good units on Nissans and Mitsubishis. You have paddle shifters
that mimic the feeling of having five speeds (it holds a “gear” while
the engine builds revs). It is an electronic addition that keeps the
CVT band from expanding, allowing the power-band to remain within a
pre-set rpm bracket.
For most folk who simply want a car to move efficiently and don’t
mind the revvy nature of a CVT, the Suzuki Kizashi is not too bad.
There are a few benefits to CVTs. Gas mileage is quite good and the
cars (literally) drive as easily as (and sound similar to) Autotopia
cars do at Disneyland. MPG on the CVT AWD Suzuki averaged about 25
miles per gallon – that’s not too bad with a mad-man at the wheel.
I dig the looks, especially when equipped with the multi-spoke 18
inch, fat wheels with low-profile rubber. It fills the tastefully
flared fenders nicely, with an almost European look. In fact, I’m going
on a limb here – but I think the Suzuki Kizashi looks a hell of a lot
like last generation’s Volkswagen Jetta. That’s no insult from me as I
like the look of Jettas.
The Suzuki Kizashi has a very nice interior. Suzuki is expanding on the
Hyundai/KIA sales idea of adding lots of goodies for little bread.
Items like: eight airbags (front/rear side and curtain), pushbutton
keyless start, dual-zone climate control, ambient and foot-well
lighting, 9-speaker audio and steering controls (AM/FM/CD/MP3
XM-capable audio system). Add to that cheap additions like 10-way
adjustment (including power lumbar), a three-position memory driver’s
seat, 425 watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with 10 speakers,
Bluetooth streaming audio capability, compatible MP3 and iPod
connectivity with voice command, power moon roof and on and on.
Front seats are comfortable and good quality. Many of the materials are
at least at Subaru/Hyundai/Mitsubishi level and the look is better than
many cars in the same bracket. I like the metal trim and shapes. There
are some cheap plastics here and there, but nothing too obvious.
Back seat space is a big surprise. Whereas I compared the outer look of
the Suzuki Kizashi with last generation’s VW Jetta, the Kizashi’s
interior is much larger. Back space room is impressive – especially for
a parent. With the front seat all the way back (I’m tall) I was able to
fit my kid’s enormous baby-seat behind me – without moving up at all.
Hell, 70% of the cars I test don’t allow that. Side bolsters were wide
enough too (I’m chunky as well). The trunk is big – with a grand total
of 13.3 cubic feet available, it’s a competitive size.
Is the Suzuki Kizashi sporty?
That depends on the model you drive. The CVT equipped models are a
bit sluggish. The Kizashi’s 0 to 60 times average in the mid 9 second
zone; that’s for all CVT cars with and without AWD. With the feather
touch 6-speed, the Kizashi rocks the 0 to 60 time in the mid 7’s –
which is competitive. Either way, both cars have good balance and can
How do I know?
I beat the crap out of a Suzuki Kizashi at the California Speedway a
few months back. Not because I wanted to be a jerk (which I can be),
but because the race course was full of testosterone spouting
automotive journalists driving full blown sports cars like jackasses. I
had to push the Suzuki Kizashi super hard just to stay alive!
Fortunately, I was driving the 6-speed. The suspension is soft-ish
for commuters, but can handle a 60 mph transition from a mild left turn
to a hard right-handed hairpin without flying off the track. Brakes
were good and allowed me to repeatedly spill off 3-digit speeds without
too much fade. Better yet (and slightly more relevant to regular
drivers) on the road, highway and snow the Suzuki Kizashi is as good as
Unfortunately, there was some cabin shimmy from road bumps, but nothing too bad.
Now, just to hammer the point home (and prove my stupidity), I took
the Suzuki Kizashi AWD down to Monument Lake, Colorado for some ice
driving. Interestingly, the AWD Kizashi has a button which allows you
to switch off the AWD system; thereby, making the Kizashi a FWD only
vehicle for better economy. While I was on the ice, I played with the
switch and monitored the Suzuki’s performance… and had a stupid kind of
fun doing it.
Indeed, the AWD system works well and allowed me to scoot off the
super slick surface as well as any Subaru or Audi would.
No matter what I did, the Suzuki Kizashi kept its composure and
drove trouble free. In a way, knowing what type of abusive jerk I can
be with cars – that’s a hell of a good endorsement. For what this car
represents, I think it’s safe to say that Suzuki’s plan of expansion is
a very real possibility.
Now, if they would only bring in a beefier V6 or hybrid….
Oh – they are you say? Never mind.
It’s still a good car as is.
Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car
sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out
of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to
enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com