2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: What Is It
You’re looking at the best car that nobody buys. The 2012 Suzuki Kizashi is difficult to classify, a sedan sized between a compact and a midsize car and capable of transporting five people even if four are more comfortable. Styled and equipped somewhere between a mainstream and an entry-luxury model, the Kizashi is available only with a four-cylinder engine and a choice between a manual and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Despite its economy car powertrain, the Kizashi features competent sport sedan tuning combined with a compliant ride quality, making it genuinely pleasurable to drive. An all-wheel-drive system is optional, giving this Suzuki improved go-in-the-snow driving dynamics. Buyers can also upgrade the Kizashi with luxury features, but the price of a loaded model remains solidly within middle-class income brackets.
What is a Suzuki Kizashi? It’s nearly everything a sedan should be, and like nothing else on the road.
Suzuki sells the 2012 Kizashi in five different levels of specification, starting with the Kizashi S ($19,794 including the $795 destination charge). Standard equipment highlights include a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a TouchFree Smart Key keyless entry with push-button start, LED ambient cabin lighting, and dual chrome exhaust outlets. A CVT is optional. When so-equipped, the Kizashi S can be upgraded with all-wheel drive.
The Kizashi SE carries a $3,450 premium over the base model. In exchange for the extra cash, buyers receive a standard CVT, 18-inch aluminum wheels with 235/45 tires, cruise control, an upgraded stereo with a USB port, a 10-way power driver’s seat with three-position memory, and leather wrapped around the steering wheel, shift knob, and hand brake lever. An Optional Leather Package adds leather seats, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, and a power front passenger’s seat.
The Kizashi Sport GTS is $3,400 more expensive than the base model, and it comes standard with a manual gearbox, moving the CVT to the options list. The Sport GTS is differentiated by its revised exterior styling with added chrome detailing, fog lights, side sill extensions, rear lip spoiler, and unique lightweight alloy wheels. A lowered sport suspension is standard on this model, along with a sport steering wheel, a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system, and Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming. A CVT with paddle shifters is optional, along with a power sunroof, heated side mirrors, and more.
At the top of the lineup, the Kizashi Sport SLS costs $26,349. Available only with a CVT, the Sport SLS includes leather seats, heated front seats, a power front passenger’s seat, a power sunroof, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors, a Homelink universal remote, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and satellite radio. A navigation system with a reversing camera is optional on this model.
In addition to these features, every 2012 Suzuki Kizashi is equipped with eight airbags, a traction and stability control system, and four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Kizashi receives “Good” crash-test ratings in all assessments except roof crush strength, for which the car is rated “Acceptable.”2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: What It’s Up Against
Given the Suzuki Kizashi’s unique position within the marketplace, it has few direct competitors. We count the new 2013 Acura ILX, the 2012 Acura TSX, the 2012 Buick Verano, and the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta as the models that are most similar to the Suzuki Kizashi in size and purpose. Until recently, the ‘Zuki also went head-to-head with the Volvo S40.
Considering that the Kizashi wears a giant Suzuki “S” logo on its grille, you might find this opinion surprising. After all, Suzukis have typically been small, cheap, and offbeat vehicles. That’s not the case with the Kizashi.2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: Exterior
What’s New for 2012:
- Crimson Red Metallic paint
How It Looks
The Suzuki Kizashi has visual presence and substance, in part due to its oversized lighting elements and grille, and in part because of its relatively small greenhouse. The proportions are just right until you get to the middle of the rear doors. Beyond this point, the Kizashi appears to be truncated, as though it has lost about a foot in overall length, half that in rear seat space, and a quarter of that in wheelbase and trunk volume.
Had Suzuki elected to stretch the platform and structure, the Kizashi could compete head-to-head with the best midsize family sedans on the market. Instead, it is positioned a notch below midsize and a notch above compact, which some buyers might find is just right, especially since this Suzuki looks more expensive than it is.2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: Interior
What’s New for 2012:
- SE gains Leather Package option with heated front seats and power front passenger’s seat
- Sport GTS loses power driver’s seat and power sunroof
How It Looks and Feels
The upscale look and feel is continued on the inside, where in addition to soft-touch dashboard and upper door panel trim the Kizashi features fabric-wrapped windshield pillar covers and convincing metallic dashboard accents. Our Sport GTS model also had thickly padded vinyl door panel inserts with exposed stitching, and Suzuki claims that it employs “extensive sound insulation” for the Kizashi’s cabin. Given how hushed this car is on the highway, we believe it.
Suzuki says the Kizashi is equipped with sport seats constructed out of high-density, low-fatigue foam. I spent hours at a time behind this car’s steering wheel, and the seats were never uncomfortable. The driving position, however, could use some work. The Kizashi Sport GTS now comes with a manually adjustable driver’s seat rather than the previously provided 10-way power seat. For me, a guy with long legs and arms, this change results in a splay-legged driving position that I don’t recall from my last test drive of Suzuki’s family sedan.
The Kizashi’s rear seat, which looks cramped, is actually comfortable because the bottom cushion sits so far off the floor. That means your thighs get proper support, and your knees aren’t bent upwards and outwards into the front seatbacks. That said, taller people will feel like the Kizashi’s rear quarters provide a snug fit.
Overall, there’s nothing obviously cheap about the Kizashi’s interior, from the way the controls look, feel, and operate to the quality of the plastic used to finish the cabin, which helps the driver to feel like he or she got a bargain with each turn behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel.2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: Powertrain
What’s New for 2012:
- No changes
How Does It Go
Suzuki meets midsize class standards with the Kizashi’s powertrain. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder makes 185 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 170 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm when equipped with the six-speed manual gearbox. Add the optional CVT and horsepower output drops to 180 ponies. Available paddle shifters help to make the CVT a more palatable proposition, and Suzuki provides a seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
All-wheel drive is optional on models with the CVT. Suzuki says the AWD system sends power to the rear wheels immediately upon acceleration, with a maximum torque split of 50/50 front-to-rear depending on wheel slippage, throttle position and steering input.
Our Kizashi Sport GTS test car had neither the CVT nor the AWD. Instead, a six-speed manual gearbox jutted from the center console, and I employed it wring every ounce of performance from the refined four-cylinder. To launch, the driver needs to give the Kizashi a little gas to avoid stalling, but once underway the manual gearbox moves fluidly between gears, popping a little bit into and out of gates like a BMW.
This is a car that loves to rev, and does so with uncommon refinement all the way to redline. Accelerate hard, and with each upshift you’ll drop from peak horsepower at the top of the rev range right into peak torque’s neighborhood, ensuring that the Kizashi delivers lively performance. Still, we think this car could really benefit from a turbocharger supplying an extra 40 horses and greater torque distributed across a broader power plateau.
Despite the regular flogging administered to the engine, I averaged 27.6 mpg during a week of driving, traveling most of the 500 test miles on freeways. According to the EPA, the Kizashi gets 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. We’re usually disappointed by the fuel economy we get in real-world driving, but not this time.2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: How It Drives
Suzuki says the Kizashi’s ride and handling were validated on the Autobahn, the Nurburgring, switchbacks in the Swiss Alps, and rural England’s cobblestone streets. That certainly would explain how much fun this car is to drive, and why it successfully blends a soft, compliant ride quality with flat cornering and impressive grip – just like a good European sport sedan.
The Kizashi rides on a 4-wheel-independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link arrangement in the rear. On Sport GTS models, a set of P235/45R18 Dunlop SP Sport 7000 all-season performance tires provide substantial contact patches for a 3,241-lb. sedan, and electric steering guides the front wheels. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes fortified with vented front discs and Akebono components are standard.
Suzuki has done a great job of tuning the Kizashi for city driving. The suspension soaks up bad pavement and the electric steering feels perfectly natural throughout the range of motion, including on-center. Feel free to fling this Suzuki around street corners with verve, and then cut-and-thrust through traffic as long as you keep the engine revved to four grand or higher.
If you decide to take the long way home, prepare to be amazed. While the Kizashi’s steering could stand to be a little quicker, the suspension tuning and tire selection are examples of perfection. This car simply sticks, without unnecessary body roll or tire squeal, communicating all the right information required by the driver while filtering extraneous data. Compliant yet composed, the Kizashi is a thrill to drive hard and fast.
The primary complaint we have is that our test car’s brakes heated up and shuddered the faintest bit under hard, sustained use on a 92-degree day. However, our Kizashi also had nearly 11,000 journalist miles on the odometer, and by the looks of the tire sidewalls, few of them were kind.
On the freeway, we discovered that it’s really easy to go really fast in a Suzuki Kizashi. This car is rock solid at 80+ mph, and very quiet. Certain paved surfaces introduce loud tire slap and rumble to the cabin, and some of L.A.’s sectioned concrete freeway joints didn’t play nicey-nice with the Suzuki’s sport suspension and 106.3-inch wheelbase. Otherwise, all that time Kizashi engineers spent on Germany’s Autobahn proved evident.2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: Final Thoughts
During a week of driving the Suzuki Kizashi all over the Los Angeles region, we didn’t see another one. But we did see lots of people taking notice of our Vivid Red test car. Apparently, Angelenos don’t see many Kizashis, either.
That’s too bad, because the Kizashi is worthy of consideration. It’s stylish, refined, and constructed with care using quality materials. There was plenty of room for two adults and a couple of kids in child safety seats, and the trunk accommodated a large single-seat stroller with no trouble. We got good fuel economy, and we thoroughly enjoyed driving this car, especially on the roads ribboned atop the Santa Monica Mountains.
All the Suzuki Kizashi is missing is a turbocharger. That would instantly transform it into a Volkswagen Jetta GLI killer.2012 Suzuki Kizashi Review: Pros and Cons
- Nobody else has one
- Upscale look and feel without the upscale price
- Smooth-revving engine
- Excellent ride and handling
- Genuinely fun to drive on a favorite twisty road
- Quality interior materials and detailing
- Comfortable front and rear seats
- Quiet on the highway
- Nobody knows how to say the name
- Nobody knows how to spell the name
- Nobody knows where to buy one
- Needs a turbocharged engine option
- Small 13.3 cu-ft. trunk
Suzuki provided the vehicle for this review
2012 Suzuki Kizashi photos by Christian Wardlaw