The naming may leave something to be desired, but the all-new 2010 Kizashi (pronounced 'Kee-Zah-Shee') sedan may be just the vehicle Suzuki needed to turn around the slumping sales of the Japanese automaker. After three separate concept vehicles carrying the Kizashi name, Suzuki will finally introduce the production version of the Kizashi which will be a midsize sedan aimed at competing against the Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion. Suzuki has stated that its new flagship sedan will hit showrooms this winter, but pricing has yet to be announced. Taking the car's competition and Suzuki's competitive pricing into account, we'd expect the base model Kizashi to have a starting MSRP under $19,000.
Based largely off the latest concept vehicle, the Kizashi 3, the all-new Kizashi sedan offers the best design execution of any Suzuki vehicle since the automaker began selling cars in the U.S. in 1985. Unlike recent Suzuki vehicle designs, the 2010 Kizashi has an athletic, sporty look that carries similarities to other current cars. Up front, the large, curvaceous headlights flow back into smoothly flared fenders that help shape the car's shoulders. Unlike the Hyundai Genesis, the Suzuki Kizashi is not afraid to carry the Suzuki badges as is apparent by the large Suzuki S positioned centrally in the grill. While most other cars are trying to go fancy with four-door coupe styling or thick C-pillar, the new Suzuki sedan's roofline and greenhouse are refreshingly old school with an almost symmetrical shape front to rear. As for the back of the car, Suzuki paid even more attention to fine details such as the dual exhaust outlets being integrated into the rear fascia and the tall decklid spoiler giving the rear end some character.
Inside, Suzuki continued with the same surprising design language of the exterior with a sporty cabin for five passengers. The basic shape of the instrument panel is very reminiscent of the swoopy SX4, but positioning of the controls and gauges give this car a much more upscale look. One thing that we noticed about the cabin was the excessive use of gaudy trim. Yes, there is a small application of aluminum type trim to break up the instrument panel, but the rest of the cabin is highlighted by contrasting colors and a high-tech feel. The cars that Suzuki displayed had double-stitched, perforated leather seats and keyless ignition, but we're not sure if these are standard equipment or an optional upgrade. For convenience, the cabin will feature a hidden cubbyhole with a USB port and power outlet for drivers to easily enjoy digital music players. An optional 425-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sounds system will make playing the digital music even better.
For improved safety, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi will also offer safety devices not common on an entry-level midsize sedan such eight standard airbags (as well as an optional driver's knee airbag), Electronic Stability Program developed by Daimler AG, four-wheel ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and projector beam headlamps.
Suzuki calls the Kizashi a sports sedan, but considering the sole engine option, we're not sold just yet. The only engine available when production starts will be a 2.4-liter inline-4 and to remain competitive in this market, will need horsepower somewhere close to 200 hp with fuel economy estimates north of 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Helping to squeeze out every last mpg possible, the Kizashi will also pair the four-cylinder engine with a fun-to-drive six-speed manual transmission or an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) - we say save your money and stick with the manual. Eventually, the Kizashi sedan powertrain will expand to include both a high-output V-6 and some sort of hybrid setup to feed the power to the front wheels.
One thing that Kizashi will have that most of its competitors don't, is the option of all-wheel drive. Suzuki equipped its newest sedan with its next-generation i-AWD system that is driver activated and aimed at improving stability in slippery weather conditions or providing maximum grip in performance handling maneuvers. Although front-wheel biased, the i-AWD system sends power to the rear wheels during acceleration and other conditions based on wheel slippage. Backing up its sports sedan label, in addition to offering all-wheel drive, Suzuki says the Kizashi's driving dynamics were fine tuned on roads such as the Autobahn and the NÃ¼rburgring.
Since General Motors dumped its remaining stake in Suzuki late last year, many thought that Suzuki was primed to pull completely out of the U.S. market. The introduction of the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi should quell all doubts that the Japanese automaker is serious about remaining in North America. With the indefinite production stoppage of the GM-built XL7 and the cancellation of the Verona, Forenza and Reno in recent years, Suzuki has only offered three different models heading into the 2009 model year and only one of its models, the Grand Vitara, is truly unique. The Equator pickup truck is little more than a rebadged Nissan Frontier, while the SX4 was co-developed with Italian-based Fiat and therefore shares its compact, all-wheel drive design with the Fiat Sedici. As for the XL7, Suzuki announced back in May that is was stopping production of the midsize crossover indefinitely after selling only 12,000 units all of 2008.