Taking a page right out of whatever book Hyundai has been reading lately, Suzuki added the Kizashi (pronounced "kee-zah-shee") to its lineup for 2010 giving it a competitive and stylish new sedan. Like Hyundai did with the Genesis, Suzuki possibly started a whole new chapter in its history with the all-new Kizashi while adding the first mid-size sedan to the lineup since it dropped the Verona back in 2006. Building off the success of the Suzuki SX4 sedan and hatchback, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi is a stylish and sporty new sedan, but Suzuki made sure to stay true to one aspect that makes its cars popular in the first place: value.
Available in four trim levels (S, SE, GTS and SLS), the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi has a starting MSRP of $18,999, but the model I tested was the well-equipped Kizashi SLS that starts at $24,399. Surprisingly, this Kizashi SLS came with no optional features or add-ons, so the as-tested price just tacked on the destination charge for a final MSRP of $25,134. In terms of competition, not only does Suzuki think that its Kizashi can go up against cars such as the Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion but also against smaller sport sedans such as the Acura TSX and the Audi A4. In fact, Suzuki is in the midst of its Kizashi Test Drive Challenge where it urges those looking at the A4 and the TSX to also cross-shop the Kizashi, and if they still buy either of these two cars within 10 days, Suzuki will give them $100 (this program began in early December and runs through January 31, 2010).
2010 Suzuki Kizashi Exterior
Inspired by the 2008 Kizashi 3 Concept (the third concept vehicle to wear the name), the production version of the Kizashi is a remarkably stylish vehicle loaded with plenty of standard equipment and design elements to give it a sporty and luxurious look. The rounded roofline and the short front and rear overhangs lean toward a sport sedan styling, while the standard projector beam headlights and chrome-trimmed dual exhaust outlets have more in common with a luxury sedan. Either way, the styling of the new Kizashi is like nothing that Suzuki has pulled off before in its 25 years selling cars here in the United States.
While Hyundai chose to hide its badging from the front of the new Genesis sedan, Suzuki plastered its big chrome S right in the middle of the plastic mesh grille. Not only does the large grille share its design with Suzuki SX4, but it is also forms a basis for many of the car's intricate lines. Flowing back from the grille and headlights, the Kizashi gets athletic front fenders that turn into a subtle, yet effective, body line along the side of the car. This broad shoulder line goes along just under greenhouse area and flows back into a very Bangle-butt-like rear end. Finishing off the look of the car, the Kizashi also adds thin, multi-spoke 18-inch aluminum wheels, fender-mounted repeater turn signals and integrated decklid spoiler.
2010 Suzuki Kizashi Interior
Inside, the Kizashi's cabin is a little less flashy than its exterior, but its standard equipment list reads like an option list for most of its competitors. Keyless entry and push button start, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, dual-size automatic climate control and the manual tilt and telescoping steering wheel are all standard even on the base Kizashi S. Stepping up to the Kizashi SLS that I drove, items like integrated Bluetooth with mobile phone connectivity and audio streaming, leather seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, rear park assist and the 10-speaker, 425-watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system are standard as well. As a testament to just how much equipment Suzuki stuffed into the Kizashi, the only optional features available inside the Suzuki Kizashi SLS are a touch-screen navigation system and a backup camera.
In terms of comfort, Suzuki calls the seats in all Kizashi models 'premium sport seats with added bolstering' which can be a little on the firm side as is expected from anything that marketed as a sport sedan. The dark perforated leather seats and the leather-wrapped steering wheel felt very impressive for a car in this price range, and the hidden storage compartments and cupholders helped keep the cabin design clean. In addition to standard leather, the SLS trim level also adds a 10-way power adjustable driver seat and eight-way power adjustability for the front passenger.
From the driver's seat, Suzuki nailed the design in terms of ergonomics, layout and use of materials. All of the controls were easy to use both on the steering wheel and the center stack, while soft leather was used on the shifter, steering wheel, center console cover and door panel padding. For better driver visibility, the rear-seat headrests fold down out of the way when not in use. As for the back seat passengers, there is plenty of legroom and headroom for taller passengers, and the seats felt more like a luxury car than a sport sedan as is the case with the front buckets. The rear bench seat splits and folds, but it doesn't make a very large or flat opening. The folding seats are more for just long, bulky items as the trunk offers a sufficient 13.3 cubic feet of cargo volume.
2010 Suzuki Kizashi Performance & Handling
One area where the Kizashi is may suffer in regards to its competitors is the lack of a V-6. The only engine available is a 2.4-liter DOHC inline-4 that produces up to 185 horsepower (more than Camry, Malibu and Fusion) and 170 lb-ft of torque. While all-wheel drive is available on each of the Kizashi's trim levels, it can only be had with the 'performance-tuned' continuously variable transmission (CVT). Thankfully, the front-wheel drive test model I drove came with the smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission which added more excitement to the car rather than the fuel-economy minded CVT. Even better, the Kizashi SLS FWD I tested gets an EPA estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway - about par for this segment.
Unlike past Suzuki models that were designed alongside General Motors, the Kizashi was designed and built 100 percent by Suzuki. The suspension is comprised of a four-wheel independent system with a multi-link rear setup that is seemingly tuned for more spirited driving, but it wasn't very forgiving on harsher roads. The firm suspension setup and the electric power steering do make the Kizashi a great handling vehicle, and it would be a chore to tell the Kizashi's ride quality and handling abilities apart from the TSX.
2010 Suzuki Kizashi Safety
As a brand new model, the Suzuki Kizashi has yet to be tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for crash ratings, but the NHTSA did give it a four-star rating for rollover avoidance for both front- and all-wheel drive models. Standard safety equipment on the Suzuki Kizashi includes six airbags, daytime running lights, electronic stability program with traction control and four-wheel ABS with electronic brake distribution and brake assist. The only optional safety feature available on the Kizashi is an upgraded vehicle stability program available on the all-wheel drive models only.
Marking its 25th year selling cars in the United States, Suzuki appears to be on track for a promising future with its all-new Kizashi sedan. Without putting too much pressure on the new Kizashi, this car may be the most important product ever introduced into Suzuki U.S. lineup, and the car's stylish design, spacious and well-equipped interior and a host of standard safety features will definitely help attract new customers. In fact, the biggest hurdle that Suzuki will likely face with the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi (including the Camry) is just getting customers to give the car a chance. If they do, the sales are sure to follow.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross.
Suzuki provided a vehicle for this review.