In general, the Kizashi has been (quietly) impressing everyone who has spent time behind the wheel. The Sport model kick the fun up a notch (compared to our Four Seasons car) by losing the awd system and CVT and giving the diver a pleasant six-speed manual transmission. You also end up with a car that’s about 88 pounds lighter as a result of these changes. I thought the Sport’s reflexes were just a touch sharper than the SLS we’ve been driving since March, but the difference wasn’t nearly as impressive as the amount of money one could save by choosing a Sport over an SLS loaded up the way our car is. For $25,300, the Kizashi doesn’t have much competition in the cheapish fun-to-drive-mid-size category until the new Jetta GLI hits the streets.
– Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The biggest discernible difference between this Kizashi Sport and our Four Seasons Kizashi SLS AWD is that the Sport has a six-speed manual transmission versus our SLS model’s CVT (continuously variable transmission). And although the Kizashi CVT works well enough, it tends to drone on as the revs rise, which isn’t the most pleasant sound, and it certainly isn’t sporty. So it was nice to be in a Kizashi with a manual. I also noted that the Sport’s 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels are much better looking, less fussy looking, than the more conservatively styled 18-inchers on our SLS. Interestingly, even the SLS has the sharp looking dual exhaust tips that are also here on this Sport.
I can’t say that I noticed the effect of this Sport having KYB shocks, but then again, the regular Kizashi has quite good chassis tuning.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The Suzuki Kizashi is a sleeper, not in performance, but in how much fun it offers. Any car with the word “sport” in its name deserves to be driven at least a little bit harder, so I spent my Sunday morning doing burnout after burnout at every stoplight between my home and the local IHOP fine-dining establishment. Understated styling and modest engine be damned, the Kizashi is a blast when equipped with the six-speed manual.
The suspension tweaks are subtle, but there is a discernable difference in the amount of suspension travel over bumps, making for a more buttoned down ride. Fortunately, the Kizashi continues to provide superb damping, meaning the Sport model is really no less comfortable than the base trim. The sure-footed stability and excellent steering are also still intact. If you’re shopping for a Kizashi, it’s hard to argue with the no-drawbacks sport model.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Suzuki may dial in some chassis improvements to turn a run-of-the-mill Kizashi into a Sport model, but to me, the transformation is mostly cosmetic. The 18-inch wheels, bespoke sill trim, and tweaked lower front fascia help dress up an already attractive car, and the perforated leather seating does look classier than the hides used in our Four Seasons Kizashi SLS.
Behind the wheel, however, it’s difficult to really notice much difference between the Kizashi Sport and a base Kizashi. Turn-in is slightly sharper and ride quality is mildly stiffer, but the car otherwise drives, corners, and handles like a standard Kizashi, which is to say quite good.
Arguably, the biggest revelation for us was driving a Kizashi that wasn’t saddled with either a CVT or all-wheel-drive. Suzuki’s six-speed manual is remarkably crisp and requires very short throws, and allows drivers to keep the rev-happy 2.4-liter in its power band. The only occasion I possibly would have needed the all-wheel-drive system was during a launch on a damp, brick-paved street, but traction control helped reign in any sign of wheelspin.
– Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Is it just me, or does this powertrain completely change the character of the Suzuki Kizashi? Our Four Seasons Kizashi, with its CVT and all-wheel drive, is a perfectly fine car, but I much prefer the front-wheel-drive, manual-transmission spec of this test car. I simply find it much more fun to drive. The Kizashi still isn’t blisteringly fast, but the six-speed helps make the 2.4-liter engine much more tractable, and the gearbox’s smooth action makes it quite a joy to stir. According to Suzuki’s figures, the FWD stick-shift car is 0.9 second quicker to 60 mph (in 7.4 seconds total) and weighs less than the AWD CVT version.
I’ve said it before, but if my family were in the market for a new car, the Kizashi would be right up there at the top of the list, along with cars like the Ford Fusion SE and the Hyundai Elantra Touring.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport SLS
Base price (with destination): $24,699
Price as tested: $25,304
2.4L 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
KYB shock absorbers
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Electronic stability control
Traction control system
Tire pressure monitoring system
Push button ignition
Dual-zone automatic climate control
425-watt Rockford Fosgate CD audio
iPod and MP3 USB port
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Sport SLS features:
Heated outside mirrors
Rear parking sonar
Heated front seats
Rain sensing wipers
Sport aero body kit
Lightweight sport wheels
Sport tuned suspension
Sport designed steering wheel
Options on this vehicle:
XM satellite radio — $350
Premium metallic exterior paint — $130
Premium floor mat set — $125
Key options not on vehicle:
Touch screen GPS navigation — $1099
Fuel economy: 20/29/24 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.4L DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 185 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight: 3241 lb
Wheels/tires: 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, 235/45R18 Dunlop SP Sport 7000 all-season tires