It’s unfortunate that the majority of U.S. consumers have no idea that the Kizashi even exists. Its chassis and steering are as good as or better than anything in its class. Its exterior styling is a bit derivative but it’s still quite handsome. Inside, the quality, style, comfort, and user-friendliness are easily on par with the Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Sonata. Like our Four Seasons Kizashi, this Sport GTS model is equipped with all-wheel-drive and as such, can only be had with the continuously variable transmission. The CVT is a bit of a drag, literally, as it makes for fairly sluggish low-end acceleration and does nothing to further this car’s Sport moniker. If I were building my own Kizashi, I’d likely choose the Sport for its slightly stiffer suspension and lower ride height, skip the CVT and the AWD, and go with the manual transmission. Shifting for yourself is the only way to fully appreciate the Kizashi’s excellent chassis, and Suzuki’s 5-speed box is light, smooth, and a pleasure to use.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
It was but a few moments into my drive of the Suzuki Kizashi when the thought popped into my head. Is that…steering feel?
Driving much of the Kizashi’s competition is like using those record-scratcher music applications on the iPhone or iPad: it may achieve the same result as pushing and pulling a record on a turntable, but it feels nothing like the actual experience. The Kizashi’s wheel is different, though.
The steering is delightful — it’s well weighted, precise, direct — and it actually communicates with the driver rather than turning input into a stream of ones and zeros. In a world where steering often feels digital and removed, it’s refreshing and different. The same can be said for the engine, the transmission, the stereo, and the looks.
Kizashi sales amounted to little more than a rounding error in the mid-size sedan total this year, and it’s a crying shame: it may be one of my favorite entries yet.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
It’s easy to lose sight of just how rare non-premium, all-wheel drive, mid-size sedans are. If you’re in the market for all-weather security in a family car, your options are limited to the Ford Fusion, the Subaru Legacy, and this Suzuki Kizashi. Make the field that small, and the Kizashi is a genuine standout.
The Kizashi delivers smart looks, excellent interior quality, a decent engine, and easy-to-use controls. Suzuki’s biggest accomplishment, though, is absolutely nailing the ride/handling balance. The Kizashi is compliant and comfortable without being soggy or imprecise. Enthusiasts will also appreciate the superb steering, which can be hard to come by in a mid-size sedan. In many ways, the chassis reminds me of some of Volkswagen’s best products.
Subaru, with its longitudinally mounted engines and 50/50 default torque bias offers a more robust all-wheel-drive system for those who need serious four-wheel traction for major winter snow. But the truth is that many all-wheel-drive buyers are simply purchasing the idea of safety to get them through a few light snowstorms. For those shoppers, I’d definitely recommend the Kizashi as the best-driving all-wheel-drive sedan in this class.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Some automaker with a large advertising budget and dealer network needs to pick up Suzuki and tap its potential. That was what was supposed to happen when the mighty Volkswagen Group bought a stake in the small Japanese company, but the marriage doesn’t seem to be working out, which a shame. The Kizashi shows that Suzuki has the fundamentals to be a very successful automaker. Its suspension and steering is tuned perfectly to the tastes of the discerning American buyer. It has a smooth, relatively efficient four-cylinder engine and smartly offers all-wheel drive. The styling is attractive and nicely proportioned. Even the interior, usually a sore spot for small automakers, is executed to near perfection, with nicely grained materials and solid build quality. On that last note, our departed Four Seasons Kizashi, an all-wheel-drive model like this car, made it through our test without needing a single repair. Suzuki, judged purely by its cars, has many of the same merits as Subaru, which is selling more than 200,000 cars per year in the United States. Due to a near invisible advertising presence and a tiny dealer network, Suzuki’s sales aren’t even close to those of struggling Mitsubishi. Again, that’s a shame.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Much like the our departed Four Seasons Kizashi, this Sport GTS is a really good car that just isn’t on the radar when it comes to mid-size family sedans. The Kizashi’s styling is nothing to write home about, but it’s very contemporary looking and doesn’t make the car stand out as the market anomaly that it actually is. Interior fit and finish is very good as well, and if our Four Seasons example is any indicator, it will hold up even with heavy use. The continuously variable transmission makes itself known as it drones under acceleration, but once you get up to highways speeds, the engine revs at only about 2500 rpm and its noise is nicely muted from inside the cabin. One area that might be hurting the Kizashi’s sales (other than the fact that no one’s heard of it) is its fuel economy. With several of its front-wheel-drive competitors either hitting or coming within an mpg or so of the magic 40 mpg mark, this car’s 30 mpg on the highway doesn’t cut it if fuel economy is the goal. Of course, for some people, all-wheel drive may tip the scales back in the Kizashi’s favor.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
When the Kizashi first launched, we all marveled at how similar it looked, felt, and drove to the Volkswagen Jetta, the then-pinnacle of the compact sedan class. High praise, and it still rings true today — although, since VW has subsequently dulled down the Jetta in pursuit of a lower price point, it’s not unreasonable to suggest the Kizashi is a little more unique than ever before. I’m still impressed with the steering feel and body control exhibited by this car. And the Kizashi delivers a rather comfortable ride over some of the worst surfaces Michigan can dish out. The interior is also surprisingly first-rate, with materials that feel oddly upscale for a Suzuki-built car.
Still, I fear this car will have as hard a time as ever finding traction in our market. I can’t help but notice the new 2012 Subaru Impreza delivers many of the same hallmarks of the Kizashi — namely all-wheel-drive, 30+ mpg on the highway, and similar physical footprint – but suspect it’ll sell far better than the Suzuki. The Kizashi may offer a little snazzier interior and a bit more cabin volume, but the small national dealer network — to say nothing of the lack of brand recognition — may hinder its chances at success. Pity.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS AWD
MSRP (with destination): $26,624
PRICE AS TESTED: $27,279
2.4-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 180 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Continuously variable automatic
WHEELS AND TIRES:
18-inch aluminum wheels
235/45VR-18 Dunlop SP Sport 700 tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo: 13.3 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 41.7/35.6 in
Headroom (front/rear): 39.3/37.0 in
Rockford Fosgate audio system w/USB port
Heated outside mirrors
Split folding rear seats
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Dual zone automatic climate control
Keyless entry and ignition
Tire pressure monitoring system
Stability and traction control
Four-wheel disc brakes
Cloth sport seats
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Platinum Silver paint- $130
Floor and cargo mats- $210
Trunk sub-floor organizer- $65
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Satellite radio- $590
Graywood dash trim- $290
Cross bars- $260