New Car Reviews

2010 Suzuki Kizashi SLS AWD – Four Seasons Fleet Update – December 2010

Long-Term 2011 Suzuki Trail Boss Update: Winter 2010 Miles to date: 0

We’re nine months into our Suzuki Kizashi’s yearlong test, but it took only a few hundred miles to figure out which automakers Suzuki is trying to emulate, with driving dynamics inspired by Mazda, an interior worthy of a Volkswagen, and Hyundai-like value (dual-zone climate control, passive entry, and keyless ignition are standard equipment). “With Mazda looking to move upmarket and Volkswagen now building watered-down cars for American buyers, there seems to be a niche that Suzuki can fill for buyers who want something outside of the mainstream,” notes associate editor Eric Tingwall.

Like many Mazdas, the Kizashi boasts a chassis that handily outperforms its engine. Sounds slow, you say, but the truth is that the modest output allows the driver to spend more time exercising the engine’s responsive power band, making the car very accessible and fun to drive on public roads.

Still, many of us wonder if we ordered the wrong car; the worth of our Kizashi’s all-wheel-drive system has been questionable to this point. Suzuki is unique in that it requires the driver to manually switch the car from front- to all-wheel drive with the push of a button. Also, AWD is paired only with the continuously variable automatic transmission, which makes acceleration significantly slower. As we head into December, we’ve yet to experience weather that will really test the four-wheel traction. The CVT does, however, allow for relaxed cruising on the highway, with the engine turning at fewer than 3000 rpm even as you approach 90 mph. Despite that, fuel economy is rather unexceptional, rated at 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway; we’ve observed 25 mpg so far. However, the front-wheel-drive, six-speed-manual Kizashi is even less efficient, getting only 21 mpg in the city.

In hindsight, we might have optioned our Four Seasons car differently, but we continue to be pleased with the Kizashi’s overall execution. From the steering to the iPod interface to the cabin’s quietness, we’re impressed that this package came from a car company that was hardly on our radar twelve months ago.

Price: $27,864
Engine: 2.4L I-4
Power: 180 hp
Torque: 170 lb-ft
Miles to date: 25,920
Months in fleet: 9

Kizashi, Sportier

The Kizashi is among the most dynamic mid-size sedans on the market, but equipped with all-wheel drive and a CVT, our top-trim SLS is more premium family car than sport sedan. Two variants that recently visited our garage, however, were built specifically to highlight the Kizashi’s athleticism.

New for 2011, the Kizashi Sport adds mild cosmetic updates while firming up the suspension and lowering the ride by 0.4 inch. We like the standard Kizashi’s ride and handling balance, so we are happy that Suzuki delivered the Sport’s changes with restraint. The ride remains uncompromised despite the reduction in suspension travel, and the tires offer more grip. The Sport can be had with the CVT, but a chassis this well sorted deserves the slick, standard six-speed manual.

The Kizashi Turbo, on the other hand, is a rough-edged concept with no pretense of production. Built for Suzuki by Road Race Motorsports, the stock 2.4-liter gains a turbocharger for a 105-hp boost to 290 hp. Typical of a car with too much turbo, the RRM Kizashi displays exceptional lag followed by far too much power for the front tires to manage. Still, it is an absolute riot when driven relentlessly, and RRM has eliminated the hanging throttle that plagues regular manual-transmission Kizashis. Unfortunately, RRM’s suspension is far too stiff, transmitting impacts through both the body and the steering wheel in a disconcertingly harsh manner.

2010 Suzuki Kizashi SLS AWD

Base Price (with destination): $26, 749
Price as tested: $27,129

Body Style: 4-door sedan
Accommodation: 5-passenger
Construction: Steel unibody

Size: DOHC inline four-cylinder
Displacement: 2.4 liters
Power: 180 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: Continuously-variable
Drive: all-wheel
Fuel economy, city/highway: 22/29 mpg

Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock to lock: 2.6
Turning circle: 18.0 ft
Suspension, Front: Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes, F/R: Vented disc/disc, ABS
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Tires: Dunlop SP Sport 7000 all-season tires
Tire Size: 235/45R18

Headroom, F/R: 39.3/37 in
Legroom, F/R: 41.7/35.6 in
Shoulder Room, F/R: 55.5/54.6 in
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Track, F/R: 61.6/61.6 in
L x W x H: 183.1 x 71.7 x 58.3
Cargo Capacity: 13.3 cu ft
Weight: 3483 lbs
Weight Dist. F/R:
Fuel Capacity: 16.6 gal
Est. Range: 481 miles
Fuel Grade: 87 octane

Standard Equipment
Leather seating
Heated front seats
Bluetooth phone connectivity
Rockford Fosgate audio system
Rear parking assist sensors
Rain sensing wipers
Automatic headlamp control
Homelink remote commander

Metallic paint – $130
Body side molding accents – $125
Premium floor mats – $125