Driven: 2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Per modern regulations for any vehicle sportier than a shopping cart, the Kizashi's suspension was tuned at the Nürburgring. The chassis is good fun on a road course, demonstrating a little bit of lift-throttle tail-happiness to tuck the front end into a corner. Suzuki points out that the brake system uses components from Akebono, the company that makes the brakes for the Shinkansen bullet train in Japan. And if a bullet train found its way onto GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, where we drove the Kizashi, it, too, would probably experience brake fade. But repeated threshold braking from 90 mph - as experienced during a lap of GingerMan - is probably not a pastime that many Kizashi owners will pursue.

Suzuki makes the rare acknowledgement that the Kizashi's competitive set includes used cars (like off-lease BMWs and Audis), and its interior is designed to satisfy people who might be cross-shopping used luxury rides. The SLS model is trimmed in leather and has heated front seats and a Rockford Fosgate sound system. If you're not familiar with Rock- ford, it's like Bose for people who drink wine out of a box. We don't know about the soundstage or slope of the crossovers, but the Kizashi's system doesn't distort until it's turned up loud enough to shake the rear fascia off the car.

There's nothing earth-shattering about the Kizashi's specifications. But you get the impression that Suzuki put a lot of work into getting this car right and paying attention to the details. Notice, for example, the extruded-aluminum lower control arms in the rear suspension. Those are pretty nice pieces for a family sedan. We appreciate it when a mainstream car exhibits evidence that the people who built it care enough about driving to do certain things the hard way (which is to say, the expensive way).

The overall result is a vehicle that doesn't rewrite the rules of mid-size sedans but makes a case for itself against any of the cars that are out there. We see a strong parallel with Suzuki's outboard-motor business. A decade ago, Suzuki was an outlier there, too, but it has since revamped its entire lineup, drastically improved public perception, and expanded its OEM availability to 170 different boats. The company changed the question from, "Why would you buy a Suzuki?" to "Why wouldn't you buy a Suzuki?"

I live in a large American city with over 300k residents, yet too bad there isn't a single Suzuki Auto dealership within 100 miles.

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