Suzuki is calling its new midsize sedan for 2010 a "flagship vehicle," so you should learn how to pronounce it: Kee zah shee. Kizashi-Kizashi-Kizashi. The more you say it, the easier it gets.
It's a good-looking car. It's lost the dramatic sloping front grille and curvy headlights of the first concept car in favor of a more real-world look (as was bound to happen). But it did turn my neighbors' heads coming out of my parking garage. The dual chrome exhausts integrated into the rear is a sporty touch.
Some basics: Four trim levels (S, SE, GTS, SLS), six-speed manual or automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), 2WD or AWD available on the upper trims.
The Kizashi's standard features include dual zone climate control, integrated steering wheel controls, eight airbags and keyless push-button start. (I like this feature, and it is the future. But for me, the guy that loses things he just put down, the ignition is actually a perfectly reasonable place to store my key chain.)
We tested the SLS version, the comfort package, which comes with all the nice little amenities that are migrating down to reasonably priced sedans these days: iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, rain-sensing wipers, automatic lights, heated seats and rear parking assist to name a few.
You also get instant and average fuel economy readouts. My average fuel economy for two days of driving was 23 mpg. I like to work on my average fuel economy, but the instant fuel economy gauge still perplexes me. I know the tricks to eco driving and hyper-miling; I just can't refine them to see any benefit from the wildly swinging instant gauge. Perhaps a good month with one would help. (Or I'll just buy this cool eco-driving iPhone app, which uses the phone's accelerometer to train drivers with techniques using color graphs and audio.)
Interior is tasteful; no flashy faux-pas jump out at you. Interior dimensions fit in with the midsize class, though rear legroom is on the small side, as is the trunk (13.3 cu. ft.).
The engine is a 2.4L DOHC 16 valve I-4 that generates 185 HP and 170 lbs-ft torque. Those numbers best the base models of most in the midsize class, though the competition has the benefit of a six-cylinder engine option. The Kizashi is stuck with the single four-cylinder engine, at least for now.
That said; the car has decent off-the-line acceleration in city driving, especially with the six-speed manual transmission, though there were never any "wow, I'm still in second gear!" moments.
Where it really gets fun is on a proper winding road. I took the Kizashi on a quest for the Leonid meteor shower this week up a winding mountain road that took us from zero to 6,500 feet in mere minutes. There were plenty of switchbacks and quick 100-foot gains, and three passengers who wished I didn't take the turns with such zeal. (I "comforted" them with the knowledge of the eight standard airbags.)
With the steep terrain and the passenger weight, the four banger gave me juuuuust enough. I was jonesing for a six cylinder. However, the cornering-this is a layman driver talking-the car gripped the road. It responded. I sensed little body roll, even with passengers. The performance-tuned suspension took us in and out of turns with precision. Cornering feels better in leather seats, and it's also more fun with a six-speed manual and the available Rockford Fosgate 424-watt sound system. Crank 311 or something similar and you're smiling.
(The meteor shower, incidentally, was disappointing for us. Even at 6,500 feet we still couldn't get far enough away from the lights of Los Angeles.)
One wonders how the tuner crowd will receive this car. The styling is a sensible production version of that bold first concept vehicle, which may have gotten a bit too tame for the tuner market, but let's see what a few aftermarket fender flares and spoilers will do. (Our friends at the Bobit aftermarket magazines got a look at a few dramatic incarnations at the SEMA show. Reaction: "looks fast.") A six-cylinder version would also help bump this further into aspirant class.
According to Suzuki, ALG residual value for the brand has climbed dramatically, moving from 34 percent in 2005 to 48 percent in 2009, the biggest jump of any brand.
Base price is $19,734 including destination. The price of our top-trim SLS tester was $25,184 all in. The Kizashi SE, Suzuki's volume model, ranges from $22,234 to $23,484.
There are 420 or so Suzuki dealers nationwide, so check dealer population in your area.