Suzuki may not be the most popular or well known automaker in the US, but that should not keep you from taking a look at their newest product. Introduced in 2010, the Kizashi is now available in four trim levels: The base S, SE, Sport GTS, and Sport SLS. All trim levels can be had with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). However, if you choose AWD, you can only get the continuously variable transmission (CVT). The FWD manual starts at $18,999 and the top trim level Sport SLS AWD w/NAV is $28, 948. After reading this in Motor Trend, I knew this car could be a game-changer for them. I had to drive one to find out.
I drove the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport SLS AWD, with the CVT and paddle shifters. This model is loaded with a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo with Bluetooth, heated leather seats with memory, heated side mirrors, power sunroof, auto headlights, auto rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, 18-inch aluminum wheels, sport suspension and sport steering wheel with audio and cruise controls. The only additional available option on my test car was navigation. Standard on all Kizashi’s is Keyless push-button ignition, USB port, front and rear side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, dual zone climate control, and led interior lighting.
The exterior of the car is very nice for the price point with tight body gaps and a quality appearance. The chrome add-ons, aggressive stance, and sporty trunk lid lip are all complimentary to the main body lines of the car. Inside the car has an even higher quality look and feel. The doors have a solid ‘thunk’ when closing them and the fit and finish inside is top notch for the price.
My first impression was, “Wow, I can’t believe this is a Suzuki!”. The front seats are among the most comfortable I’ve experienced, with eight-way power adjustments, power lumbar, and the aforementioned memory. Entry into the backseat is a less than perfect requiring one to duck inside due to the low roof line, but once in the back, the seats are extremely comfortable and average-sized adults will fit just fine. Overall the interior feels like you are in a much more expensive car.
After pressing the push-button ignition to start it, the engine runs very smoothly and sounded more like a V-6 than a four-cylinder at idle. The initial acceleration does not feel as powerful as 180 horsepower would suggest with the CVT modulating the power to optimize fuel economy of EPA 22 city/29 highway. Not until you mash the gas do you realize this is not a slow car. The Kizashi takes off with a shiftless surge of power that will keep up with if not best much of the competition in zero to 60 and the quarter mile.
Be careful though, since you don’t experience shifts with a CVT, speed climbs deceptively quick. Braking is firm and controlled. The ride is firm and sporty, yet did not jar me when I hit a few rough railroad crossings and an occasional pothole during my drive. Overall, the car has a nice balance between sport and comfort.
The Suzuki Kizashi Sport SLS AWD is a solid, well-built, and impressive car for the money. It provides a lot of value with excellent, comfortable seating and equipment normally found on cars at higher price-points. It would have been an even better car with a manual transmission (a six-speed manual is only available on front wheel drive models), though shifting with the paddle shifters was somewhat of a happy medium. It could be that I am just not used to a CVT and how different it behaves. If you are looking for a mid-size car with sport-touring intentions, this should be on your list.