I don't know what Kizashi means, but it certainly sounds Japanese, and Suzuki's premium sedan, returning for its third year, unabashedly is “premium without the premium.” After driving the car for a week, it’s apparent that this well-respected manufacturer of motorcycles and small cars has built its own bargain version of an Audi A4.
The seats, for example, are not only covered in leather, but are beautifully stitched and were quite comfortable on the hour-long rides to work and back. I would have gladly sat longer if I had a more exotic destination, but alas, that was not to be.
The craftsmanship of the dash was, as far as I could see, perfect, with padded sections and exquisite matte finishes (Audi again). The instrument panel rises up behind the steering wheel and back down gracefully in a simple, clean curve, much like the Audis of the early to mid 2000's. The effect of it all, including the stitched door panels, is luxury without ostentation.
And, it’s very quiet inside the Kizashi (the word sounds like something to do with Samurai, doesn't it?) Hey, come to think of it, Suzuki sold the mini Jeeplike Samurai vehicle in the 1980s in the U.S. Sadly, the tiny 4wd trucklet tipped over easily, earning Suzuki some unwanted notoriety. The Kizashi is nothing like that car.
The Kizashi generates 180 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. or torque from its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Running through a continuously-variable automatic in my test car, it zoomed forward energetically. A manual transmission is available and would be installed in my Kizashi were I to order one. The manual gives the engine five more horsepower, for some reason, and delivers a 7.4 second zero-to-sixty time instead of 8.3 for the automatic-that seems worth it. Some competing vehicles do enjoy more horsepower, but they offer no more driving enjoyment and satisfaction, to my mind.
The EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide gives the car a 5 for Air Pollution and a 6 for Greenhouse Gas-mid-level numbers. Fuel economy numbers are 23 City, 30 Highway, average 26. I averaged 22.8 mpg during my test week-reasonable numbers for a sport sedan.
My test car's Deep Sea Blue Metallic paint was well-applied and lustrous, offering the informal elegance of a nice blue blazer. Its tan interior mimicked the nice pair of tan slacks that would set that blazer off. All that's missing is the brass buttons, although my car did have glistening 18-inch alloy wheels.
The car has a rounded shape that looks familiar, somehow. Its grille appears conventional until you notice the lower part dipping below the bumper, giving the effect of, once again, an Audi. The rear deck sticks up a little for aerodynamics, and there are handsome twin trapezoidal exhausts under the smoothly integrated bumper. There’s not a sharp edge or a bad line on the car.
The Kizashi comes in four levels. The base car is the S, which includes such things as automatic dual-zone climate control for upscale comfort and electronic stability control for better handling. The SE, like my tester, comes in above that, adding a standard automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-way power driver’s seat, and leather where you touch it-on the steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake lever. That can go a long way in the tactile enjoyment of a car. If you really want it, there is a leather package that adds it to the seats, too-my tester had that.
Step up to the Sport GTS level and you can have a manual transmission again, a killer audio system, and special alloy wheels. The top level Sport SLS is a true luxury sedan, with the leather seating standard, a navigation system (newly standard for 2012), rain-sensing wipers, and more.
Like the Audis they resemble, Kizashis are available in front wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive, with manual or automatic transmission. The FWD, manually equipped car starts at under $20,000, including destination charge. My test car came to $24,304, not including shipping.
Sadly, most people won't consider this fine car when they go looking because they don't know how good it is and don't think of Suzuki when they head out to the dealerships. But the car is a big hit with J.D. Power and Associates, who ranked it the highest midsize car in their APEAL study. That study ranks cars in more than 90 attributes in ten categories that include interior, exterior, fuel economy, engine and driving experience.
Suzuki was founded as the Suzuki Loom Works in 1909, and introduced its first motorcycle in 1953. A year later it became Suzuki Motor Company, Ltd. The rest is history, of which the Kizashi is the latest chapter. Don’t miss out on this car!