Suzuki Kizashi Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
One of our favorite vehicles at Road & Travel Magazine has been one of the best kept secrets around. We don't think that was intentional. And it certainly hasn't been because of a lack of interest by those who actually have been behind the wheel. We're talking about the 2012 Suzuki Kizashi, a midsize, sporty family sedan that can just knock your socks off if you actually take it for a drive.
We were well-armed with the pros and cons of the Kizashi when we settled in for some serious test time. The pros? The expectation this would be one of those sleeper cars that hasn't gotten much paid publicity, but that really is fun and responsive -- with a capital R.
Among the cons, the name. And that is one we've wondered about since we first saw the prototype a few years back near the banks of the river bordering America's auto capital, Detroit, Michigan.
So why hasn't the sports sedan that showed so much promise since its inauguration taken off at a flat-out run? We have to assume that contributing factors are a combination of sparse advertising compared to the big guys with humongous advertising budgets, and a more meager selection of dealerships that can be miles removed from a potential customer. Maybe there's a spelling disconnect when researching it on the web. We also keep scratching our accumulated heads about the name, the one Suzuki has staunchly defended throughout, that simply doesn't roll off the tongue. If it has a significant meaning in Japanese, we sure don't know what that is.
But speculation aside, that isn't our reason for this article. The purpose is to talk about a really nice vehicle that lived up to many glowing reports when we actually got behind the wheel. And boy, did it deliver, with a real feeling of communication between driver and car that left us feeling satisfied with sportiness and ease of handling. It could have gone on a days-long trip with or without family just for fun (although trunk space is not as impressive as some rivals').
Suzuki might have not have supercharged itself in getting the word out about the Kizashi (AKA advertising) since its launch two years ago, but it sure didn't stint with engineering. The 2.4-liter inline four cylinder engine that powers it got the same rigorous development treatment and testing as do mainstream German sedans, known for their driving capabilities and with equally predictable driving results. This car just feels right. It has the responsive character of a vehicle meant to drive, from steering feedback to nimble agility to pavement grabbing control with six-speed manual or continuously variable speed automatic transmission. And that's even without the available all-wheel-drive.
For those who are action-minded, Suzuki added Sport versions to the GLS and SLS Kizashi models last year, complemented by a more muscular looking front end, spoiler and snazzy 18-inch lightweight alloy wheels to juice up its already jazzy design.
Inside the attractive interior, even the “S” base model offers such upmarket amenities as push button start and dual comfort zone control. Among available options are leather seating with French stitched seams and upgraded electronics including Bluetooth streaming audio. Outside, dual exhaust tips on all models are a tip-off to its inherently sporty character.
Best mileage comes with the front-drive automatic, rated at 23/31. While it won't deliver true sports car performance, its 185-horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque provide enough rip and roar to delight most budget-minded sports sedan enthusiasts (with pricing from $19K to just below $28K).
Suzuki was forward-looking during development. The company points out the Kizashi meets rigorous new U.S. vehicle crash safety regulations that aren't mandatory until the 2014 model year. In addition, a reinforced chassis among a full range of advanced safety features add extra occupant protection.
Suzuki doesn't stand at the top of the heap in name recognition despite its capabilities, like the golfer down the leader board a ways at a women's golf classic who pales at the presence of a golfing superstar like Michelle Wie. By Suzuki's own calculations, it is 12th in line globally behind such widely touted brands as Honda and Ford, but claims to beat out Mercedes-Benz and Audi in the process. But needing exposure might be less critical after it forked over the multi-millions of dollars for a significant television ad during football's 2012 Super classic championship, with its annual advertising marathon. (That's the format General Motors just decided to dis in the future.)
We'll see if that's a commitment by Suzuki to keep slugging for attention, despite the noise of a crowded sedan auto field. The literally dozens, make that hundreds, of glowing reviews under its belt including those from delighted owners are nothing to sneeze at. Add to that Suzuki's significant 100,000-mile, fully-transferable, zero-deductible, seven-year powertrain limited warranty, and that's one vehicle that definitely should have its day in the sun.
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