When you hear the name Suzuki, an image of a motorcycle probably pops up in your head. You’re not thinking luxury sedan to cart your family around. Well the Suzuki Kizashi is here to change that image. This is the second year the Kizashi has been on the market and unfortunately many of you have never even heard of it. It almost seems like the Kizashi is being kept a secret. And a great secret at that.
Kizashi means a sign of great things to come and while I have a hard time remembering the name I must confess that great things have already arrived. Kizashi fills the gap of affordable near-luxury mid-size sedan starting at $18,999. It comes standard with many fine features and has a list of options which makes you feel like you are driving a much more expensive car.
I test drove the Sport SLS priced slightly above $27,000 and this car delivered. The standard “sport seats” really do minimize driver fatigue. I’m 5’7 and the hubs is 6’3 and both of us felt comfortable and not fighting for space even after long drives. The leather version looks and feels very well constructed. Our long legged tween and teenager sat comfortably in the molded back seats. It was wonderful being able to drive without getting kneed in the back.
Kizashi comes standard with the SmartPass keyless entry. Just leave the keys in your purse. (Huge sigh from women across the country.) The start system is a sleek push button. I’m not sure how I will ever adapt to hunting for my keys from the black hole again. Kizashi continues the tech edge with the USB port and offers iPod integration for all trim levels. The SLS includes a Bluetooth wireless phone integration (very clear audio) and touchscreen GPS with lifetime traffic service, and a rear vision camera sensory detection. At first glance it’s a bit overwhelming to have in one area including the radio but after a few minutes of play-time it’s extremely functional and easy to use. For one of the first times my thirteen year old didn’t need to show me how to work it.
Kizashi Sport GTS and Sport SLS kick in a Rockford Fosgate 8-channel 425-watt 10-speaker audio system with subwoofer and digital sound processor. Audio sources include AM/FM radio, single disk CD player and optional XM Satellite radio for the SLS. The cabin is wonderfully quiet then add in a great sound system and you truly get the feeling that you’re driving in luxury. Kizashi’s thoughtfulness carries on with standard dual-zone climate control with one degree adjustment. (I think marriages are saved because of this feature. He’s the heater and I’m the freeze baby.) Dual front heated seats and automatic rain-sensing wipers are only available on the SLS.
Standard safety features include eight standard airbags, anti-lock disk brakes and electronic stability and traction control system. Kizashi was given five stars in 2010 from the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for front and side crash. Note that the government’s new, more strenuous crash testing hasn’t been completed for 2011. Add on the rear vision camera with detection sensor (available on GTS and SLS) and you have an impressive safe vehicle for a great price.
The EPA estimates the Sport SLS 23/30 mpg city/highway. I drive a combination of city and freeway and averaged out about 26 to 27 mpg making this an economical commuter car as well.
The Kizashi’s low step-in height make this vehicle easy for younger kids to climb in and out of. I didn’t experience any head hitting on the door frame while trying to put in the car seat. (Yes, I’ve had cars that every time I went to buckle the child in I’d hit my head either on the way in or on the way out.) The front facing car seat was easy to fit in plus the two year old was able to look out of the windows. The split folding seats with center pass-through allow you to haul skis or home remodeling supplies.
All Kizashi models are powered with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The Sport SLS has an optional CVT (Continuously Variable automatic Transmission) with steering paddle shifters and was included on my test vehicle. The car handles exceptionally well around corners. The CVT is amazingly quiet and while punching the accelerator isn’t exceedingly fast (zero to 60 in 9.1 seconds with the CVT) it’s still a fun zippy car to drive. Maybe Suzuki will add a turbo and make mama really happy. Perhaps ecstatic. Regardless I’m already lining up to test drive the AWD version this winter.
So why is the Kizashi such a big kept secret? There is a limited dealer network (but growing) and Suzuki hasn’t spent the money on ad campaigns. Plus the numbers really aren’t in for resale value. But looking at all this car has to offer, good fuel economy, sweet luxury add ons, excellent handling ability and a comparability factor to an Audi A4 without the price, and still $2,200 less than Honda Accord EX-L, the Kizashi would be at the top of my shopping list.
7 year 100k power train warranty
Kizashi available in four different packages: S, SE, Sport GTS and Sport SLS.
MSRP $18,999 – $28,174
My one week Kizashi test drive vehicle was provided by White Bear Mitsubishi Suzuki.