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2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS

Suzuki Shoots for the Stars…Hits a Passing Comet

      In its press material Suzuki cites comparisons against the Nissan Altima and the Honda Accord. Good candidates to measure oneself against considering that the Accord has ruled the midsize sedan segment along side the Toyota Camry for some time now. But reading further we find that Suzuki not only laid the Kizashi and Volkswagen CC spec sheets side by side, they also openly challenged perspective buyers of Audi A4 and Acura TSX’s to test drive the Kizashi first. A challenge that culminated with the challengee receiving a $100 check card from Suzuki if after 10 days they decided that the Audi or Acura was right car for them instead. Bold…
      …And perhaps justified. The Kizashi may just be the best automotive statement Suzuki has brought to a showroom, period. (Motorcycles don’t count here on the AT ranch.) For one thing the styling is bold, and not in a gimmicky tacked on plastic body panel or lumpy geometric kind of way. Simply put it is artistic and dramatic. The face is handsome with a large blacked out grille featuring a prominent silver S. The headlamps are sharp and wouldn’t look out of place on a Volkswagen. The front and rear fenders are flared slightly and give the body a feeling of muscularity. The 18” multi-spoke wheels have a bit of brawn to them and fill out the wheel wells nicely. The back glass blends into (dare I say it) a bit of a Bangled decklid, which is finished in a swept up dovetail spoiler.  The tail lamps and rear fascia are elegant, and even the integrated exhaust “tips” are crafty.
      But the proof is in the pudding and Suzuki has to nail the interior as well to win the hearts of skeptics. Honestly, I expected an XL-7 repeat where the exterior was fun if not a bit geometrically wild but the interior was an absolute flop. What I found however was an interior that slowly soothed away my prejudices with quality trim, a clever layout, and pleasing aesthetics. The steering wheel is wrapped in soft leather and fitted with the appropriate audio and cruise control switchgear. HVAC and audio controls lack elegance, but are straight forward and cleanly laid out. Most drivers agreed the stereo display featured dated graphics and looked overly simplistic in this high-tech electronics era. But the gauge cluster is smartly styled and I think my only complaint, if any, would be the utter simplicity of it all. Aside from that, it’s a bit dark in the cabin. The only bright work is a pair of brushed metallic pieces that run across the top of the IP and angle down along the center stack. Not bad, but with two tones becoming ever more popular this interior will become drab in a hurry. Everyone found the seats supportive and the cloth covering them was a quality grade.
      The story gets more exciting behind the wheel. For starters our car came equipped with the row-your-own-boat 6-speed manual transmission. The stick itself could be a bit tidier as its throws are long, but the tranny makes the most of the 185 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque coming from the just-average 2.4-liter mill it is mated to.  That said, however, we’ll stick with this setup (no pun intended). We’re fairly certain the alternative, a CVT, would zap the life out of this already mediocre engine faster than a moth in a bug zapper. Something we hope doesn’t carry through to production is the clutch take up. Stepping on the clutch in our well-worn pre-production vehicle was like stepping on memory foam; lift your foot and it kind of follows you. There was no determining where the actual engagement was by feel, you just have to make sure your revs are good and go for it. That said, we fired off smooth shifts every time. Peak torque doesn’t occur until 4000 rpm so it is best to select the correct gear the first time, but get the revs up a bit and the Kizashi is a fun little sedan to toss around. But this chassis begs for more power. It seems now with a piece of Suzuki being brought into the Volkswagen conglomerate the GM-sourced V6 that was planned is no longer in the cards. Thus, we’ll have to make due with the 2.4 for the time being.
      All-in-all, the Kizashi is a welcome departure from the limpwristed attempts at creativity that Suzuki has brought to the market before. And unlike the Forenza sedan that it replaces, it is worth remembering your seat time in the Kizashi. Our GTS sedan didn’t have a sticker but we estimated an as-tested price of $23,364 based on Suzuki’s pricing guide. At that level it should line up well against the competition in terms of accommodations, styling, base powertrains and certainly driving dynamics. But the real test will be buyer acceptance. Suzuki doesn’t have a huge dealer network out there so if anything if anything is going to doom it, lack of exposure could do it. We hope Suzuki keeps aiming high; after all, not even NASA made it to the moon with their first shot.

The Good:
Handsome styling, inviting interior, good handling dynamics.
The Bad:
Needs more power, engine is a little buzzy, clutch is too soft.
The Verdict:
Suzuki delivers a solid performer with high aspirations.

 Photos by Jason Muxlow

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  1. June 21st, 2010 at 05:05 | #1

    It’s posts like this that keep me coming back and checking this site regularly, thanks for the info!

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