2010 Suzuki Kizashi SE AWDPosted on August 18th, 2010
Suzuki packs a punch with value and performance
By Nina Russin
The Kizashi is Suzuki’s newest flagship: a midsize sedan that the automaker hopes will extend its global reach. Because midsize sedans outsell all other passenger cars, the segment holds allure for companies trying to build volume. But entering it means swimming in shark-infested waters: full of heavy hitters such as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Acura TSX.
While Suzuki can’t match the panache of some European luxury brands, it does offer a significant value to customers who seek style and performance on a budget. A base price of $22,749 for the all-wheel drive test car includes such upscale features as keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate controls, three-position driver’s seat memory, and an iPod compatible audio system.
All models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower, and the choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The front-wheel drive manual model accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 7.4 seconds.
This week, I had the opportunity to drive the SE: one of four available grades. The continuously-variable automatic transmission has a manual gear select mode, allowing the driver to make the most of the engine’s available power.
Because the Kizashi comes with a large roster of comfort and convenience features, floor mats and premium paint are the only options on the test car. Suzuki includes the delivery charge in the base price: MSRP is $23,004.
Peppy, fuel-efficient engine
Large four-cylinder engines are an effective way to offer customers power without sacrificing gas mileage. Years ago, engineers shied away from the larger four-bangers because of vibration, but balance shafts have taken care of the problem.
My test drive included urban streets in Phoenix, Arizona, highways and a rural road outside of town. I used the fully-automatic mode around town, and shifted into manual on the two-lane highway.
Because the Kizashi develops peak horsepower and torque at relatively high engine speeds, acceleration can feel soft when the car shifts automatically. There is adequate power in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range for merging onto the highway, and enough on the high end for passing slower vehicles at speed.
But the best way to enjoy the car is to shift the transmission manually. By keeping the tachometer at 3000 rpm or above, the driver stays much closer to peak torque (4000 rpm). While revving the engine drops the car’s fuel economy, the difference in performance is significant.
Not only does manually downshifting give the Kizashi more low-end power, it’s much easier to control the chassis in the corners. The driver activates the all-wheel drive function with a button next to the gauge cluster. Once activated, the all-wheel drive automatically sends engine power from the front to rear axle when it detects wheel slippage.
The advantage of being able to turn the all-wheel drive on and off is fuel economy: front-wheel drive extends the Kizashi’s gas mileage when the driver is cruising on the highway. Despite dropping the hammer on the thirty mile stretch of the test drive through rural Arizona, I averaged 26 miles-per-gallon on the 100-mile test drive: a mile-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels on the test car give it a large, stable footprint. The electronic rack-and-pinion steering system provides plenty of assist at low speeds while maintaining positive on-center response on the highway.
A fully-independent suspension consists of a MacPherson strut setup in front and multi-link in the rear. Engineers gave the Kizashi an extremely rigid body structure to enhance steering and response. While the suspension is compliant enough to keep passengers comfortable, the car stays remarkably flat in the corners and when cresting short, steep hills.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Kizashi in a firm, linear fashion.
Visibility is good all the way around the car. I wasn’t aware of blind spots to the rear, weaving through urban traffic. Over-the-shoulder visibility is fine on both sides: I had no problems seeing cars in the adjacent lanes on the highway.
The interior of the car is quiet, with no obvious road or wind noise. Passengers in both rows of seats should have no problems conversing on the highway. The only sound the driver hears, aside from the audio system is a pleasant exhaust grunt from the dual pipes during hard acceleration.
Suzuki designers did an excellent job of loading up the Kizashi’s interior with features buyers crave, such as redundant steering wheel controls, USB and auxiliary ports, 12-volt power points for recharging portable electronic devices, and plenty of storage areas.
All four doors have bottle holders capable of carrying twenty-ounce bottles. Cupholders in the center console are also quite large. A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the car. A two-tier bin in the center console has a small tray for portable electronic devices and a deeper bin for larger items.
Controls in the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. The gauge cluster is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. An information display in the gauge cluster includes real-time and average fuel economy, driving range, and a trip meter.
Power controls on the driver’s seat are easy to use. The seats have side bolsters to keep the driver and front passenger in place when driving aggressively, but they aren’t uncomfortable. I found the driver’s seat comfortable for my two-hour test drive. A dead pedal helps to reduce leg fatigue on long road trips.
Because the Kizashi has a high floor tunnel, two passengers will be more comfortable than three in back. The outboard positions have enough leg, hip and headroom for average-sized adults. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.
The Kizashi’s trunk is long and deep, though not especially wide. A rear pass-through allows the driver to load in skis or other long items with the rear seats in place. The seats also fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor.
All models come with eight airbags, four-channel antilock braking, electronic stability and traction control. Suzuki builds the Kizashi at its Sagara, Japan assembly plant.
Likes: An affordably-priced midsized sedan with good performance, and a high level of comfort and convenience features.
Dislike: Bluetooth interface is not standard equipment.
Model: Kizashi SE AWD
Base price: $22,749
As tested: $23,004
Horsepower: 185 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 170 lbs.-ft. @ 6000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.3 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/29 mpg city/highway
One response to “2010 Suzuki Kizashi SE AWD”
This is an excellent car. Having driven one myself, I can attest to the superb handling on the model. The interior isn’t too bad either!
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