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  • 2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport SLS

    Posted on May 10th, 2011 ninarussin

    Styling and suspension upgrades add sizzle to Suzuki’s mid-sized sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport

    The Kizashi sedan is Suzuki’s lynchpin in a strategy to expand its repertoire beyond the small cars the company is best known for, and open the door for higher sales volumes in North America. Last September the automaker added a sport package, including an aero kit, special 18-inch wheels, tires and suspension.

    The Sport SLS grade includes some upscale interior features as well, such as leather upholstery, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and a power sunroof.

    Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and a six-speed manual gearbox.

    Base price is $24,699, including the delivery fee. The test car is equipped with satellite radio, special paint and premium floor mats, bringing the MSRP to $25,304.

    Designed for American drivers

    2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport

    Suzuki’s challenge stateside is to make fans of its motorcycle, marine and ATV products embrace the automotive line as well. Both the Equator mid-sized pickup truck and Kizashi sport sedan are attempts to reach out to that audience, which should in theory at least, be easier to conquest than buyers who’ve never entered a Suzuki showroom.

    Not only do the Equator and Kizashi diversify Suzuki’s model line; both are larger vehicles designed for North American roads.

    Swimming in the shark tank

    The Kizashi is an attempt to emulate Asian and European luxury brands in terms of performance and content, in a value-priced product. Suzuki’s strategy is similar in this sense to companies such as Hyundai and Kia, who are also seeking to conquest the mid-sized sedan market.

    Although mid-sized sedans comprise the bulk of passenger car sales in the United States, the segment can be difficult to make headway in, since it’s already loaded with best-selling models such as the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima.

    I’ve driven the Kizashi on four different occasions; the sport version twice. While I think that Suzuki has produced a nice and very reasonably priced car, I’m not sure that the Kizashi packs the punch it needs to compete successfully against similarly priced mid-sized sedans.

    Fuel economy is good, but not exceptional. The Kia Optima I recently reviewed has the same size engine, but averages two miles-per-gallon better fuel economy in city and highway driving, according to EPA estimates.

    The engine has good power, and remarkably little parasitic loss at altitude: something I discovered on a road trip to Arizona’s high country. Zero-to-sixty acceleration with the manual transmission is 7.4 seconds, according to the manufacturer.

    The six-speed manual gearbox, which could be a game-changer for the sport model, falls short. The shift lever is too long. Its length prevents the driver from flicking between gears quickly.

    There is also too much room between the gears. Even if the driver blips the throttle, upshifting causes a noticeable drop in engine speed and power.

    The suspension is refined, but a little soft in my opinion for a sport model. Four-wheel disc brakes with Akebono components stop the sedan in a firm, linear fashion.

    An electric power steering system has good feedback. Tuning seems to match the car well, offering similar response to a mechanical setup.

    Visibility around the perimeter is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes driving on the highway.

    Upscale interior

    Suzuki Kizashi Sport Interior

    Its upscale interior is the Kizashi’s biggest asset. The leather upholstery on the sport model with contrast stitching is stylish and comfortable. Power controls on the driver’s seat are easy to reach, and offer ample lower lumbar support.

    Features such as keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate controls, heated front seats and a power sunroof make the Kizashi feel like a more expensive car than it actually is. Designers sweated the details, with a locking glovebox which protects valuables inside the car, and rear vents which keep second-row passengers comfortable in temperature extremes.

    Redundant steering wheel controls minimize driver distraction. Controls on the center stack are intuitive to use, and easy to reach from either front seating position.

    The Rockford Fosgate audio system has excellent sound quality. Engineers did an excellent job of minimize noise intrusion to the interior, so passengers can enjoy the music and converse easily.

    I found both the center stack display and gauges easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. An information display in the gauge cluster gives the driver ambient temperature, range, and fuel economy information.

    Access and egress to the second row is quite good. The Kizashi’s tall floor tunnel limits legroom in the center seating position, but average size adults should be quite comfortable in the outboard seats.

    The trunk is large enough to hold the weekly groceries or luggage for a long weekend. A rear pass-through lengthens the floor for skis and other large cargo.

    Standard safety

    The Kizashi comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability and traction control. Rear parking sonar sensors which come standard on the sport model detect obstacles in the driver’s blind spots when the car is driven in reverse. Suzuki’s seven year, 100,000 mile warranty carries no deductible and is fully transferrable.
    Suzuki builds the Kizashi in its Sagara, Japan assembly plant.

    Likes: A stylish sport sedan with a high level of standard comfort and safety features priced below $25,000.

    Dislikes: Fuel economy is not as good as some competitive products. Six-speed manual gearbox has too much room between the gears.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Suzuki
    Model: Kizashi Sport SLS
    Base price: $24,699
    As tested: $25,304
    Horsepower: 185 Hp @ 6500 rpm
    Torque: 170 lbs.-ft.
    Zero-to-sixty: 7.4 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 20/29 mpg city/highway


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