2011 Suzuki Kizashi SportPosted on September 2nd, 2010
Midsize sedan gets a retuned suspension and appearance enhancements
By Nina Russin
Last year, Suzuki rolled out the Kizashi: its first foray into the midsize sedan segment. While the Kizashi is a large car compared to the compact SX4, the sedan‘s agile platform reflects its creators’ years of experience producing motorcycles. For 2011, Suzuki adds a Sport variant, consisting of lighter wheels, a lowered chassis with retuned suspension, body and interior enhancements.
The Sport grade begins under $23,000 for the GTS model with a six-speed manual transmission. The upscale SLS with the manual gearbox starts under $25,000. Both models come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower.
Buyers can upgrade to a continuously variable automatic transmission for $1100 more, and add all-wheel drive for enhanced four-season performance ($1350). The all-wheel drive system automatically transfers up to fifty percent of engine power to the rear wheels as driving conditions dictate.
Lighter wheels and lowered chassis enhance high-speed handling
Eighteen-inch alloy wheels on the Sport reduce unsprung weight by two pounds at each wheel. Reducing weight under a car’s suspension is the equivalent of replacing training shoes with racing flats: its benefits are comparable to considerably larger weight reductions in other parts of the chassis.
Engineers lowered the ride height by 10 millimeters, enhancing the Kizashi’s aerodynamics. A lower center of gravity improves traction and steering response at speed.
A redesigned grille gets triple-chrome accents, while a muscular front fascia reflects the Sport’s focus on performance. Other external modifications include side sill extensions and a rear spoiler.
Inside, the Kizashi Sport comes with bolstered seats and a three-spoke steering wheel with redundant audio controls. Automatic transmission models get formula racing-style paddle shifters.
Test drive in San Diego
I drove the Kizashi Sport at a recent media event in La Jolla, California. The drive route between La Jolla on the coast and the town of Julian to the east included both highway and two-lane roads, with a net elevation gain of 4000 feet.
The six-speed manual transmission comes with a reverse lockout ring, preventing the driver from accidentally shifting into the only gear without synchros. The gearshift lever is tall for a car. A short-throw shift lever would have made it easier to transition between gears. However shifting is crisp, with no noticeable gear lash. The clutch engages high, but is predictable and precise.
The 185-horsepower engine reaches peak torque of 170 lbs.-ft. at 4000 rpm: acceleration in the critical 20-50 mile-per-hour range is excellent.
The engine‘s sweet spot is between 3000 and 4000 rpm. Driving the car at 2000 rpm produces better fuel economy, but considerably weakens the car’s performance when climbing steep grades.
The 18-inch wheels with low-profile tires give the Kizashi stable footprint. Engineers deliberately made the chassis stiff, using high-strength steel in key areas. By doing so, they were able to use a softer suspension for better ride comfort, without compromising steering response.
Akebono produces the Kizashi brakes. The company is well known in Japan for producing the brakes for the bullet trains. The four-wheel discs with four-channel antilock braking stop the Kizashi in a firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the car is good. I had no problems weaving through Southern California freeway traffic, or seeing around corners on the winding mountain roads east of town.
Insulation in the wheel wells translates to a quiet interior, making it easy for passengers in both rows of seats to converse..
The Kizashi comes standard with keyless entry and start, allowing the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the fob from his pocket. Leather upholstery with contrast stitching gives the interior a premium appearance. An available navigation system includes a rear backup camera.
The sedan seats up to four adults. A tall floor tunnel limits legroom in the second-row center position. I was impressed by the amount of head and legroom in the outboard positions. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin.
Driver and front passenger seats have excellent lower lumbar support. Power seat adjustments are easy to use.
The steering wheel is small in diameter: a boon for smaller drivers. Dual gauges are legible in bright sunlight, as is the digital display between them. The digital display shows real-time and average fuel economy, as well as trip meter readings.
Standard dual climate controls on the center stack keep the driver and front passenger comfortable. A USB port and 12-volt power point at the base of the center stack allows the driver to recharge portable electronic devices, or plug in a MP3 player. The audio system automatically syncs with the MP3 player so the driver can use the car controls to make music selections.
A locking glovebox stores valuables inside the car. The center console has two bins: a small shelf for portable electronic devices and a deeper bin for compact discs. All four doors have bottle holders. Cupholders in the center console are large enough for 20-ounce water bottles.
A sunroof brings extra ambient light into the interior. There is no wind deflector, so the sunroof can be noisy when it’s open on the highway. Overhead reading lamps front and rear illuminate the interior at night.
A standard rear pass-through allows the driver to load in skis or other large cargo with the rear seats in place. The Kizashi’s trunk is spacious enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage or the weekly groceries. Cyclists should plan to add a roof rack or opt for one of Suzuki’s sport-utility vehicles.
The Kizashi comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, brake assist and electronic stability control. All models meet 2014 federal crash standards. Suzuki’s standard 100,000 mile factory warranty is fully transferable.
The 2011 Kizashi Sport is rolling into Suzuki dealerships nationwide.
Likes: An attractive, affordable midsize sedan with a high level of standard safety, comfort and convenience features.
Dislikes: Shift lever is taller than it needs to be. Bluetooth interface is not standard equipment.
Model: Kizashi Sport
Base price: Under $23,000.
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 185 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 170 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 20/29 mpg city/highway
Leave a reply