Over the Ice & Through the Snow

Suzuki Kizashi / Reviews / 2010 Suzuki Kizashi review 2 / Over the Ice & Through the Snow

A white Christmas gave me plenty of opportunities to test the all-wheel drive, and the Kizashi proved to be a competent snowmobile. Now, the Kizashi has a feature that's rare among cars with all-wheel drive: an on/off button. We typically define all-wheel drive as a four-wheel-drive system that requires no intervention from the driver and lacks a low range. Suzuki says leaving the car in front-wheel-drive mode saves gas, but most automakers have acknowledged the difference is minimal and opted for the security of a system that's always on. Rest assured that the mileage with all-wheel drive shut off isn't as high as it would be in a front-wheel-drive car, which is lighter.

What was useful about the Kizashi's feature was it showed me how good the traction control is with front-wheel drive. Some traction control is so conservative that it impedes your progress on loose snow; it cuts the fuel supply and clamps the brakes with such zeal that you end up creeping along making grunting sounds — not all of them from the car. The Kizashi allowed its drive wheels to spin just enough to build momentum but not to lose control.

The all-wheel drive adds a sure-footedness you simply can't get in any two-wheel-drive car. For snow and ice, it's most useful if you live in a hilly region and/or an urban area with inadequate snow removal, but it's not for anything beyond light off-pavement driving. Given the car's front-drive performance and the standard electronic stability system, most drivers can do without all-wheel drive, saving themselves some money and gas — and improving acceleration.

Two wintertime quirks included a windshield washer system that froze up when it wasn't all that cold outside and a passenger-side wiper that refused to conform to the windshield. These might be isolated incidents, but they're exactly the kind of wrinkles that can happen on an all-new model and require ironing out. It's something to keep an eye out for.

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