2010 Suzuki Kizashi review 1

Suzuki Kizashi / Reviews / 2010 Suzuki Kizashi review 1

Bless you. Have a Kleenex and a new top-of-line sedan at Suzuki.

But even with a mouthful of a name that pays more homage to its Japanese heritage than, say, Camry or Accord, Kizashi is nothing to sneeze at.

Kizashi, also unlike Camry and Accord, comes in front- or all-wheel-drive. And though it's no longer a part of the General Motors family, Suzuki will offer a gas/electric Kizashi in calendar 2011 developed with an assist from GM.

It goes on sale in December in S (FWD only), SE, GTS and SLS trim with 6-speed manual or continuously variable automatic for FWD models and CVT with paddle shifting for AWD models. Prices range from about $19,000 to $26,000.

Kizashi is a big compact (as we see it) or a small midsize (as Suzuki sees it), about 2 inches shorter than a Volkswagen Passat. We tested the GTS with AWD, a very nice car.

It's also the first in what product planning director Steven Younan says will be a focus on more "exciting, emotional cars with a European styling influence and a premium feel and not just low-cost, conservative commuters."

Euro flair, all right, from a regal honeycomb grille, jewel-like headlamps and sporty air dam. A fashionable cabin offers well-cushioned and supportive front and rear seats with ample room to move any and all limbs, sufficient storage space in the dash, console and armrest and molded beverage/map holders in the doors.

Grained, soft-touch dash top and door trim add to the appeal, while a gap in the center armrest cover provides space to run cell phone or computer cord to the power plug. USB audio input and power plugs low in the dash behind the gearshift lever serve iPod/MP3 players.

A shortcoming, however, is noise -- wind filtering through windows and power sunroof and a whine from radials slapping all tar marks below. Blame it on the low-profile, 18-inch radials -- Suzuki does.

The 2.4-liter 4 with push-button ignition is rated at 185 horsepower and quickly reaches 30-mph launch speed, 50-mph cruising speed and the 80-mph mark needed to pass 18-wheelers or pace Camaros on the interstate. But the engine growls when pushed.

The CVT offers an infinite number of gears. You don't feel or hear shifts like you would in a traditional automatic as it seamlessly changes gears based on pedal pressure.

Reducing noise should be at the top of the to-do list for Gen II, or adding a small, quiet V-6. At least the 4 is rated at a respectable 22 mpg city and 29 highway. The hybrid promises better.

Handling is good without tedious lean in corners or aimless wandering because the steering is too vague. You feel in control thanks to crisp response to steering input and just enough weight in the wheel. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, side-curtain air bags and side-impact air bags are all standard -- and AWD, a novelty in an economy car, is available at the push of a button. Kudos.

You may not be able to reduce the ambient noise but you can drown it out with an optional Rockford Fosgate audio system with 10 speakers.

Nice touches in the dressed-up econocar include dual front and side sun visors for driver/passenger and a convenient slit in the visor to hold the parking pass. While the trunk is spacious, a ski pass-through and folding seat backs add cargo room in the cabin. There's also Bluetooth connectivity and a rare locking glove box.

A couple gripes other than noise: While rear-seat leg and arm room is more than tolerable for adults, the wide door opening is not high enough to spare the melon on entry or exit. Blame the air bag curtains in the roof and added padding to meet a 2014 side impact standard.

The Kizashi GTS tested starts at $22,400, including dual-zone climate control and power windows/locks/mirrors (heated)/seats. Add $1,250 for AWD and $1,100 for the CVT.

See also:

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