The ability to articulate automobiles to sound fresh, exciting and not reworded has been a real struggle lately. But stumbling across a new automobile that I know nothing about turned into a blessing in disguise that is best described with the simplest of adjectives. With no pre-formed opinion, an honest look at Suzuki’s new Kizashi came easy.
If you think of Suzuki, you would think of their motorcycles being present contenders, basing this idea on what they produced in the 1980s. Suzuki was fully responsible for the concept, design and execution of the Kizashi after a joint effort on the former Verona didn’t go over well. Suzuki, like most manufacturers, is trying to reinvent their brand by taking the on the challenge without any assistance. Years of knowledge and dare I say failed attempts at actually making it in the American auto market, Suzuki realized this is the time to improve quality with the entire brand. Looking cheap does not fit into the equation.
The exterior of the Kizashi had me saying that it resembled a little of one car or another but really it’s just itself. The styling is nonchalant with hey-look-at-me-if-you-want-because-I-don’t-stand-out-but-yet-I-don’t-blend-in-either-approach. A large open grill with the massive Suzuki S placed in the center, wide headlights, sporty stance, surprisingly large fenders and a sleek rear with the chrome trim exhaust pieces molded nicely into the rear bumper and the Kizashi becomes quite the sassy sedan.
Suzuki’s ultimate focus on safety has not been pushed to the side either. Five star ratings in all 4 crash categories, a total of eight airbags that wrap the car in protection, a rigid body structure with enforcements where they need to be to ensure the car properly absorbs energy of any accident, ABS with Akebono brakes that "can stop a 14-car 170mph train", EPS and ESC make the Kizashi in the running with these standard safety features. Add an optional AWD and track tuned suspension that has the Kizashi handling more like a car that cost several thousand dollars more and the bits not visible to the eye become more of an incentive.
The Kizashi is available in 3 trim levels with 11 different combinations tailored to suit any buyer. The base "S" with a MSRP $18,999 plus a $735 destination fee includes a 6-speed manual transmission, push button start, dual zone climate control, 9-speaker audio, projector beam headlights, power windows/doors/mirrors and ambient foot lighting all come standard. Add the optional CVT transmission the base price jumps to $20,499 or the AWD for an additional $1,250(AWD is only available with the CVT and the added bonus of with a flick of a switch you can turn it off) and you have an AWD mid-size car for under $22,000. A FWD "S" is an additional $2500 but with the upgraded package comes upgraded "17 inch wheels, 10 way power driver seat, 3 position memory, leather wrapped parking brake and steering wheel with cruise control.
For those wanting more of a sportier version, the "GTS" is available with either the 6-speed or CVT with paddle shifters starting at $22,499. All of the standard options available on the "S" but a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate 10-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, hands free calling upgraded P235/45R18 wheels and tires, fog lights and power moon roof compete the package. Those who truly like to have all the creature comforts the "SLS" is your chance to get it all. MSRP at $24,399 has extras such as leather seating, power passenger seat, heated seating, and automatic dimming rear view mirror, universal garage door opener, heated outside mirrors, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, and rear proximity sensors with audio warnings. Add the CVT and the AWD and you have an exceptional buy that comes in under $28,000.
The only thing the Kizashi does not offer an option on is the engine. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 185-hp with the 6-speed or 180-hp with the optional CVT transmission. Some might think that the one engine option limits the Kizashi’s possible mass interest but with a majority of the cars in its same class coming similarly equipped engine wise, there isn’t much room to discuss. There are talks of a possible V6 or a turbo-charged 4-cylinder in the future but at the moment the Kizashi is doing fine with just the one. With the average across the board with the 11 different combinations, the fuel averages remain 21/30mpg which can be determined differently of course based on your driving styles.
Our "S" model came equipped with the CVT transmission that made for a rather ho-hum driving experience until I took matters into my own hands. The standard "put the car in gear and go" to the ability to switch to manually shifting made a world of difference with the high revving 4 banger. The Kizashi performed like an entirely different car, it became quite fun to drive! The added zip of winding the car out matched with its ability to handle like a stealthy sports car made driving the Kizashi both in the city and on the highway more than entertaining. Only at quick dead stop accelerations was the typical 4-cylinder whine heard and the tire nose was minimal. For the most part the interior cabin provided a relatively quiet ride.
The Kizashi interior impressed me the most. For a car at this price point you would have to sometimes let go of interior quality but not here. Because of the low stance of the car, you sit lower in the Kizashi as the cabin wraps around you. Space for both driver and passengers is not an issue even though you really feel as if you are riding in a coupe verses a sedan. The all black interior our tester came with looked high end with softer plastics and not so harsh hard pieces that seem to mass produced in many cars these days. The entire dash was lit brightly with red backed gauges and tasteful silver plated trim pieces. A constant shade of black made the entire interior cohesive. I found the front seats to be well made, providing body hugging support. The overall fabric seemed to resemble corduroy which we all know is durable yet soft to the touch gave an interesting visual texture to the interior. Where space isn’t an issue on the interior, the trunk provides a mere 13.3 cubic feet of cargo space paired with a narrow trunk opening make anything more than groceries or small items about all that it can contain. The ability to lay the rear seat down to make room for longer objects does compensate the lack of space but with a little creativity a long trip with several luggage pieces could be successful.
Overall, the Kizashi is a breath of fresh air. It’s new, fun and sassy! Not only can Kizashi play the role of a budget friendly under $20,000 sedan but completely gilded it still comes in under $30,000. In a redefining moment of the Suzuki brand, it just may be the turning point for everyone else to take notice of the one car that is getting overlooked by even the best of us.