The Truth About Cars » Kizashi The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 21 Jul 2014 02:55:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Kizashi Review: 2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport Wed, 09 Feb 2011 21:15:55 +0000

Maybe it was my lukewarm review. Or maybe it was because Suzuki’s most ardent attempt to date to appeal to Americans connected with only 6,138 of them last year. Despite the unintended acceleration media circus, Toyota sold more Camrys in the average week. Whatever the reason, Suzuki revised the Kizashi after just one model year, transforming the two top trim levels into “Sport” models. Substitute a six-speed manual and front-wheel-drive for the previous test’s CVT and all-wheel-drive, and the 2011 Kizashi certainly deserves another look.

The Kizashi’s sheetmetal hasn’t changed, so the exterior styling remains much less distinctive than the car’s name suggests it ought to be. That said, the “Sport” tweaks—a tasteful body kit, thinner-spoked wheels—highlight the car’s tight, athletic proportions and make its exterior almost memorable. I remain thankful that the then-new corporate front end introduced with the 2007 XL7 went no further than that SUV. Still, something about this car should mark it as a Suzuki, aside from the oversized S on the grille.

For a car priced in the mid-20s, the Kizashi continues to have an exceedingly well-appointed interior. Luxuriously upholstered door panels, a woven headliner, switchgear that’s a cut or two above the mid-20s norm, compartment lids that open with a dampened glide, and thorough red backlighting all contribute to a look and feel suitable to a car costing at least $10,000 more. Once the benchmark, the latest Volkswagen sedan interiors aren’t even close. The “Sport” revisions include a mildly restyled steering wheel and white stitching on the black leather seats. The latter serves to lighten up the almost overwhelmingly black interior. Would red stitching have been sportier, or at this point too much of a cliché?

Suzuki similarly aims to impress with the Kizashi’s features list, and generally succeeds. Especially nice to see at a $26,000 price: three-stage heated leather power front seats, memory for the driver’s seat, a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, keyless access and ignition, rain-sensing wipers, and rear air vents.

Even before this year’s “Sport” revisions, Suzuki pitched the Kizashi as a driver’s car. The firm-yet-comfortable front buckets fit the bill, with side bolsters that (for once) actually provide even better lateral support than their appearance suggests they will. Size-wise, the Kizashi falls between a compact and a midsize, but this didn’t dissuade Suzuki from fitting seats a little larger than most these days, further contributing to the car’s premium feel.

The not-quite-midsize dimensions translate to a rear seat that is just large enough for the average adult. Those six-feet and up will wish for a true midsize. Kids, on the other hand, will wish for a lower beltline. In the Kizashi they struggle to see out. The driver fares a bit better, though the cowl is a bit high, the A-pillars are on the thick side, and the wheel must to tilted up a notch to avoid obstructing the classic white-on-black instruments.

When paired with the six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel-drive, the Kizashi’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine kicks out another 5 horsepower, for a total of 185 at 6,500 rpm, and must motivate about 240 fewer pounds, for a total around 3,250. So with a manual transmission the Kizashi is significantly quicker, and feels it. There’s not much power below the 4,000 rpm torque peak (where 170 foot-pounds can be found), so downshifts are a must for brisk acceleration. But in this powertrain the four sounds and feels smoother, with a pleasant zing, so winding it out is a joy. Even though the manual shifter is easily the least refined part of the car, with a clunky, sometimes even balky action, it’s far more enjoyable than the paddle-shiftable CVT.

Still missing, though much less missed with the stick: a more powerful optional engine.

The EPA rates the manual for 20 MPG city and 29 highway, compared to 23/30 with the CVT. The trip computer was wildly optimistic, reporting high 20s and low 30s in the suburbs and 42.6 on one trip, averaging 55 miles-per-hour with a single complete stop. I used a little over half of the 16.6-gallon tank in 176 miles, so the EPA numbers are probably about right.

Last year I suggested that the Kizashi’s chassis needed another round of tuning. With the “Sport,” it got it. Though the changes aren’t dramatic, the revised car handles more sharply and precisely, if still not quite as intuitively as the best sport sedans. Feedback through the steering wheel is subtle, but it’s there. The steering in a Buick Regal turbo (driven while I had the Kizashi) feels light and numb in comparison. The occasional float noted at highway speeds last year is gone, and the “Sport” generally feels more tied down. Better damping than anything from Korea contributes to very good body control when the pavement diverges from level and smooth. With the possible exception of the first-generation Acura TSX, no Japanese sedan has felt more European. The more I drove the Kizashi Sport SLS, the more I liked it.

One mild reservation: the Dunlop SP Sport 7000s might be rated “all-season” tires, but their traction on snow is marginal. The stability control system doesn’t jump in too soon, and when it does operates unobtrusively. Turn it off and the Kizashi remains easy to control even on slick surfaces.

Even with the “Sport” tuning, the Kizashi’s ride remains quiet and polished. Though it can feel a little bumpy in casual driving on some roads, the motions are restrained and vertical rather than poorly controlled and head-tossing. Push the car more aggressively, and the tuning feels spot-on. Highly effective insulation often makes the car seem like it’s going 20 miles-per-hour slower than it actually is. Though this impacts driving enjoyment a bit, it’s a big plus on the highway.

With metallic paint, floormats, and satellite radio, the Kizashi Sport SLS lists for $26,049. (If you can do without heated leather seats and a few other features, you can save $1,800 with the Sport GTS.) The new Jetta GLI will cost about the same as the Sport SLS, but while it will be quicker it looks and feels like a much cheaper car. An Acura TSX is much closer in terms of size, materials, features, and performance—and lists for $4,421 more than the Suzuki. Adjust for remaining feature differences, and according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool the non-premium-branded car’s advantage actually increases, to over $5,000. Add in the Suzuki’s 7/100 powertrain warranty that, unlike Hyundai’s, is transferable, and the car is clearly a very good value.

“Kizashi” means “something great is coming.” With the “Sport” revisions, greatness might still not have arrived, but it’s certainly closer. The Suzuki’s exterior and interior dimensions resemble those of the B5 Volkswagen Passat and the first-generation Acura TSX, both of which appealed to people who wanted enough room for adults in the back seat without the bulk of a truly midsize sedan. The Kizashi’s features, materials, seats, ride, and overall refinement are all those of a much more expensive car, and not those of a compact sedan. The engine isn’t any more powerful this year, but (as is often the case) the manual transmission is worth about 50 horsepower in terms of driving enjoyment. The “Sport” tweaks subtly yet significantly upgrade the exterior appearance and the handling. Add it all up and, in Sport SLS trim with a manual transmission, the 2011 Kizashi is definitely worthy of consideration by enthusiasts searching for the attributes of a European sport sedan without a European price.

Suzuki provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Kizashi Sport side Kizashi Sport front Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Kizashi Sport IP side Kizashi Sport rear quarter high Kizashi Sport engine Kizashi Sport front quarter Kizashi Sport rear quarter low Kizashi Sport side less salt Kizashi Sport front seats Kizashi Sport trunk Kizashi Sport IP front Cadillac in Kizashi Kizashi Sport rear seat 2010 Kizashi front quarter comparison ]]> 87
Review: 2010 Suzuki Kizashi Mon, 18 Jan 2010 20:34:17 +0000 100_5987

The dominant Japanese car companies remain uncomfortable with their nationality, doing their best to seem somehow American lest they provoke a political backlash. Even as unabashedly Japanese products have become prevalent in the intertwined worlds of TV, gaming, and toys, I cannot recall a car with so much as a Japanese name prior to Suzuki’s new Kizashi. Why Suzuki? Well, they’re too small in the U.S. to fear a backlash. And tagging a motorcycle Hayabusa didn’t exactly harm its popularity. Why “Kizashi?” The name means “something great is coming.” Well, is it?

100_5990With a name like “Kizashi,” one might expect Suzuki’s new sedan to look distinctively Japanese, or at least distinctive. It doesn’t. Some of the details are nicely done, such as the Lexus-like exhaust outlets. And the proportions are athletically tight. But if anyone noticed the Kizashi during the week I drove it and wondered “what is that?” they were very discreet about it. I suppose we should be thankful that the new corporate front end introduced with the XL7 went no further than the XL7. But anonymous soap bars are so mid-90s, and something about this car should say Suzuki aside from the oversized S on the grille.

The interior is no more Japanese than the exterior. But, for a car priced in the mid-20s, the Kizashi has an exceedingly well-appointed interior. Door pulls are the first thing you touch inside a car, and you grab them every time you get in. Yet these are rarely fully upholstered, even in premium brand luxury sedans. Well, the Kizashi has them, along with luxuriously upholstered upper door panels.

The premium look and feel continues with a woven 100_5714headliner, switchgear that’s a cut or two above the mid-20s norm, compartment lids that open with a dampened glide, and thorough red backlighting. Everything that could possibly be backlit is backlit, down to the hood release and shift paddles. In the midst of this refinement, the long clunky rod used to adjust the instrument panel’s brightness and the slop with which the glove compartment latches stick out more than they otherwise would. A third oversight, and easily the most annoying: while the brightness of the instruments can be adjusted, the bright green lights that announce that the cruise and AWD are engaged cannot be. I avoided using both on the highway to avoid the green lights.

Suzuki similarly aims to impress with the Kizashi’s features list, and generally succeeds. Especially nice to see at this price: an immersive 425-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system, keyless access and ignition (will anyone who owns a car with it ever go back?), rain-sensing wipers (can’t get them on a Cadillac this year), and rear air vents. Some bits missed in their absence: 8-way instead of 4-way adjustment for the power passenger seat (a common omission at this price) and rear reading lamps. Yes, my well-ventilated kids complained when they could not read at night.

100_5712Suzuki is pitching the Kizashi as a driver’s car. The firm front buckets fit the bill, with side bolsters that (for once) actually provide even better lateral support than their appearance suggests they will. The driving position needs work—I had to telescope the wheel all the way out to comfortably reach it, and tilt it a little higher to avoid obstructing the instruments. Size-wise, the Kizashi falls between a compact and a midsize. This translates to a rear seat that is just large enough for the average adult. Those six-feet and up will wish for a true midsize. Kids, on the other hand, will wish for a lower beltline as they’ll struggle to see out of the Kizashi.

About that driver’s car pitch—it’s not based on the engine. A 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four isn’t ever going to impress in a nearly 3,500-pound sedan. With the six-speed manual and front-wheel-drive it might serve fairly well. With the four-wheel-drive and the CVT it mandates, not even close. GM uses active noise cancellation to make a similarly-sized four sound refined in the new Equinox. The Kizashi needs some of that. As is, the 2.4 has the shakes at idle and sounds more like a diesel than VW’s latest TDI south of 4,000 rpm. Too bad it doesn’t also have the low-end pull of a diesel. Acceleration from zero to 20 is downright sluggish. At that point the engine hits its stride and pulls strongly (well, as strongly as it can) until the CVT decides to reel it in.

In normal around-town driving, the CVT often 100_5998decides “mission accomplished” and quickly transitions from an athletic 4,000+ rpm to an engine-lugging 1,500—even though you’re still accelerating. Or at least trying to. I’m not sure there’s a four-cylinder alive that sounds and feels good under load at 1,500 rpm. This one certainly doesn’t. To prevent this, make frequent use of the shift paddles to hold the transmission in one of six predefined ratios.

The CVT clearly wants to maximize fuel economy. Well, in moderate suburban driving the trip computer reported 20.5. My 300-horsepower V8 Lexus with 110,000 miles approaches 20 on the same routes. On the highway the Kizashi struggled to crack 26 even with the 4WD turned off. Turning off 4WD didn’t seem to improve fuel economy to a noticeable degree, perhaps because the system’s extra mass and much of its extra drag are still along for the ride. Oh, yeah, the trip computer might be optimistic—manual measurement of one highway tank returned 24.6 vs. the 26.2 reported by the computer.

T100_5870he driver’s car pitch is based on the Kizashi’s handling. The in-between size and low-profile 18s (on the two top trim levels) should pay dividends here. In casual driving the Kizashi does have the polished, well-dampened feel of a German sport sedan, if VW more than BMW. And yet, when the chips are down, the (almost) sporty steering and suspension both become vague, failing to provide a sense of precision when it’s needed most. Say, when driving one of the curvier sections of the Pennsylvania turnpike, where the Jersey barrier comes uncomfortably close to the side of the car. No I didn’t scrape it, but the Kizashi doesn’t inspire confidence the way the best sport sedans do. At speed the front end becomes a touch floaty, the steering cuts back on communication, and bumps do some of the steering. The ride similarly lacks that final bit of polish, failing to absorb the occasional impact and at times turning jittery, especially for those in the back seat. On the other hand, when the engine isn’t working too hard the interior is quiet.

Unlike the typical all-wheel-drive system, with the Kizashi’s you can lock the car in front-wheel-drive. So, technically speaking, it has a four-wheel-drive system. The only clear benefit: you can find out how much difference driving all four wheels makes. Obviously, there’s more traction on snow-covered roads with the system engaged, enabling the car to be driven more quickly through turns without tripping the traction control system. And you don’t want to trip it—once this system takes power away it’s slow to give it back. But with 4WD engaged the handling is actually less predictable and thus less safe, with a tendency to oversteer not otherwise present. The car’s tail-happiness is easily controlled and even entertaining, but not something for less experienced drivers who simply want to stay out of the ditch. In front-wheel-drive the rear wheels dutifully follow the front ones. On dry roads, 4WD is of limited use until Suzuki offers a more powerful engine. A turbo 2.4 could make a big difference.100_5855

Even after selling cars in the United States for a quarter century, Suzuki remains below the radar. If it wants to be a player here, it needs to offer a car so great that Americans must take notice. Unfortunately, while the Kizashi has definite strengths, most notably the upscale interior and premium feel in casual driving, it’s not that car. The styling is too anonymous, the engine lacks refinement, the CVT could learn a thing or two from Nissan, and the chassis needs another round of tuning. Above all, the Kizashi has far too little personality. There’s a lot to like, but not much to love. Suzuki has been bold with the car’s name. Why not with the car itself? Something great might be coming from Suzuki, but it hasn’t yet arrived.

Vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas provided by Suzuki

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, a source of pricing and reliability data

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