A common reaction to hearing that Suzuki has produced a new car model is to roll your eyes and dismiss the car immediately. But don’t be so hasty with the Kizashi. While certainly not perfect, the Kizashi goes a long way towards making Suzuki a viable competitor in the auto market, instead of a its current reputation as a good motorcycle manufacturer, and not much else.
While the Kizashi is different from other Suzuki models, it still subscribes to the philosophy of rock-bottom prices. While before, these low prices only served to attract those whose only concern with buying a new car was the price tag, on the Kizashi it is a viable means of differentiating itself from a crowded field. Basically, why buy a car from an established brand for $30,000, when you can get a better car from Suzuki and pay only $22,000? And $22,000 is the price for a well-equipped Kizashi, though if you opt for the CVT (continuously variable transmission) and a few other options, the top end price will reach about $27,000.
The selling points of the Kizashi are mainly divided into three segments: the power, the handling, and the price. Since the price has already been discussed, let’s move on to the power. Under the hood is a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine (a V6 option will be released eventually). This four-cylinder puts out 185 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. When compared to other cars in its class, like the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Honda Accord, the Kizashi beats them all in horsepower, and only loses out to the Altima in torque (it has 180 lb-ft). The power provides a 0-to-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds. This may seem slow, but considering that the average sedan of this class hits 60 mph in about 9 seconds, it is a bit quicker.
This power combines with the handling to provide a great driving experience. Suzuki’s engineers actually went so far as to test the Kizashi on Germany’s lauded Nurburgring, the benchmark for all-around performance excellence. The Kizashi obviously didn’t take home any huge prize (regulars at the ‘Ring include Porsche, BMW, Aston Martin, and others), it does show that Suzuki isn’t messing around with this model. They want it done right.
The first thing helping the handling is the low weight of the car, especially when compared to other cars of its class. Combine this weight with special dampers at the four corners, a front MacPherson suspension design, and a rear five-link suspension, and you get something special. Also, both the chassis and body have been designed for maximum rigidity. When you’re traveling at high speeds and have to make an emergency maneuver, the Kizashi will dance under your fingertips, while other cars in this segment would have a fit and go into a slide. It’s just that much better.
The styling of the Kizashi is an odd mish-mash. Look carefully and you’ll be able to pick up design cues from at least a dozen different car models of the past. This combination doesn’t lend itself to creating a car that is individual and striking, but it doesn’t look horrible either (especially when compared to some other Suzuki models). The interior is pretty basic, about what you’d expect from a car that starts at around $20,000, but it is highly functional and efficient for what it has. One small example is the fabric that upholsters the seats. It’s actually plenty comfortable and you won’t mind rubbing against it for a three-hour road trip. And that’s about the highest praise you can give to a fabric upholstery.
The Kizashi represents a crossroads for Suzuki. The car is great, one of the best bang-for-your-buck vehicles out there. But will they be able to overcome the brand’s reputation as making cheap, chintzy cars? If they can, and they sell enough Kizashis to bankroll the development of their next few models, then Suzuki very well could become an import auto manufacturer on the level with Mazda and Nissan in the coming years. But, if they don’t follow through, the Kizashi will forever serve as a reminder of what might have been.