Ten years ago auto-industry product-developers became fond of calling some features “surprise and delight.” The phrase was reserved for minor innovations that a typical customer might find pleasing, but were so minor that they could be overlooked.
With the emphasis on “overlooked,” Suzuki’s got a car full of surprise-and-delight: the 2011 Kizashi. It’s one of the most satisfying-to-drive family sedans you’ll find; it’s packed with features and is expensive-looking — yet it’s quite reasonably priced.
Everywhere we went, people fascinated by the Kizashi’s curvaceous lines and premium styling details wanted to know about our tester, its unique exterior design magnified by the amped-up aerodynamic enhancements specific to the Kizashi’s 2011 Sport model.
You don’t need the Sport, which starts at $24,699 with a manual transmission, to bask in the goodness that emanates from everything the Kizashi does, though. Even the base Kizashi S, starting at $18,999 ($700 more for an automatic transmission), has the same classy and intriguing sheet metal, nimble handling and thoughtfully designed interior as the more-expensive Kizashi models. And we think “expensive” is a relative word when $25,000 buys so much car.
Inside, our 2011 Kizashi Sport SLS comes with the trappings of a decidedly more premium car: power heated leather seats, a power sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers and sonar rear parking sensors. It’s all contained in a meticulously assembled interior with straightforward gauges and a welcome lack of button clutter on the center stack.
The display for the audio controls looks a little old-school and there’s nothing exceptional about the finish of the plastics, but just about everything inside the Kizashi looks more expensive than it has to and none of the controls, knobs and buttons have anything approaching a junky feel. The overall impression is upscale minimalist — much like the design aesthetic of expensive European models.
The Kizashi’s driveline is smooth and willing, its 2.4-liter 4-cylinder’s 185 horsepower making more than enough power for nearly every situation. The 6-speed manual transmission could emanate a little more mechanical feel as it moves between gears and the clutch offers almost no sense of where the friction point resides, but this aligns with the general lightness of all the Kizashi’s major and minor controls and is one of the rare instances when low-effort controls actually enhance the driving experience.
The Kizashi’s dimensions and effectively tuned independent suspension support the overall impression of nimbleness that makes driving the Kizashi such a treat. The Sport’s special suspension tuning and lowered ride height made the Kizashi even more of a curve-carver than it already is, but the ride is flintier and less absorbent. Oh, those gorgeous 18-inch lightweight alloy wheels you get with the Sport trim make it almost worth enduring the firmer ride, though.
And there’s one more bonus: all Kizashi models are available with all-wheel drive. The system is a reasonable $1,350 extra, although it can be paired only with the continuously variable automatic transmission. An AWD Kizashi S, at $21,999, would be a compelling cut-price alternative to an Audi, considering the Kizashi lays its own claim to some pretty upscale looks and driving dynamics. An AWD Kizashi Sport SLS is loaded with equipment and still barely cracks the $27,000 mark. Want to instantly become your neighborhood’s automotive savant? Park the Suzuki 2011 Kizashi in your driveway. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters
2011 SUZUKI KIZASHI SPORT SLS
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $24,699 (as tested: $25,304)
MOTOR TYPE___________________ 16-valve DOHC I-4 w/MPFI
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 185 at 6500 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 170 at 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed manual
WHEELBASE____________________ 106.3 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 183.1 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 36.0 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 16.6 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011