Test Drive: 2010 Suzuki Kizashi

?Something great is coming? ? Kizashi.

No, it not a new healthy breakfast cereal, it is a new premium sport sedan, from Suzuki.

This is a completely new area for the company most known for small SUVs and high performance motorcycles, but Kizashi is a well-designed and nicely executed deployment into one of the toughest categories in the automotive business.
Benchmarked against cars like the Volkswagen Passat and Acura TSX, the Kizashi designers have created a stylish four-door sedan that looks as good as it drives.? Unlike previous Suzuki entries that have been a bit more unusual in design, the Kizashi has strong elegant lines.

The rich interior is filled with quality materials and clean purposeful lines not something that looks pieced together.? The dash line is clean and uncluttered. ?The instrument panel and the center stack are well organized and have large, easy to read displays and well marked buttons.

Powered by a 185-hp, 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, the Kizashi is quick, but far from being a category performance leader.? With rumors of an upcoming V-6, that could change.? Transmission choices include a standard six-speed manual and optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) with available paddle shifters that toggle through six preset ratios. ?Suzuki says the four-cylinder accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds.? Fuel economy ranges from 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for the FWD with 16-inch wheels to 22/29 for the CVT AWD with the larger wheels.

In base dress, Kizashi is a typical front-wheel drive; however, it is available with optional all-wheel drive.? This extra not only heightens the all-weather capabilities, but also enhances the cornering abilities.?? Unlike many AWD systems, which are always on, this one is activated by an instrument panel switch, so the driver can take advantage of the better front-wheel drive fuel economy when the extra traction is not needed.

After a beautiful drive through the southern Washington mountains near Mount St. Helens, we headed for Portland International Raceway.? At PIR, we compared the Kizashi with competitor vehicles doing lane-change maneuvers, a wet slalom and other agility tests.? The Kizashi was impressive, and in many cases significantly better than the competitors.? We also did laps on the racetrack, with speeds reaching to 100 mph.? Kizashi handles beautifully, has strong brakes and good acceleration for this engine.?? Our only thought, was in this class the car needs more power to be a strong competitor.? We were hoping for a turbocharger, but more than likely it will get a General Motors V-6 engine.

There are four Kizashi flavors starting with the S, which includes premium features like push button start, sport seats, dual-zone climate control, stability control, eight airbags and dual chrome exhaust tips.? The SE adds a standard CVT transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, 10-way power driver seat with memory, cruise control and a few other features.? The sport GTS comes with a choice of the six-speed manual or CVT with paddle shifters.? It has 18-inch alloy wheels, moonroof, Bluetooth and 425-watt Rockford Fosgate? audio.? The top-of-the-line SLS adds fabulous leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, power front passenger seat, HomeLink garage door opener, rain sensor wipers and rear parking sensors.

Official prices have not been announced, but are expected to start under $20,000 for the S and peak at the $28,000 to $29,000 level for a fully equipped SLS.? A typical price will probably be $22,000 to $24,000 range when the Kizashi goes on sale in December 2009.

[Rating:8.5/10]

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