We got the Kizashi's revs up and dropped the clutch, producing front-wheel spin and traction control warnings flickering on the instrument cluster before the car moved smartly forward. The fast start wasn't bad, but we could have gotten the same performance out of the Mazda6 we tested earlier. The six-speed manual adds a bit of fun to the car, and encourages this type of behavior.
Hard in the turns
With nothing exceptionally noteworthy under the hood, we set out to see if Suzuki gave it a big handling advantage. On the freeway, we noted the somewhat close gear ratios, with sixth gear letting the engine run at 2,500rpm. Dropping down to fifth only produced a 500rpm difference. We would have expected a taller top gear, but the car's mileage was still looking good, running up toward 25 mpg.
Once in the fun stuff, taking the car through the first set of curves showed that it could be pushed, but again nothing dramatic, with handling no better than the Mazda6 or the Nissan Altima, as another example. The Kizashi leaned as inertia pulled it out on the turns, and we gave it some throttle, letting the front wheels dig in and pull the car through.
The steering feels nice and tight, but successive curves produced plenty of understeer. Getting onto damper roads, the front end showed a tendency to wash around as the traction control tried to give it some grip while fighting the turns. The rear wheels were no particular help, although the Kizashi can be had in all-wheel-drive.
After a while, we realized that the Kizashi is more bluster than bite, and started to drive it as transportation. The ride was comfortable and the cabin roomy enough for a car in this class, and that Rockford Fosgate audio system let us terrorize urban streets by setting off car alarms up and down the street.
Feeding the sound system music from an iPod, we found the music interface usable, but mediocre. The radio display includes two big lines of text in monochrome glory. We quickly figured out how to push the buttons and turn dials to select artists and albums, but it is a tedious process, requiring you to scroll through lists with hundreds of items. The MP3 CD interface was worse, as the display only shows track or folder number, not name, when you use the scroll function, although it does revert to ID3 tag display when you stop on a song.
Bluetooth audio streaming is also available, which, as in other cars, works like a wireless auxiliary input. The Bluetooth phone system is fairly typical, using voice command for its interface. It does offer a phonebook function, but you have to push contacts from phone to car; it won't automatically import anything.
Although sporting an aggressively good-looking body, the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi's running gear is pretty average, using an engine similar to that in many midsize sedans. The availability of a six-speed manual is a nice touch for driving enthusiasts. Cabin tech is modern, if not particularly cutting edge. Drivers will find iPod integration and Bluetooth phone support convenient, and the Rockford Fosgate audio system will shake the doors off.
|Model||2010 Suzuki Kizashi|
|Power train||2.4-liter inline four|
|EPA fuel economy||21 mpg city/31 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||24.1 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible CD player|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth streaming, satellite radio, USB drive|
|Audio system||Rockford Fosgate 10 speaker 425 watts|
|Driver aids||Rear view camera|
|Price as tested||$25,184|
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