2011 Suzuki Kizashi Review

Kizashi

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2011 Suzuki Kizashi Overview

Perhaps Suzuki was embarrassed. When you come to market with a vehicle essentially named “Harbinger,” people expect you to bring your A game. That’s the translation for the Japanese manufacturer’s new flagship sedan - the Kizashi – a car that failed to make much of an impact upon its introduction last year. A bit of embarrassment would explain why Suzuki has decided to make some pretty significant changes already, but regardless 2011 sees some big improvements for the midsize four-door sedan.

Sadly, not all the improvements resonate across the trim lineup. The bulk of the changes are encompassed in two new trims – Sport GTS and Sport SLS – joining 2010’s S and SE trims. All trims are powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with varied power output based on the transmission chosen. A CVT comes with the SE and all AWD-equipped trims, while a 6-speed manual is the standard across the rest of the lineup, although any Kizashi can be equipped with the CVT. Whereas with the CVT the 2.4-liter engine puts out 180 horses and 170 lb-ft of torque, when yoked to the 6-speed manual it produces 185 hp, albeit at 6,500 rpm as opposed to 6,000 with the CVT. While the 6-speed offers better power management than the CVT with its increased ability to overcome a slight lack of power down low, some testers have complained of a sloppy nature that has been called the weak point of the car. Still, a manual-equipped Kizashi is almost 250 pounds lighter than its CVT brethren, and this only contributes to its peppier nature. Fuel economy is about the same – 21/31 mpg with the 6-speed versus 23/31 for the CVT – but those numbers apply only to FWD S trims. FWD versions of the SE, GTS and SLS trims manage 20/29 with the 6-speed and 23/30 with the CVT. Choosing AWD will mandate the CVT and get you 22/29, and all Kizashi trims use regular-grade gasoline.

Sport GTS and SLS trims get the lion’s share of attention this year, with chassis and suspension refinements that substantially improve the overall ride and handling. The chassis has been lowered by 0.4 inches, and certain key components have been replaced with high-strength steel for a stiffer configuration. This allowed a retuning of the suspension for a softer ride without negatively impacting overall steering response. The Sport trims also get performance tires and new, lighter 18-inch wheels that provide an 8-pound reduction in unsprung weight – the best place to drop mass for increases in handling and overall performance, including acceleration and braking. There are also aesthetic improvements for the Sport GTS and SLS in the way of a body kit, white stitching for the leather seats, and a redesigned 3-spoke steering wheel. CVTs also get paddle shifters here, but the manual remains the best option.

The list of the Kizashi's standard features only underlines Suzuki’s attempts to announce their presence with authority, as it offers traction and stability control, four-wheel antilock Akebono disc brakes, dual-zone automatic climate controls and a full power package with remote-keyless entry, access and start all standard. Special note should be made of the seats, which are bigger, more comfortable and even more supportive than nearly all competitors – a special touch that really sets the Kizashi apart. Rear seats aren’t as impressive as the fronts, but all will fit adults and even taller occupants will have no trouble in the front.

Can Suzuki perform the same magic trick Kia and Hyundai have been attempting – and largely succeeding – to pull off in recent years? Last years’ sales figures say no, but it’s still early, and the improvements they’ve made in just the Kizashi’s second year speak to a commitment that says they aren’t going to give up anytime soon. If that means their vehicles keep getting better, this can only be a good thing for the consumer as viable options continue to crop up on showroom floors.

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A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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