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Published on Thu, May 19, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
キザシ translates in Suzuki-speak to sporty and fast, young and fresh, solid and unwavering By John Fredrik-Wright Letting the investigative reporter in me come forth, a quick Google search of the word “Kizashi” reveals a couple of things. As usual, the Wikipedia page has all sorts of info, of which two things caught my eye. One, the Japanese characters that resemble “Kizashi” ends in a smiley (キザシ), and two; it seems to mean something like "omen", "sign", or "warning". So, to quote whomever wrote the Wikipedia article “…it is possible Suzuki means to suggest to other automobile manufacturers that its Kizashi is an example of Suzuki's future products.” This thought stuck with me; maybe it’s a sign? The Kizashi might not be synonymous with “luxury” as in Mercedes, BMW, or Audi, but it does do a good job at delivering a great car for a whole lot less cash than those brands. It might not beat the world’s best 0-60 times, or even get close; but that’s not what the Kizashi aims to do. It may not thrill the supercar enthusiast audience, but then again, that audience would probably not appreciate the fact that the Kizashi is smart, not extreme. Actually, there is one thing that is a little extreme: the RockFord Fosgate Sound system. Wow!
Since there are an abundance of speakers in the Kizashi, I knew I would have to try out the sound system when alone in the car. So, on my way to a random lunch I fired up the system with one classical, one R&B, and one pop song. Starting with the classical song was a smart move, as it warmed up my ears to what was about to come. The R&B and pop songs made the most lasting impression, both in my ears, but also in my mind. With the speakers blasting, the base actually vibrated the rear-view mirror so much so that I could not see anything through it. Yes, the sound quality was still great, and no, I never got to maximum volume, my ears just said no. After allowing your ears to readjust to normal levels, you will notice the solid clunk when closing the doors. Not a bad clunk at all, it makes the car feel stable and secure. Solid. I am pleasantly surprised with the level of comfort in this Kizashi. The driver and passenger’s seats are both comfortable and sporty at the same time. Meant for cruising in comfort, they are still tight enough to not feel mushy in case someone makes the decision to have some fun while driving. The interior looks good, with a decent layout and finish, and does not look cheap or plastic, actually eye-pleasing. The plush leather reminds more of a luxury car than Suzukis of years past.
Going into the Kizashi I was coming from a car with an LCD screen to work the sound system and navigation. The Kizashi, without the LCD, still has a beautiful layout, but it does take a couple of minutes to figure out what all the knobs and buttons do, since the interface is not as intuitive as a touch-screen. There is a USB connection and accessing/choosing songs from the iPod is also easy once I had figured the knobs out. Adjusting for the lack of a touch-screen, the knobs and dials do make sense and are pretty intuitive. Opening the back door reveals another surprise; there is plenty of space back here! Sans the econobox feel of past Suzukis, this back seat will keep many a derriere happy even for longer drives. The cup holders will safely hold your drinks as your chauffer (James, right?), wheels you around town. The fans located in the back are a feature appreciated by anyone who has entered the back seat of a very hot or cold car and had to wait for the fans in the front to muster up the power to blow the cool/warm air all the way back. These fans might not be super-exciting, but they do show the world that Suzuki is aiming high; fans like these are usually found in much more expensive cars, not so much in less pricey vehicles. The trunk also has plenty of room. Again, more than I was expecting. Where is Suzuki finding all this space without having to make a huge car? For that once-every-year occasion when you need to haul half a house worth of stuff you can fold down the back seats and gain enough room to impress even the station wagon owners. Plenty of tie-down allow for lots of stuff, so I guess it really is meant to haul.
Okay, so enough about the interior. How does this thing drive? Again, I was pleasantly surprised. A Suzuki is not supposed to be this much fun! The six-speed manual gives you the freedom to choose, but if you are lazy, fourth gear will do basically everything. Shifting is effortless, and smooth. The little engine does almost no screaming (only if you push it too far); instead it nicely propels you forward, effortlessly and with power left over. The Suzuki Kizashi definitely has enough power to go from a great transportation tool to a fun toy at the push of a pedal. The exterior reminds me of something Japanese, but with a hint of German (a big Jetta) combined with the largeness found in American cars (yet without the actual hugeness that often follows). The car looks smooth, and the lines flow nicely from front to back. Depending upon the light, it can look like a luxurious transporter or a racy sedan. I suppose I might go out on a limb and say it might even qualify to be called a “rad” ride. The one comment I have on the styling of the Sport SLS regards the blinkers that seem to be glued on as an afterthought onto the front spoiler’s flanks. It’s not seen on all Kizashis, but they were definitely visible on the car I drove.
The dual tail-pipes look great, and the top-rounded trunk adds a nice dynamic. From the side, the Kizashi feels potent and willing (to be driven, what were you thinking?), signaling a classy person’s lifestyle. At the same time it looks aggressive and massive, without taking up too much space. The long hood versus the short trunk increases this feel of speediness and superiority, further bringing Suzuki into tomorrow. The Kizashi feels sporty and fast, young and fresh, and at the same time solid and unwavering. Using the heritage and experience that is Suzuki, and combining it with what a new group of drivers expect from their cars, the Kizashi allows Suzuki to open the door to tomorrow’s young drivers today. Hopefully they can keep them even as this group progresses into more wealth and the cars that go with money. I suppose this is Suzuki’s push forward, something I would put my money on. And heck, a keyless, quick, good-looking Suzuki with back-up sensors and dual-zone AC is exactly what the world needs! Be sure to read LA CAR's article, Suzuki at the Crossroads For more information about Suzuki products, go to suzukiauto.com
SPECIFICATIONS: Name of vehicle: 2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport SLS Price: $24,699 (base) $25,919 (as tested with XM radio and premium floor mats. Including “destination and handling”) EPA fuel economy rating: 20 mpg (city)/29 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 2.4 liter, DOHC, 16-valve, digital fuel injection Horsepower: 185 @ 6,500 RPM (MT) Torque: 170 pound-feet @ 4,000 RPM Transmission type: 6-speed manual Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Steering (type): Electronic power-assisted rack & pinion Suspension (front and rear): MacPherson strut and coil springs front. Multi-link rear Brakes and tires: Front vented discs, rear solid discs 235 / 45 R18 All-Season Dunlops Dimensions Length: 183.1 inches Width: 71.7 inches Height: 58.3 inches Curb weight: 3241 pounds