Weidel on Wheels: Kizashi drives it way into the car-buying conscience

Suzuki offers sedan with good power, gas mileage and handling
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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Although its sales this year have drastically declined in the U.S., Suzuki is certainly not giving up. In fact, the Japanese auto manufacturer arguably has its best vehicle offerings than ever before, with solid cars like the Grand Vitara, XL7 sport utility vehicle and the compact SX4. But getting the word out and having Americans take them serious is an issue that Suzuki must overcome if it wants sales to move in a positive direction. Suzuki is certainly making a nice statement with the all-new 2010 Kizashi, a sedan that should be at least on the consideration list when folks go shopping. Although the name won’t roll off anyone’s tongue, its meaning should draw interest. Translated, Kizashi means “something great is coming.” Depending on your viewpoint, the Kizashi is either a small mid-size or a big compact. Either way, it’s a pretty appealing car and one Suzuki should be proud to display on its sales lots. The vehicle is targeted for car buyers who want a somewhat upscale sedan at a discount price, which in this case begins at $19,000. In test driving the Kizashi, car shoppers will discover this is a vehicle with surprising spunk for a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower. It reportedly goes 0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds. It also handles well, is great on gas (23 to 30 miles per gallon), features a nice interior layout and also has a European-type look that is appealing. All Kizashis are equipped with front-wheel drive, while the all-wheel drive option is one that’s rarely offered in this class. The Kizashi is smaller than mid-size vehicles like the Nissan Altima and Honda Accord, yet larger than the Ford Focus, Kia Forte and Toyota Corolla, which is why the Kizashi is considered a “tweener.” The front seat offers a roomy feel and the trunk is fairly spacious, but backseat passengers will feel a little scrunched in the leg department. On a trip to the Bay Area, the Kizashi was a pleasure to drive on the freeway, easily keeping pace with traffic and providing the needed passing power when called upon. Steering is responsive and the braking is also solid, providing an agile ride in city conditions. The lingering question is — will the Kizashi be ignored? Although Suzuki is the second-largest automaker in Japan, its U.S. numbers are lousy. Several years ago it sold more than 100,000 vehicles, but that figure might be cut in half once last year’s totals are assembled. And with a weird name like Kizashi, it might be difficult for this model to garner attention in a very crowded class that has some standard-bearers from Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, Hyundai and others. However, when given a chance, the Kizashi competes favorably with the Corolla, Honda Civic, Focus, and new Forte. __________ 2010 Suzuki Kizashi Price:$18,999 to $26,749 Power:2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower Mileage estimate: 23 mpg city; 30 mpg highway Standard features include: Anti-lock disc brakes; stability, traction control; brake assist; push-button ignition; keyless ignition; dual-zone automatic climate control; tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; nine-speaker stereo, CD player, USB port/iPod interface, satellite radio; daytime running lights; center console