2010 Suzuki Kizashi SE All-Wheel-Drive

Pity the parking valet who has come to work late, is handed a set of keys without a tag, and told, “Go get the Suzuki Kizashi.” He’d likely be wandering around for quite some time and would consequently not get a tip.

Pity the parking valet who has come to work late, is handed a set of keys without a tag, and told, “Go get the Suzuki Kizashi.”

He’d likely be wandering around for quite some time and would consequently not get a tip.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the seemingly unpronounceable name of the sedan. It has everything to do with what is probably thought by many people when they hear the word “Suzuki” in front of the name of a car model.

Because what they think is something that is rather, well, visually (1) uninspired or (2) odd. And things have changed. Seriously changed.

And there is no better evidence than the Kizashi.

 

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It looks like a compact car that might have been penned by a Chrysler designer that was heavily influenced by European designs. (Or maybe it could be said it looks like what might come from a Chrysler designer now that Fiat is in charge.)

Take away the angular “S” from the grille and you’d not be able to pick the car out. Really. Maybe it’s a Volkswagen. Maybe it’s something from one of the more well-known Japanese brands.

Which leads to a bit of an on-going mystery as to why Suzuki is comparatively invisible vis-à-vis the likes of Toyota etc. One part is, of course, the fact that they’ve got a small number of dealers in the U.S.—around 350—and a small number of annual sales—around 40,000 last year. Maybe it goes back to the points (1) and (2) above.

 

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Yet in the motorcycle space—yes, it is the same company—it is respected and in some regards renowned (think “Hayabusa”).

With the Kizashi it becomes a player.

Consider: Here is a car that seats five and features all-wheel-drive and it has an MSRP of just $22,749. And with that there is a 180-hp 2.4-liter DOHC engine, 1—way power driver’s seat, 17-in. wheels, and an array of other amenities (e.g., keyless entry/start; heated outside mirrors) that are ordinarily found in the “packages” that add to the cost of the vehicle such that what might have started out as a bargain ends up being a much larger car payment than had been anticipated.

 

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The quality and execution of the interior and the ride and handling of the car are at least on par with vehicles that have MSRPs well north of the Kizashi’s. It is very clear that the folks at Suzuki realized they had to elevate their game to truly get into play, and it is almost as though they have decided to overachieve with this vehicle.

If you check the company’s website, the SE is compared with the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima. Both of which seem to be very different cars, with the former being a big ol’ sedan and the latter in some ways generally more sporty in look and feel. So in my estimation it comes back to something more like a Passat.

Just as it would probably be difficult to budge someone from a German brand to an Asian, it will probably be similarly tough to make someone move from one of the Asian Big Three to Suzuki.

But do you know what? This time it is a credible alternative. Just make sure the valets tag your key when you drop it off.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I4

Horsepower: 180 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Steering: Electric power with rack-and-pinion

Length: 183.1 in.

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Height: 58.3 in.

Width: 71.7

Fuel economy: 22/29 mpg