2011 Suzuki Kizashi. Click image to enlarge
The all-wheel drive system is the familiar torque-only-when-required variety, but with a twist. Turn it off, and the car is strictly front-wheel drive. Turn it on, and the system runs in front-wheel under normal conditions, but transfers torque to the rear during acceleration, or when it detects slippery surfaces. That’s a switch from most “slip-and-grip” all-wheel systems in this category, which are always ready to send power to the rear, but which lock up the axles at low speeds when the button is pushed. Suzuki doesn’t break down the fuel figures for running the vehicle in front versus all-wheel (although it’s the system’s extra weight that usually eats up any extra fuel); overall, the Kizashi is rated at 9.3 L/100 km (30 mpg Imp) in the city, and 6.8 (42) on the highway. I didn’t do that well in combined driving, finishing up my week at 10.6 L/100 km (27 mpg Imp). The fuel recommendation is for regular 87-octane.
The single trim line includes a lot of stuff: 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, keyless start with proximity locks, premium Rockford-Fosgate stereo with USB jack, Bluetooth, sunroof, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated leather seats, ten-way power driver’s seat with memory (although the passenger only gets four directions on the power button), eight airbags, fog lights, heated mirrors, block heater, and rear parking sensors. The rain-sensing wipers, not a popular item in my books (drizzle always confuses them, and nothing this important for safe driving should work properly “most of the time”) can be switched to the regular variable-intermittent version by the dealer. That’s everything for factory-installed items, and options such as navigation screens are unavailable; the only other add-ons are accessories such as roof racks or a trunk protector.
The sport-style seats are very nice, with sufficient bolsters for tackling curvy roads, and even the rear chairs have some extra stuffing along their edges for comfort. The interior design is well-done, with tactile surfaces and good layout; the only glitches are a too-shiny stereo panel with dated dot-matrix display, and a long plastic rod sticking out of the instrument cluster that looks and feels chintzy. I thought it was for resetting the trip computer, but it’s for dimming the instrument lights. Everything is backlit with red lighting, and I like the steering wheel-mounted controls, which use a combination of buttons and smooth-operating toggle switches for volume, stereo mode and cruise control.
Styling isn’t a standout – it could use more than just the stylized S on the grille to differentiate it from other brands – but it’s handsome, and I like the chrome-trimmed exhaust tips that tuck up into the rear fascia. The tall trunk makes it tougher to see out the back, and the rear parking sensors are a welcome addition when reversing into parking spots. The 18-inch shoes fill up the wheel openings very nicely, too.
Suzuki wasn’t afraid to put its Japanese heritage front and centre, and the unusual name is a translation for “something great is coming.” Right now, as long as that CVT is part of the picture, we’ll have to settle for something good. The handling is there, along with the chassis stiffness, the suspension tuning and the interior comfort. Please, Suzuki, now give us the transmission that will make this Kizashi sing.
Pricing: 2011 Suzuki Kizashi
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Crash test results