Suzuki's introduction of an all-new midsize sedan may come as a surprise, but even more surprising is how much Suzuki is waving the performance flag around the 2010 Kizashi. Suzuki included a modified Road Race version of it at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show, even the high trim versions come standard with a six-speed manual, and the body design screams aggression.
Few midsize sedans appeal to driving enthusiasts, as the market is dominated by the Toyota Camry, setting the pace for the segment with comfortable, economical cars built as everyday commuters. As such, these cars show their best virtues in getting superior fuel economy and providing the kind of cabin tech that lets drivers avoid serious traffic jams while making hands-free phone calls to spouses to see if a grocery stop is necessary on the way home.
The 2010 Kizashi meets some of these requirements with the SLS trim level, comfortable and power-adjustable leather seats, a standard Bluetooth phone system, and a 2.4-liter engine that easily got mileage in the mid-20s during our testing.
An aggressive edge
But the Kizashi asserts a more rambunctious character. One clue is the six-speed manual in a market dominated by automatics. You can bring it back in line with the majority by opting for a continuously variable transmission.
Another clue is the 425-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, standard in the two top trim levels. This audio system makes big sound, with enough bass pumped out of a subwoofer on the rear deck to make the whole car shake and rumble.
Suzuki also gives the Kizashi a tech edge by making a smart key and USB port, which also offers iPod integration, standard at all trim levels. In the SLS trim, it also gets Bluetooth streaming to the audio system. There is an optional navigation system, as well, but it wasn't included in our test car so we can't comment on its features.
We took the Kizashi's sport notes as a challenge to test it on the kind of roads we normally reserve for dedicated sports cars, winding mountain tracks with hard corners that test grip and handling. Right out of the garage we put the engine to the test with a few jackrabbit starts.
As noted above, the Kizashi comes with a 2.4-liter four cylinder, a run-of-the-mill mill with an output of 185 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. These are not impressive numbers, but Suzuki publishes a zero to 60 mph time for the car of 7.4 seconds. That is not crazy fast, either, but just the fact that Suzuki publishes the number shows that the company expects driving enthusiasts to be interested in the car.
We got the Kizashi's revs up and dropped the clutch, producing front-wheel spin and traction control warnings flickering on the instrument cluster before the car moved smartly forward. The fast start wasn't bad, but we could have gotten the same performance out of the Mazda6 we tested earlier. The six-speed manual adds a bit of fun to the car, and encourages this type of behavior.