News flash: Suzuki makes cars. They have for a while now. You may not have noticed them because they were about as exciting to look at as Kelly Osbourne, but that's all changed thanks to their all-new midsized sedan, the Kizashi. Yes, the name is a bit silly, but the car isn't. Compared to other stallwarts in the midsized game—Accord, Jetta, Camry—it's pretty exciting. Although built by a Japanese company, it looks straight up European; it drives like a Euro, too. But we know what you're thinking, "you really expect me to buy a Suzuki?" Yes. We would. Here's why...
PRICE: Base: $26,749, As Tested: $27,484
SPECS: 2.4 liter, 4 cylinder, 185 hp, 170 lb-ft of torque.
MPG: 22 city/29 highway.
RIDE: The Kizashi's 185 horsepower engine doesn't give it any amazing grunt when on the road, but it does well sprinting around the city and even on highways. It's a rev-happy engine that, with conditions permitting, allows you to bounce the needle of the redline. Do that, though, and you won't be getting very far. While quick (0-60 in 8.3 seconds), we wouldn't really file the Kizashi as "fast". Even when using the paddle shifters with the CVT automatic transmission. However, it'll seem fast when brought through some twisties, or splicing in and out of downtown traffic. The chassis is very well balanced. To go along with its Euro-centric interior and exterior design, it seems Suzuki has tuned the suspension to feel like a Euro sport compact sedan. It's much firmer than other sedans in this class, and there's a lot more grip through corners than you would expect from this car.
EXTERIOR: We can slightly see some of the SX4 sedan in the Kizashi's design, but Suzuki would never admit it. That's because as a whole, the Kizashi is the best designed (automotive) model to ever come from the Japanese brand. We wouldn't be surprised if they set up shop somewhere in Europe to design it. It looks chic and sporty, but purposeful. The 18 inch wheels fit perfectly with the wheel arches. From some angles it may look a bit bloated, and squat, but it's a little endearing. It doesn't look like its trying to be more upscale, or overly futuristic. It looks like it's trying to be fun. More designers could learn and thing or two from the Kizashi.
INTERIOR: The Kizashi doesn't sport the most comfortable of interiors, nor is it the easiest on the eyes: the huge LCD screen in the middle of the center console is a little bit of an eye sore, but the bright red colors that were in our model weren't the kindest colors to look at while doing a long stint of night driving. At least they wrapped it in nice materials. The steering wheel is in cocoon of leather way nicer than anything that's every been in a Suzuki. The rear seats are a bit tight, we recommend keeping it to no more than four people to a trip.
AUDIO: Our SLS came with a 425 w, 10 speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system that performed pretty well with any type of music we threw at it. Basses were deep and rich, highs were crisp. The only thing we didn't like was the USB connection. We couldn't get it to work with out iPod or iPhone. It could be a much. easier to use.
SUMMARY: The Kizashi is supposed to be a midsized sedan. That would mean it's smack dab in the middle of the most competitive automotive segment in the country. What Suzuki has going for it may be the same thing that holds it back: its image. The Kizashi is a new option, some fresh blood in the stale water. If you don't want to buy an Accord or a Jetta 'cause everyone you know has one, the Kizashi is more than a good option. The engine is adequate, it's attractive, it's well priced. However, it's still a Suzuki, a brand that most people don't even know build cars. If image is more your thing, this may not be the car for you. Otherwise, it's certainly worth the test drive.