This guy's fat, 50, stuffed into a sparkly Ed Hardy shirt and walking around our new long-term test car. "Kizashi" he mouths silently, reading the oversized, overstyled badge on the trunk, and keeps walking toward the driver side of our long-term 2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS. His eyes widen and a smile crosses his face. He pulls close the girl, wearing improbably high stilettos for a trip to the grocery store, and laughs, exclaiming, "Suzuki!"
We lock eyes with him and then thumb the remote, unlocking the car and flashing the lights. He does the same, flashing the lights on a silver Mercedes-Benz CLK. "Cute," we say. "Your girlfriend lets you hold the keys." We've gotten into fights over less.
It seems only right to defend the honor of the new Suzuki. After all, it's been a long road for the minor carmaker and this new 2010 Suzuki Kizashi deserves a clean slate and a fresh perspective. At least we think so; that's why we've added one to our fleet for the next 12 months.
Why We Got It
Previously, owners of a Suzuki-brand automobile could be classified into four specific groups: 1) RVers who needed something towable; 2) budget-minded off-roaders; 3) kids whose dads had won a Suzuki dealership in a card game thinking they were getting a motorcycle shop; and 4) crazy people (See: Suzuki X-90). A Suzuki was always a little quirky, which works for Subaru but made Suzuki justifiably fearful of sliding into obscurity like Isuzu. Suzuki realized it had to make a dramatic change.
First the SX4 came around. It wasn't exactly cutting-edge, but it was stylish and functional, and offered inexpensive navigation and all-wheel drive in a convenient package. The SX4 was, however, a continuation of what Suzuki might be best known for: platform-sharing. See, the SX4 was not based on an original Suzuki platform and instead was built in partnership with Fiat -- the SX4 was sold elsewhere as the Fiat Sedici. And the car the Kizashi is replacing, the Forenza? Yeah, that's a rebadged Daewoo.
Well, now that you know that, forget it. What we're dealing with here is genuine Suzuki through-and-through that can hold its own against the Acura TSX (the old, good, small one), Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Jetta.
What We Got
The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi comes equipped with a 2.4-liter inline-4 making 185 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. While a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters is available, small engines + CVTs have left a bad taste in our mouth (see: long-term Jeep Compass) and we ordered up the six-speed manual with front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive, the same system featured by our long-term 2009 Suzuki SX4, is available). This drivetrain combination finishes the EPA testing with a fuel-economy estimate of 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
The list of standard equipment is impressive: traction and stability control, eight airbags, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar support, and a tilt-telescoping leather steering wheel with audio controls. Our GTS model adds a power sunroof, Rockford Fosgate audio system with iPod/USB integration, Bluetooth hands-free telephone connectivity, foglights and 18-inch wheels with P235/45R18 all-season Dunlop SP 7000 tires.
And then there are some options. Premium floor mats cost $125. Platinum metallic paint runs $130 and body-side moldings are $125. All in all, our new 2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS stickers for $23,614.
The Road Ahead
Suzuki has come a long way with this vehicle. From rebadging Daewoos to what, on its face, seems like a strong competitor to the long-standing German and Japanese benchmarks, this is a mission-critical car for the company.
Fresh off a 12-month test of a 2009 Suzuki SX4, we're already nervous about Suzuki's shrinking dealer network and already afraid that this Suzuki will have the same limited cruising range as the SX4.
Maybe we should take a page from our own book, though, and stop judging this car based on past Suzukis. This is a different animal made to feed in the deep end. For the next 12 months we'll put 20,000 miles on our 2010 Suzuki Kizashi to see if the effort and dedication have paid off or if the company should have stuck to scavenging around the fringes of the automotive market.
Current Odometer: 890
Best Fuel Economy: 27.2 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 22.2 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 24.6 mpg
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.