We owned a 2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS for a year. During this time we encountered countless strangers formulating equally innumerable variations of the same question, "What is it?"
"Kizashi makes me think more of breakfast cereal than a car."
"What's a Kizashi? Oh, Suzuki. Like the motorcycles?"
"Suzuki makes cars, too? I didn't know that."
There is a lot in a name. Kizashi highlights Suzuki's Japanese heritage. It also differentiates the Suzuki from its peers in a highly competitive midsize sedan segment. Kizashi is an asset.
It's the Suzuki brand that's a bit of a crutch. The Kizashi is the best car built by Suzuki since it started selling in the United States 25 years ago. But nobody knows it. A smattering of Suzuki dealerships across the country doesn't help the situation. After a year behind the wheel of a Kizashi, we think it deserves more.
Why We Got It
Suzuki has a history of platform sharing. Suzuki Cultus was synonymous with the now-departed Geo Metro. Fiat named its version of the Suzuki SX4, Sedici. Even the Suzuki Forenza, which the Kizashi essentially replaced, was a product of Daewoo coordination. There is a difference with the Kizashi, though. Suzuki built this car from the ground up.
Everything on the 3,300-pound 2010 Suzuki Kizashi was new. Under the hood was a 2.4-liter inline-4 producing 185 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Many amenities, optional on competitive cars, were standard on the GTS. This was a well-equipped vehicle that was fuel-conscious, too. We set our sights on a front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual.
There was one more reason we introduced Kizashi to the long-terms. Our long-term SX4 had given us a glimpse into the world of Suzuki ownership. We read about dealership closings around the nation. We even witnessed the closure of our local service center firsthand. How much more was to come? A Suzuki in our fleet offered the insight we couldn't find anywhere else. A call to Suzuki secured our loan of a Kizashi GTS for 12 months and our test began.
Almost everybody had something positive to say about how the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi drove. Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh also offered some constructive criticism. "I am pleasantly surprised by its handling. It's pretty sharp in terms of body control and steering precision. And the grip! Clingier than I expected. Plus, it's apparent the body shell is stiff. The taut damping is allowed to work effectively and the car feels quite solid. I give the chassis a B+.
"The powertrain could use some fine-tuning, though. Forget power for a minute and think power delivery. Irrespective of how much or little power an engine makes, we want a snappy response here, both when the throttle is initially cracked and when it's flicked shut. The Kizashi, though, has quite a lazy throttle take-up when you're feeding in the pedal for a normal launch, then hangs onto revs when you want to shift. I blame the drive-by-wire throttle calibration. It's trying too hard to smooth things out and the result is that it feels like Suzuki installed sloppy engine mounts and a giant flywheel. Not a huge deal, but the whole Kizashi package would be more cohesive if it were better."
Inside the cabin our Kizashi's dark cloth interior showed little wear and tear. Inside Line Editor Ed Hellwig also praised the radio layout. "Just a quick shout-out to the boys in Hamamatsu for the design of the Kizashi head unit. That's about as clean a setup as you're going to find these days. Nicely spaced buttons, knobs for volume tuning and readable labels all around. They kept it simple and it works."
Senior Technology Editor Doug Newcomb commented on its Bluetooth interface. "While it isn't the best, it is better than some cars costing twice as much. It was relatively easy to pair my iPhone 3GS. While chatting with a friend I was struck by how clear the connection sounded in the Kizashi. If you classify Bluetooth systems as good, better and best, then the Kizashi falls somewhere in the middle. But if you go by what you get for your money, and also consider that the car's in-cabin tech comes standard, the Kizashi is way better than most."
Dealership interaction was among the most influential elements of our test. Going into the test we knew the Suzuki network was dwindling. We had one dealership within 25 miles and two more if we expanded the search radius to 50 miles from our Santa Monica office. Our decision to use Quality Suzuki in Midway City for service offered unexpected perspective on the state of affairs within the Suzuki dealer network. Our first scheduled visit at 7,500 miles was quite positive, thanks largely to an attentive service advisor. It was the second visit at 15,000 miles, with a different advisor that left a sour taste on our palettes. We were prematurely up-sold a cabin air filter and throttle body service. This happens often, and across all brands. But this advisor was especially deceitful in his approach, marring our prior perception of this dealership. A missing lugnut discovered days later furthered our disdain. Then the encounter took an unforeseen turn.
We were contacted out of the blue by Quality Suzuki to discuss our service experience. Dealer Principal Todd McCallum requested a face-to-face meeting and drove the 40-plus miles to our office. Our conversation was cordial yet succinct. It culminated with a handshake and McCallum stating, "We made a mistake. We're sorry and we have since taken measures to ensure this doesn't happen again." IL said we wouldn't return to this dealership for service. But based on the efforts made in that conference room to rectify a failed consumer relationship, we would be willing to give it another try. McCallum's visit came too late, however. The test was already complete and the car had already been returned to Suzuki.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $294.12
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Glovebox door latch recall
Non-Warranty Repairs: $228.75 for one Dunlop SP Sport 7000
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1 for glovebox door latch recall
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
Every long-term car is tested at both the beginning and end of service. The 2010 Suzuki Kizashi was no exception, and we noticed some performance differences between tests.
Acceleration from zero to 60 mph slowed 0.2 second to 8.2 (with 1 foot of rollout), while the quarter-mile results were identical, 16.2 mph at 86.9 mph. Senior Editor Josh Jacquot noted after the test, "Good shifter but sluggish throttle calibration. Gearbox is easy to work and feels solid. Throttle feels like it's always half a step behind." From 60 to zero mph the Kizashi shortened its stop to 116 feet. Jacquot added, "Reasonably solid pedal feel and relatively consistent stopping distance." Around the skid pad the Kizashi generated 0.86g of lateral force, a value on par with its first test. Time proved favorable to the slalom speed, which improved to 65.9 mph.
Observed fuel economy aligned with EPA estimates of 20 city and 29 highway mpg. We averaged 24 mpg over the lifetime of our loan. Our best single tank of fuel was 31 mpg and carried us over 400 miles before we needed to refuel.
Best Fuel Economy: 31.1 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 15.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 23.9 mpg
We added a $23,614 2010 Suzuki Kizashi GTS to our long-term fleet just over one year ago. During the test we accumulated just over 20,000 miles. Doing so depreciated Kizashi 24 percent from its original True Market Value (TMV®), based on a private-party sale.
For reference, our long-term 2007 Toyota Camry and 2007 Nissan Altima depreciated 26 percent at the conclusion of their tests. Our 2008 Honda Accord depreciated 20 percent. That puts the Kizashi in good company.
True Market Value at service end: $18,055
Depreciation: $5,559 or 24% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 20,160
Brand recognition remains a challenge for Suzuki. We owned a Kizashi for a year. Each time we climbed behind the wheel it surprised us. There was promise. Quality was good, as was resale value. The Kizashi proved a legitimate contender against the Hondas and Toyotas of the world. But where can we buy one?
A lack of dealerships to sell and service Suzuki products poses an immediate problem. A convenient location may not be an option for many consumers. Chances are they'll just go someplace else. In our experience, albeit at one dealer, the service department showed us that it cares about customer satisfaction. That is a step in the right direction. Suzuki as a brand still needs help with U.S. market expansion, however.
What is it? Until Suzuki can answer this question the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi will remain the best-kept secret in the midsize sedan segment. Editor in Chief Scott Oldham observed, "People look at this car. People ask about it when you park. It has the 'it' factor the Jetta lost and no other small sedan has ever grabbed." Coincidentally or not, just days after the Kizashi went on sale Volkswagen bought a $2.5 billion stake in Suzuki. Maybe this is a sign of things to come.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.