What's New for 2011
The 2011 Suzuki Kizashi's two upper trim levels, GTS and SLS, have been renamed Sport GTS and Sport SLS this year. The name change reflects the addition of cosmetic, aerodynamic and suspension enhancements.
The term "cult classic" refers to a movie that, while genuinely good, saw limited commercial success at the box office. In automotive terms, the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi is much like a cult classic. Among midsize sedans, it's one of the best you can buy today. But since the Kizashi's debut last year, sales haven't exactly achieved blockbuster status. And chances are, none of your friends have heard of the thing.
And that's really too bad, since few will have the chance to see for themselves how well the Kizashi stacks up against the competition. From the outside, it has a distinct European flavor, almost like the previous-generation Volkswagen Jetta. Inside, the Kizashi continues the premium theme (something Volkswagen actually abandoned with this year's Jetta), impressing drivers with excellent materials, pleasant interior design and solid construction.
On the road, the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi delivers a comfortable ride as well as just enough excitement to get the blood pumping. The 2.4-liter engine is adequate for most drivers, though sadly the rumors of a turbo or V6 model have yet to be realized. On the plus side, the suspension is firm enough to inspire confidence in the curves (especially with this year's new Sport models) without being overly harsh.
Despite Suzuki's limited dealer network, the Kizashi is certainly worth the extra effort to check out if you're considering a midsize sedan, even among such worthy opponents as the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. True, the backseat is a little short on legroom compared to those larger models. But next to livelier sedans like the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Jetta, the Kizashi has a lot to offer. The Suzuki is also one of the few in this class that offers all-wheel drive.
Just like a praiseworthy independent film, we consider the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi the must-see feel-good car of the year. Now if only we could get it in wide release.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Suzuki Kizashi is a midsize sedan available in S, SE, Sport GTS and Sport SLS trim levels.
The Kizashi S comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, keyless ignition/entry, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. When equipped with the CVT, the S gains cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a seven-speaker stereo with USB port/iPod interface. The SE includes all of the above, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and an eight-way power driver seat with memory settings and power lumbar adjustment.
The Sport GTS adds 18-inch wheels, sporty exterior treatments (front fascia, side sills and a rear spoiler), foglights, a sunroof, a sport-tuned suspension with a lower ride height, a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo and Bluetooth phone connectivity/audio streaming. Sport GTS models with AWD also receive steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles (optional on front-wheel drive models).
The top-shelf Kizashi Sport SLS adds automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, heated sideview mirrors, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Optional on the SLS is a navigation system with a rearview camera.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering all 2011 Suzuki Kizashi models is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the S, Sport GTS and Sport SLS with front-wheel drive, while a CVT is optional on those trims and standard on the SE and AWD models. Models with the six-speed manual transmission produce 185 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, while CVT-equipped variants are detuned slightly to produce 180 hp. Front-wheel drive is standard on all trims, with AWD optional.
In performance testing, a Kizashi SLS with the six-speed manual and front-wheel drive went from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds -- slightly above-average performance for a four-cylinder midsize sedan. With the CVT, that drops to a class-average 9.1 seconds.
Estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 25 mpg in combined driving on the S model with the manual transmission, while the CVT model is rated at 23/31/26 mpg. The other trims achieve 20/29/24 mpg with the six-speed manual, 23/30/26 mpg with front-wheel drive and CVT and 22/29/25 mpg with AWD and the CVT.
Standard safety features on all 2011 Suzuki Kizashis include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the Kizashi GTS with 18-inch wheels came to a stop in an excellent 114 feet.
The Kizashi has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) resulted in a perfect five stars for front and side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Kizashi its top score of "Good" for frontal-offset and side-impact protection and its second-best score of "Acceptable" in roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Suzuki Kizashi's interior is notable for its use of upscale materials and pleasing design. Not only is it uncharacteristically sophisticated for a Suzuki, but for midsize sedans in general. Passenger comfort is bolstered by ample headroom and well-shaped seats, although those riding in the backseat may find it lacking in legroom compared to most other midsize sedans.
Our complaints are few, with some noting that the oversized font on the radio display can only show a few characters at a time. Also, the trunk is on the small side, accommodating only 13.3 cubic feet of cargo.
For drivers looking for a little more excitement out of a family sedan, the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi should prove satisfying. With plenty of grip and adequately weighted steering, the Kizashi can easily take on curvy roads. The suspension tuning is a little firm, but it's not significant enough to sour the overall experience. We expect the Sport models, with a 10mm lower ride height, will be slightly stiffer still. On the highway, the Kizashi is quiet and gives drivers a long fuel range between fill-ups.
Output from the four-cylinder is adequate. The six-speed manual transmission's shifter can seem slightly vague for first-time drivers, but it becomes more intuitive with use. Unlike some other CVTs, the Kizashi's does an admirable job of keeping power on tap without much hesitation or the typical engine drone. The paddle shifters are an added plus for more sporting drivers who demand more control.