Quick Drive: 2011 Suzuki Kizashi Sport

By Winding Road Staff

December 09, 2011

The last time we had a Suzuki Kizashi in the office, it was an all-wheel-drive, CVT-equipped version that participated in a four-way sedan shootout with the Honda Accord, Mazda6, and Hyundai Sonata (pro tip: it won). So if the heavier, CVT Kizashi beat out a pretty stellar group of mid-size sedans, a lighter, front-drive car with a six-speed manual should really knock my socks off, right?
Well, yeah, it did. The Kizashi is an affordable, economical, sedan for adults who are responsible maybe 90 percent of the time. For that 10 percent of the time that they let loose and have fun, the Kizashi is there to encourage it. Steering is well weighted and builds up effort progressively, while there is a nice amount of feedback from both the wheel and the suspension. This was a car whose steering encouraged me to push it hard through bends, and was quite talkative all the way through.
That suspension balanced comfort and dynamics quite well. It wasn’t rock solid, but body motions that did occur came on in a progressive, communicative manner, making driving quickly through the bends an easy, confidence-inspiring task.
My one complaint about the Kizashi was that it could use some extra power. It isn’t slow, but it also isn’t what I would call quick. Even with the slick six-speed stick, you won’t be moving along too briskly. Of course, there are aftermarket options.
—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager
If I were to look nowhere but out the windshield in front of me, and never took my hands of the steering wheel, and ignored the uninspiringly average engine note, I could easily believe that this was a much more expensive car from a premium brand. It’s the way it feels as it drives down the road, makes a corner, and comes to a stop that make it feel better than its price point. It is one solid vehicle, with great balance, and ride and handling characteristics that are at the same time comfortable, communicative, and capable. Very European, in a good way.
I am quite fond of the Kizashi’s form, as well. I love the way the front end looks, with that patterned grille and hood that slopes down at the front. I appreciate the short look of the trunk, and the relatively straight shoulder lines. Inside, the interior does what it can to feel premium without actually having a premium price point. The steering wheel has a great shape, and fits my hands really well.
Every time I spend time with the Kizashi, I like it a little bit more than before. It’s a mature car, but still affordable, and it offers plenty of fun for the average driver.
—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor
The Suzuki Kizashi is the best car Suzuki has ever sold. The Suzuki Kizashi is the best driver’s car in the mainstream (not premium) mid-size sedan segment. The Suzuki Kizashi is probably a better driver’s car than a handful of sports sedans in a much higher tax bracket. This is a goodly powered, versatile, attractive four-door, with subtle-yet-aggressive handling characteristics, and no bad driveline options (I thoroughly enjoy both the AWD/CVT car, and the FWD/6MT, for different reasons).
Is all of that clear enough? Can we get a little excitement for the Suzuki Kizashi? Please?
I get the fact that the charms of the car are subtle; you can’t just look at the spec sheet and get terrifically excited about 185 horsepower in a 3300-ish pound car. You do have to drive the thing to get it. Undoubtedly the Suzuki brass needs to man up and put some adventurous capital behind a brand-building high-performance version of the Kizashi. In a world where the Kia Optima Turbo exists, and where the Suzuki nameplate means next to nothing to the average American, the company needs to get serious about a halo-level Kizashi that will get enthusiasts talking, and move the curious to visit a showroom.
—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief
  • Our nicely equipped tester was under $23,000
  • Solid driving dynamics are competitive for this segment
  • In the running for the best looking mid-size car on sale today
  • A bit on the small side compared to the competition
  • Acceleration could be stronger
  • Brand perception of Suzuki is a negative at this point