Appearance: The elegant Kizashi, which looks more mainstream than a head-turner, resembles a Volkswagen Jetta. (Is it a coincidence that the two companies recently announced an alliance?) It has nice touches such as sculpted tailpipes that blend in with the body and 18-inch wheels.
Performance: A midsize sedan with a manual transmission? That's all but unheard of. It's a nice change, however, from the usual automatic. We both liked the light feel of the clutch and the six-speed shifter, although Peter thought the throws might be a bit long for some drivers. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder produces 185 horsepower, which delivers adequate acceleration but won't get you excited on top end (turbo, anyone?). But then, neither will this front-wheel driver — AWD is available — deliver much in the way of torque steer. We both liked the car's grip (it has traction control), especially in the rain. We both also liked the brakes, which had a smooth feel and good stopping power. Peter found the ride to be civil on an I-4 jaunt to Orlando, but the Kizashi is no heavyweight: Lyra found the 3,200-pound sedan susceptible to wind gusts on her Howard Frankland commute. She also found it jarring on a brick street with some chassis noise. We hope the VW partnership will bring a diesel version into the lineup in the future.
Interior: For a car at this price point, it's fairly loaded with features that seem in tune with what drivers want and need: electronic push-button start, a blend of hard/soft plastics on the dash accented with aluminum trim, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, parking assist, blasting Rockford Fosgate audio, heated seats, sun roof, dual climate control. For a smaller midsize sedan, it has ample trunk space. Peter fit four average-sized suitcases into it, but the huge rear Fosgate speaker that intrudes into the trunk space might prevent anything that's too large from fitting. Families, take note: There are eight cup holders, although Lyra found them too large for some drinks. She also found the seat's leather squeaky when she clutched. We both like the simple, black-and-white gauges and uncluttered console. Peter had plenty of headroom, and the rear, although not spacious, provided enough room for his two kids. Lyra didn't like the automatic wiper-speed control. She found it erratic and annoying.
The bottom line: Suzuki calls the Kizashi a sports sedan, and we think that overbills its performance. But we like that the company is aiming high while keeping it affordable — and it mostly succeeds.
Suzuki has come a long way since the "tin can" that Lyra's dad drove 10 years ago in Japan. The company, better known for its motorcycles, is mounting its first serious entry into the competitive midsize sedan class with the new Kizashi (kee-zah-she). But does it live up to the Japanese word's definition: Something great is coming?
Our 3 favorites
Easy shifting: Light clutching and shifting made it effortless and pleasant.
Manual option: Luxury with a manual transmission? Daring.
Price: Upscale, yet within reach.
Interior: Suzuki made it appealing on a budget with details such as door padding.
Surprise factor: Who expected this from Suzuki?
Details: I really liked the turbine-fan-looking aluminum wheels and body-integrated exhaust.