Auto Review: Kizashi Sport: Affordable performance

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Wed., Nov. 23, 2011
- Contributed Photo

While it’s getting harder and harder for manufacturers to distinguish themselves from the pack, some are managing to do it. This is no small accomplishment, especially in segments that are designed to be economical to both purchase and own because you’re limited in what you can afford to do, production-wise.

Suzuki is one of the newest nameplates in the U.S. car market, after many years of motorcycle success, and they have worked hard to give the consumer something a bit different, while satisfying the high standards we’ve all come to expect in both performance and features. The Kizashi Sport is a perfect example of what the company has accomplished, for this sedan offers a sporty driving experience in an attractive package, while delivering good fuel economy and the added versatility of available all-wheel drive.

The Kizashi Sport has one engine available: a 2.4-liter Inline Four with 180 horsepower (185 with the manual transmission). There is a choice of both transmissions and drive systems, including a six-speed manual and constantly-variable automatic transmission, with either front- or all-wheel drive. Our GTS tester had the CVT transmission and all-wheel drive, with paddle shifters on the steering wheel, so when you’re in manual mode you sequentially shift through six speeds as you desire. In regular automatic mode, the transmission continuously alters ratios to suit conditions without pre-set gears, so in a way you get the best of both worlds.

The all-wheel drive system is likewise interesting (called i-AWD), and one of this drivetrain’s unique features in the sport sedan category is the ability to operate in 2WD exclusively to save fuel when AWD isn’t needed. When the driveway freezes up, switching on the i-AWD unleashes a sophisticated traction enhancement system that will safely keep you going and on course. It’s a very advanced drivetrain, especially for a car in this price range. The only thing lacking is midrange power, as the CVT really has to alter ratios dramatically when passing slower traffic on hills. Handling on the Sport GTS is enhanced by the (appropriately named) Sport Package, including a suspension that tames bumpy corners beautifully but can be a tad on the harsh side on rough roads. The brakes are well-suited to aggressive driving thanks to premium Akebono components, which is a good thing with any car with the name Sport in the title.

Like the Kizashi Sport’s excellent, aggressive exterior styling, the interior has a sporty, upscale feel with excellent materials and workmanship. Controls are arranged in a logical and intuitive way and the support of the driver’s perch is great for hard cornering, as well as long trips. The rear seat is very roomy for what is considered a compact, and the seatbacks fold forward in 60/40 increments to increase usable trunk space. Like the front perches, rear seat support is excellent and very accommodating for long trips.

The 2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS AWD is EPA-rated 22 MPG city/29 highway and has a base price of $25,749. With options, our sticker came to $26,404.

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