First Drive

2012 Suzuki Kizashi

Kizashi's most outstanding attribute is its handling prowess but it also excels in value and content

2012 Suzuki Kizashi - Front

GRAND BEND, ON – When a vehicle’s most outstanding attribute is its handling prowess, what better place to show off that capability than on a race track.

So it was a no-brainer for London, ON dealer Randy Collins, with support from Suzuki Canada, to stage the Ultimate Driving Event at Grand Bend Motorplex, a quarter-mile drag strip and road course layout near this Lake Huron holiday retreat, to introduce the 2012 Suzuki Kizashi.

During the two-day event, a few hundred people, including a wave of area media, were able to get acquainted with one of the best-kept secrets in the mid-size sedan market, the Suzuki Kizashi.

The event format included runs on a tight slalom course and a braking and wet skid pad exercise, as well as lapping sessions on the complex’s 2.25-kilometre "technical" road circuit. The seat time was designed to demonstrate the Kizashi’s excellent road-handling capabilities and its fun-to-drive personality.

To say the participants were impressed is an understatement. "The most-often heard comment was "who knew Suzuki makes a car that performs like this?"

For 2012, the Kizashi is being offered in three trim levels: the base S ($27,995), the more luxurious SX ($30,495) and the top-of-the-line Sport ($32,995).

Just one powertrain

All three models share the same powertrain – a 2.4-litre, 16-valve four-cylinderengine, with multi-point fuel injection, that generates 180 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 170 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 revs.

That output is channelled through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to standard 18-inch alloy wheels (17-inch on the S model) and P235/45R18 Michelin Pilot tires (P215/55R17 Dunlop Sports on the S) via a second-generation intelligent all-wheel-drive system.

The manual transmission offered previously with the Sport model is no longer available, though it does now have AWD. However, the shift from the manual box to a CVT is disappointing as its absence dumbs down the sporty personality of the car.

For example, when launching the Kizashi hard, the CVT takes a moment to get things moving, and does so at a somewhat leisurely rate. Once rolling, however, one can simulate shifts up and down by using the console-mounted gearshift lever or the paddles on the steering wheel (standard on the SX and Sport) – a nice feature at this price point.

The electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion power steering system has a decent feel and proved to be precise with good feedback during the on-track sessions.

The chassis, however, is the real story with this car. Its MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear system have been tuned to deliver a compliant ride, yet minimize body roll in heavy cornering.

On both the slalom course and the road circuit the Kizashi felt well-planted and predictable. Drive it hard into a corner and it simply hunkered down and carried through the turn without a fuss.

On the race track, especially, it felt much more capable of being pushed to the limit than the quartet of competitive products on hand for the lapping exercise – a Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata. Bottom line: it was much more fun to drive than the competition.

Value and content

Of course, in this segment, which also has such stellar competitors as the Ford Fusion and Mazda6, buyers are looking for more than a fun driving experience – and the Kizashi doesn’t disappoint in value and content.

The Kizashi S is loaded with features such as power windows with auto up/down on both the driver and front passenger windows, power locks, Smartpass keyless entry and pushbutton start, automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise control and an audio system with eight speakers and steering-wheel mounted controls plus an auxiliary input jack. Bluetooth hands-free phone integration and fog lamps have been added to the standard equipment list for 2012.

The SX adds an impressive Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system with nine speakers and a subwoofer, rain-sensing windshield wipers and Ultrasonic rear park assist, while the Sport model features a sport-tuned suspension, unique alloy wheels and a rear spoiler.

Heated seats are standard across the line, as is a 10-way power driver’s seat with three-position memory and a four-way power passenger seat. The folding rear seatbacks split 60/40.

There are no compromises with the Kizashi’s safety features. It is equipped with a full suite of airbags, including front and rear seat-mounted side units as well as side curtain airbags.

Electronic stability control is standard, as well as a Synergetic vehicle dynamics control system that utilizes sensors to monitor the vehicle’s operation. When the system detects the car is starting to slide front or rear, it alters the engine torque to the appropriate wheels and optimizes the steering assistance to help stabilize the car.

Fuel consumption ratings for all three models are 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres in city driving, 6.8 on the highway.

With more exposure to consumers through events like the Ultimate Driving Experience, the Kizashi shouldn’t remain a secret for long.

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