Suzuki aimed at a specific market niche in designing the Kizashi in 2010. The car comes into the 2011 model year virtually unchanged save for the addition of the GTS and Sport SLS trims. Suzuki set out to compete with upscale mid-sized cars, in particular the Acura TSX and Audi A4, but at an affordable mid-sized car price. While smaller than the Toyota Camry or the Hyundai Sonata, reviewers unanimously agree that the relatively unknown Kizashi is a driver's car that confidently faces off with sport sedans costing thousands more.
Given that, the major competitors price-wise are the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, and Ford Fusion, mainly because they all have an optional V6. Additionally, each offers more interior room and may make for better family cars. The target competitors, the Audi and the Acura, do have higher engine performance, and are more refined in an overall sense, but point for point, the Kizashi keeps up. For astute shoppers who know about this car and test drive it, the choice will be decidedly difficult.
The 2011 Kizashi is offered in four trim levels: S, SE, Sport GTS, and Sport GLST. The "sport" trims are new for this model year and add such features as 18-inch wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and contrasting stitching on the leather seats. All trims have a six-speed manual transmission with options for a CVT with AWD. The car opens at an MSRP of $18,999 and climbs to $27,149 with gas mileage at 21 city and 31 highway.
The engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 185 hp with the standard six-speed manual and 180 hp with the optional CVT. This is the one point where reviewers do ding the Kizashi since the competitors have more powerful engine choices. No one disputes, however, that the Kizashi's handling is exceptional. The chassis is well-weighted and the suspension rests on massive springs. Overall, the feel of the ride is firm, much more what a driver would expect from a European sedan.
Stylistically, Suzuki has managed a balance between a calm mid-sized sedan and an aggressive sport model. The large, blacked out grille and trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips are nice, aggressive touches. Inside, the Kizashi looks more expensive than it really is, but the electronics fall a bit short of models like the Camry and the Fusion. In terms of comfort, the front scene is fine, but the back is several inches more narrow than other mid-sized sedans.
Standard features include dual-zone climate control and keyless entry. Go up in the trims and you pick up the leather, a nav system, and a Rockford Fosgate audio unit with Bluetooth. In terms of cargo space, the trunk has 13.3 cubic feet, which is one of the smallest in the class, but the rear seats do fold forward.
Although lesser known than the Camry or the Sonata, the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi is well placed in the affordable mid-sized car class for good reasons. US News ranked the Kizashi ninth out of 19 cars reviewed. Even if you've never heard of the Kizashi, take one out for a test drive and compare the handling to the competition. If what you're after is a superior driving experience, few cars do as well for this price.