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    2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS AWD



    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    August 30, 2012

    If there was an automaker who closely followed Mitsubishi’s story in the U.S. to a degree, that automaker would be Suzuki. Suzuki, much like Mitsubishi was a rising star in the 1990’s and early 2000’s with vehicles like the Swift, Sidekick, Grand Vitara, XL7, and SX4. However in the late 2000’s, Suzuki began a fast decline into obscurity. Magazine and television ads began to disappear slowly, dealers either closed up shop or turned to something else, and people began to think that Suzuki was gone.

    Well, Suzuki is still around and building vehicles for the U.S. The brand’s newest vehicle, the Kizashi, is its second-take on a midsize sedan. Suzuki’s first attempt was the 2004 Verona. A rebadged Daewoo Magnus, the Verona was very forgettable and was pulled off the market. Since going on sale in 2010, the Kizashi has received favorable reviews in the automotive press as it is often lauded as one of the best sedans currently on sale. The buying public on the other hand doesn’t even know it exists.

    Does the Kizashi deserve more attention or should it stay in obscurity just like its brand?

    Next: The Outside Look


    Exterior

    Designers for the Kizashi went for a muscular, bold look. That’s evident when you look at the Kizashi ‘s front end where there is a sculpted hood, two-tiered front grille arrangement, a set of projector headlights, and flared front fenders. The side has a set of body skirts along the doors and a set of eighteen-inch sport wheels, which are standard equipment on the Sport GTS model, which we evaluated. Around the back, Suzuki’s designers did their own interpretation of the “Bangle-Butt” and it has actually worked. Other design cues for the back include an integrated spoiler with stoplight on the trunk lid and a set of chrome surrounds hiding the exhausts.

    gallery_10485_463_233688.png

    Suzuki mostly pulls off the look on the Kizashi except for one item: ahead of the front wheels, Suzuki slapped on some bright orange reflectors for the turn signals. This addition doesn’t make sense for a vehicle design in the 21st century.

    Next: Come On In


    Interior

    The Kizashi’s interior is really impressive for a Suzuki. That might sound like an underhanded compliment, but anyone who has sat in past Suzuki vehicles knows, the interiors left a lot to desire. Materials used throughout are a combination of soft- and hard-touch plastics, and metal trim. Build quality is very good with no apparent gaps or separation of materials on the 14,000 mile example we had for review.

    gallery_10485_463_307673.png

    The Sport GTS model comes with set a of bolstered, cloth bucket seats for the front passengers. The driver gets a power seat with ten-way adjustment, lumbar, and memory function. Finding a comfortable position in the seat does take some time, but you can find one. Back seat passengers will find a cloth-covered bench seat and a surprising amount of head and legroom.

    The Kizashi Sport GTS comes well equipped for the pricetag. Standard equipment includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, dual-zone climate controls, Rockford Fosgate sound system, USB input for your MP3 player, sunroof, and 60/40 folding rear seats. The only options on our Kizashi were a trunk mat, floor mats, first aid kit, and a Bluetooth system.

    Next: Under the Hood


    Powertrain

    All Kizashi models come with one engine choice; a 2.4L inline-four producing either 185 HP (@ 6500 RPM) if you go for the six-speed manual or 180 HP (@ 6000 RPM) if you pick the CVT. Torque is 170 lb-ft (@ 4000 RPM), no matter the transmission choice. You also have the choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive. If you do go for all-wheel drive like ours, you only transmission choice is the CVT.

    gallery_10485_463_184696.png

    Leaving from a stop, the 2.4L is initially sluggish before it starts to build some speed at a quick rate, as the engine revs up. If you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway, the 2.4 is able to perform without a sweat. The CVT makes sure to keep you in the power as best as it can and is very smooth. Also, Suzuki fitted steering wheel paddles to the Sport GTS to mimic a six-speed transmission. The paddles do work very well, giving you the feeling of total control when taking the Kizashi for an enthusiastic drive.

    The Kizashi’s AWD system is unique as you can turn the system on and off via a button next to the steering wheel. The only way you know when you have engaged the system is an AWD light turns on in the instrument cluster. The system will seamlessly kick on if the Kizashi has a loss of traction or if you decide to be aggressive.

    The sacrifice you make for the sure footedness of all-wheel drive is less than ideal fuel economy rating. The EPA rates the Kizashi Sport GTS AWD EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. This comes from the extra 292 lbs the AWD system adds to the Kizashi’s weight. Average for the week was 24.5 MPG. On the highway, the Kizashi did much better, recording an average of 32.3 MPG.

    Next: The Drive


    Ride & Drive

    The Kizashi’s suspension is made up of MacPherson struts up front and a five-point multilink setup in the rear. Steering comes in the form of an electric power steering system with a rack and pinion setup. The steering feels like something you would find in a sports car. Each turn of the Kizashi’s steering wheel is directly sent to front tires. In turn, the system provides a surprising amount of road feel for the driver. This combination makes the Kizashi a joy to drive on curvy roads.

    gallery_10485_463_712890.png

    During normal driving, the Kizashi does a good job of proving a mostly comfortable and stable ride for passengers. Driving on rough surfaces, the Kizashi’s suspension does a decent job of minimizing the impacts. Noise from engine is mostly well-muted. The same cannot be said for road and wind noise as both are somewhat existent, but not to the point where you carry some ear plugs.

    Next: The Verdict


    Verdict

    I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel at the time of the Kizashi’s departure, after the week-long evaluation. When that time came, I felt surprised and amazed at Suzuki’s second mid-size effort. The muscular and sporty exterior hides one of the best suspension and all-wheel-drive setups in the class. Plus, the Kizashi has one of the better CVTs in the industry and comes with a nicely-equipped interior.

    However, the Kizashi isn’t the most fuel-efficient vehicle, despite being one of the smallest and lightest in its class. Plus, the 2.4L is very sluggish on initial acceleration.

    Those problems pale in comparison to the biggest drawback the Kizashi has, Suzuki itself. As I eluded in the introduction, Suzuki in the U.S. isn’t doing so hot. In a report back in April, we wondered whether the brand was preparing to the North American market leave because of certain developments. Some of those included cutting auto show appearances, saying goodbye to the top U.S. product planning and marketing executive, and suspending social media outreach. Since that report, the news for Suzuki hasn’t got any better. For 2012, sales are still down and the company is focusing on controlling its expenses. Add to the lack advertising and the silence any new products coming to U.S., and it’s easy to see why everyone is wondering what the future holds for Suzuki in the U.S.

    That leaves me in a tough spot with the Kizashi since I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone. However, the uncertainty of Suzuki in the States gives me some hesitation on recommending it. If you’re shopping for a new midsize sedan, you do at least need to give the Kizashi a chance. Vehicles like the Kizashi only appear once in a while and might be not be long before this disappears.

    gallery_10485_463_912243.png

    Cheers:

    Exterior Styling

    Interior Equipment

    Interior Space

    CVT

    AWD System

    Handling during sporty and normal driving

    Jeers:

    Reflectors on front fenders

    Fuel economy of the AWD Model

    Suzuki going dark on everything

    Year - 2012

    Make – Suzuki

    Model – Kizashi

    Trim – Sport GTS

    Engine – 2.4L Inline-Four

    Driveline – All Wheel Drive, CVT

    Horsepower @ RPM - 180 @ 6000

    Torque @ RPM – 170 @ 4000

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined – 22/29/25

    Curb Weight – 3533 lbs

    Location of Manufacture – Sagara, Japan

    Base Price - $25,899.00

    As Tested Price - $26,404.00* (Doesn’t include Destination Charge)

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    My 2010 SLS was a real nice car. I got rid of it.

    Fuel mileage from the 2.4L was miserable vs the fuel mileage of any of the ION 3 2.4L's.

    Next while the car went down the road pretty good when it came to the time of needing to pass on two lane blacktop it just didn't have the power to make moves I could make in the ION's.

    If this car had 205 hp without a turbo it would be a nice driver, 220hp would make it real nice.

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    Suzuki needs to merge with mitsu and mazda, this is one company that also has a sparse portfolio and while the few products are pretty good up to a point, they could use working with a larger group to lower costs and improve/expand product offerings.

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    why would suzuki need to merge when they sell over 2.5 million vehicles a year.

    Footnote, Suzuki USA made money and was in the black in the US last year. The low volume production is likely the mode until the next wave of new products comes out in a year or two, the number of dealerships has stabilized and while obviously the advertising and such is not to the level of the big boys, the business plan for the next year or two is just to run lean, be in the black and once the new products come out the and VW situation is resolved, grow volume again.

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    Footnote, Suzuki USA made money and was in the black in the US last year. The low volume production is likely the mode until the next wave of new products comes out in a year or two, the number of dealerships has stabilized and while obviously the advertising and such is not to the level of the big boys, the business plan for the next year or two is just to run lean, be in the black and once the new products come out the and VW situation is resolved, grow volume again.

    Yes, Suzuki was in the black.. But they didn't really make any money. What they did was cut everything to the bone; marketing, people, vehicles, etc.

    As for product, there was a report from Automotive News saying new product could be here in 2015.. or an eternity in the automotive world.

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    2014 is more accurate. 2, likely 3 new models. yup an eternity, just like GM used to take with their products.

    Remember the global market, the US is not a primary country for everyone.

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    why would suzuki need to merge when they sell over 2.5 million vehicles a year. Footnote, Suzuki USA made money and was in the black in the US last year. The low volume production is likely the mode until the next wave of new products comes out in a year or two, the number of dealerships has stabilized and while obviously the advertising and such is not to the level of the big boys, the business plan for the next year or two is just to run lean, be in the black and once the new products come out the and VW situation is resolved, grow volume again.

    Since reaching black was due to cost cutting and gutting of the network, products and marketing, I do not see this as sustainable.

    I do not see the Suzuki product line as surviving on it's own without a long term tie up with a much bigger auto company or merging with a couple smaller companies to save costs and build a broader portfolio.

    We live in global times and this is a small pea size company that I do not see surviving as is.

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    I should rephrase my comment above.. There is a refreshed Grand Vitara and a new SX4 coming this year. After that, nothing.

    My big problem with Suzuki is there is nothing coming out. I don't mean vehicle wise.. I mean they're being silent.

    Look at Mitsubishi. They're in the same boat as Suzuki.. The difference is they're talking. They have some ads, they Facebook and tweet. They're noticeable and actually have presence. Not Suzuki.

    That's my worry.

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    Suzuki seriously needs to think of itself as the largest marketer of specialty vehicles rather than the smallest mainstream car maker. Build on the motorcycle heritage, and then get unique dealer look and feel, something along the lines of Fiat or Smart-

    The Swift is a neat little car, but I don't even think its sold here in the states.

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    ...and yen rate is going to kill a lot of Aian cars from coming here. And not to get political, but either party is pretty much going to continue printing money like a drunken sailor if elected, so the yen thing will stay the same.

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    I've had this car for about 1 1/2 years and love it. I am luckily and have several dealers near me. It's a great car period. I love the fact that there are not 500,000 on the roads here. I don't car how good a car is, if they are selling into the hundreds of thousands each year I'm not interested period. I want a great car that stands out in a crowd and is unique.

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    Guest Richard Pealer

    Posted

    Great review, and I couldn't agree more. I just bought this exact same configured, and color car about 1500 miles ago. Traded up from a Suzuki SX4. I really love driving this car, and can't wait for a little snow (well, I can wait to be sure, but you know what I mean). I don't honestly see the performance issue off the line, except if you're racing to the next light. Merging and passing are not a problem, and the steering, and brakes are very nice, not to mention the Rockford Fosgate audio system. Did I mention how much I like this car? Seriously, if you're in the market, you at least need to drive one before you pull the trigger. One last post, I'm averaging 26-27 MPGs on every tank.

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    It does not seem like that long ago when Suzuki kept saying things like "We will be launching 10 new cars in the next 5 years". But those never really surfaced. I remember many were due to the GM alliance, rebadging a bunch of Daewoos. I do not think that was the swiftest move since their products did not do well with their own badge here in the US. Maybe they will rebound as we look at smaller and smaller cars.

    As a side, I have test-driven the Kizashi a couple years ago and I do remember it being pretty nice.

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    13 model year, the AWD GTS and SLS model lose the rockford forgate audio.......because the new radio / nav was not engineered to work together. Was at CHI last week to see and play with the new unit. It's a nice unit. Much easier than a myfordtouch, maybe not as wow inducing. Looks cheap due to an aftermarket look but that was simple to do.

    the only version of the 13 with rockford fosgate is the front wheel drive GTS-L, which has the standard radio.

    no powertrain, styling, or interior changes for 2013. There is no longer an S model automatic. All are SE models now. SE AWD gains bluetooth. 17" alum wheels standard on any other model that does not have the 18".

    base manual gets a standard radio.

    No rockford Fosgate on the most expensive model means if I ever get one I will prob have to look at used. Prior rockford fosgate plsu pre-13 navs had issues working with the subwoofer and other electrical issues.

    Edited by regfootball
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    Sorry to hear about the Rockford Fosgate changes. That had a huge push on my decision to go with the GTS AWD, after test driving the SE. PS; My original post was under the "guest" name R. Pealer, on the Sept. 22

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    Sorry to hear about the Rockford Fosgate changes. That had a huge push on my decision to go with the GTS AWD, after test driving the SE. PS; My original post was under the "guest" name R. Pealer, on the Sept. 22

    How do you like the car? I still haven't been able to drive one.

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    I love driving it. I think the interior is very refined, much better than most other cars in it's price range. I have about 1600 miles on her, and I really have no issues what-so-ever. I've owned, and driven nothing but manuals for the last 30yrs, and I actually like this CVT. The paddles work quick, and smooth. I really haven't used the slap stick so much. The electronic steering has great feedback, and the braking is super. I don't know what else say. It's just a great overall package, and I actually look forward to my morning commute to work, and often take the long route home just for kicks. One last note, the Fosgate stereo has incredible sound, and my iPhone linked up without a problem. In fact, I set everything up using voice control. It also has a USB port (I use a 16gb flash drive in it), or you can plug any other medium into it. Good luck with your search. I think it will be well worth your time.

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      Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required), Reuters, Roadshow
    • By William Maley
      Is the Honda Ridgeline a truck or not? Depends on to whom you ask this question. A truck person would say no since the Ridgeline isn’t a body-on-frame vehicle. Instead, it uses a unibody platform from the Honda Pilot. A consumer would say yes because it looks like a truck and has all the attributes you would find on one such as a bed. I spent some time in a Ridgeline over the holidays to see if I could figure out the answer.
      The previous Ridgeline looked like an auto show concept squared-off shape and missing the design cues you would expect on a truck such as a gap between the cab and bed. This put a lot of people off from looking at the Ridgeline. The new model looks more in line with the current crop of midsize trucks as Honda adopted the standard cab and bed design. This includes the gap between the bed and cab, although this is more of a design touch. Stick your hand in the gap and you’ll realize that both parts are connected (thanks unibody construction).
      The front end is where you’ll make your decision as to whether you like the Ridgeline or not. There is an imposing grille with a long chrome bar on top. A set of large headlights sits on either side of the grille. Other design items to take note of are the sculpted hood and front bumper. Personally, I found the front end to a bit over the top. Honda was trying to make the Ridgeline look tough and imposing, but the end result is a look that is trying too hard. 
      At least Honda got the Ridgeline’s bed right. Compared to the last model, Honda added four inches to the overall length of the bed (64 vs. 60 inches). This gives the Ridgeline the longest standard bed in the class. Unlike competitors, you cannot option a longer bed for the Ridgeline. Honda has also fitted some clever ideas for the Ridgeline’s bed. First is the in-bed trunk that offers 7.3 cubic feet of space where you can stow tools or luggage, giving the Ridgeline a significant edge in practicality than its competitors. Second is the dual-action tailgate which allows the tailgate to be opened downward or to the side.
      The recent crop of trucks have been stepping up their game when it comes to interiors and the Ridgeline is no different. The interior is borrowed from the Pilot crossover and brings forth an easy-to-understand control layout and high-quality materials. One item that wasn’t carried over from the Pilot was the push-button transmission selector. Instead, the Ridgeline sticks with a good-ole lever. Thank you, Honda.
      The Ridgeline proved to be a very comfortable pickup truck thanks to supportive leather seats, and power-adjustments for the driver. I took this truck to Northern Michigan and back during the holidays, and I never felt tired or had any soreness afterward. The back seat provides more than enough head and legroom for passengers. The bottom cushion of the back seat can also be folded up to provide a decent amount space for carrying larger items.
      Honda’s infotainment system in the Ridgeline has to be one of the most frustrating systems we have ever come across. The eight-inch system gets off on the wrong foot by using touch-sensitive controls for the volume and other functions that don’t always respond whenever pressed. At least you can use the steering wheel controls for a number of these functions. HondaLink needs a serious revamp in terms of its interface as trying to do simple things is very convoluted. For example, if I want to pick a podcast episode from my iPod, I have to jump through a number of menus to just to get to the listing of the specific show I want to listen to. You can avoid using HondaLink by plugging in your iPhone or Android phone and using CarPlay or Android Auto. 
      All Honda Ridgeline’s come with a 3.5L V6 producing 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up with a six-speed automatic. The base RT to the RTL-T has the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The RTL-E and Black Edition only come with all-wheel drive. No other V6 truck in the class can match the performance of the Ridgeline’s V6. Acceleration is strong whether you’re leaving a stoplight or making a pass. The run to 60 mph is said to take around 7 seconds, making this one quick midsize truck. The six-speed automatic delivers fast and smooth shifts.
      All-wheel drive Ridgelines like our tester come with Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management system. This system quickly redistributes the amount of torque going to each wheel to improve handling and traction. AWD models also get the Intelligent Traction Management system which adjusts the settings of the powertrain to help you get through whatever terrain you find yourself in. We put these systems to the test by driving through an unplowed road with deep snow. The Ridgeline was able to make it through without breaking a sweat. That doesn’t make the Ridgeline a truck you want to take on an off-road trail as it only offers 7.9-inches of ground clearance and no low-range.
      The Ridgeline’s payload is towards the top the of class when compared with other midsize crew cab trucks. Front-wheel drive models can haul between 1,447 to 1,565 pounds in the bed. All-wheel drive models have a payload capacity of 1,499 to 1,584 pounds. For towing, the Ridgeline falls a bit short. Front-wheel drive models have a max tow rating of 3,500 lbs, while AWD models are slightly higher at 5,000 lbs. For most people, the Ridgeline will be enough to handle various towing needs. If you need a bit more, then the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are ready to help.
      The EPA rates the Ridgeline AWD at 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. My average for the week landed at 23.6 mpg in a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving.
      Previously, we’ve considered GM’s midsize trucks as having the best ride in the class. The Honda Ridgeline now holds that honor. The unibody platform and four-wheel independent suspension setup give the Ridgeline a ride that is almost equal to a passenger sedan. Bumps and other imperfections are smoothed out. The Ridgeline is a decent handling truck as well. There isn’t much body roll and it feels stable when going into a corner. We do wish Honda would make the steering slightly heavier for the Ridgeline.
      The Honda Ridgeline may not meet the true definition of a pickup truck, but it is one in spirit. Yes, the unibody architecture does limit the capabilities of the Ridgeline as it cannot haul or tow heavy items. Nor can it go deep into the wilderness due to decisions made by Honda on the Ridgeline’s off-road capability. But it is in other areas that the Ridgeline begins to stand out such as the clever ideas in the bed, comfortable interior, and a ride that is more in tune with a regular car. They might not be the advantages you would expect in a truck, but they are something that Honda believes will bring in those interested in a pickup minus a lot of the issues that other models have. 
      To put it another way, the Honda Ridgeline is like Festivus from Seinfeld; they’re both for the rest of us.
      Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Ridgeline, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Honda
      Model: Ridgeline
      Trim: RTL-E
      Engine: 3.5L SOHC 24-valve i-VTEC V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
      Curb Weight: 4,515 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lincoln, Alabama
      Base Price: $41,370
      As Tested Price: $42,270 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: N/A

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