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William Maley

2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS AWD

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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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Swift not here due to yen rate. Pretty much all the other 2.5 million plus vehicles are Swift size or much smaller.

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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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Guest RC

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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Oddly enough, my wife didn't want to test drive as she didn't like the styling....

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Guest Richard Pealer

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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    • By William Maley
      "I love it when a plan comes together." Hannibal from the A-Team.
      I wasn't expecting to get back into a review vehicle for some time as the Detroit Auto Show tends to reduce the number of vehicles available - they're reserved for those coming out-of-state and OEM representatives. I thought next month is when I would begin my rotation once again. But a surprise email this morning from General Motors asking if I was able to take a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado today. Of course!
      This particular Silverado is an LT Trail Boss Crew Cab with the 5.3L V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission. Base is $48,300 and my as-tested price comes to $55,965 with a few option packages like the Convenience package (front bucket seats, dual-zone climate control, and heated steering wheel).
      First Impressions?
      Even though it may appear the truck is black, it is actually painted a dark blue (blame my iPhone). Even though I'm not sold on the design on the Silverado as a whole, the Trail Boss make it look aggressive. Interior looks a rehash of the one seen in the previous Silverado. Material quality is better, but I was kind of hoping more in terms of design. 5.3L V8 doesn't feel muzzled when leaving a stop or needing to accelerate quickly - THANK YOU GM! Haven't quite figured out how to open the power tailgate. Spent a few moments just pressing the button and not having the tailgate come down. Need to some reading in the owners manual. I'll be trying my best to update this piece with other observations and impressions throughout the week. You can also drop some questions below if you want to something about the truck.
      Gallery: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab

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    • By William Maley
      It has been a year since I first drove the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and came away very impressed. For a seven-passenger vehicle, getting 33 miles on electric power only and an average fuel economy of over 30 mpg was quite the shock. Would I still feel that way a year on?
      Chrysler made some minor changes for 2018 Pacifica Hybrid, including revamping the trim lineup and adding more standard features. In the case of our Limited tester, it gains a 20-speaker Harman Kardon sound system as standard. Can I just say how good the Pacifica Hybrid looks in this rich blue. The color helps Pacifica’s shape pop out wherever it is parked. No changes concerning the interior of the Pacifica Hybrid. That’s a good thing as the model is towards the top of the minivan hierarchy with a handsome design, impressive materials, and comfortable seating in all of the rows. One downside to going with the Pacifica Hybrid is the loss of the Stow n’ Go seats for the second-row. That space is taken up by the massive battery pack. An 8.4-inch touchscreen with UConnect is standard on all Pacifica Hybrids. This version of UConnect has a special section that provides key information on the hybrid system, including a power output screen and a place to set up the timeframe for when you want the van to charge up. The hybrid powertrain is comprised a 3.6L V6 running on the Atkinson cycle; two electric motors, and a 16-kW lithium-ion battery pack Total output is rated at 260 horsepower. Despite the added heft of the hybrid system, the Pacifica Hybrid is no slouch. The two electric motors provide instantaneous torque to help move the van at a surprising rate. The V6 will come on when more power is needed such as driving on the highway. One nice touch I like is how seamless the transition between electric and hybrid power is. The only sign aside from having the status screen up is the V6 turning on and off. One item I wish Chrysler would reconsider is offering the driver the ability to change between electric hybrid models that other plug-in hybrid offer. I understand why Chrysler decided not to do this as it might not be used by most drivers. But for a small group, including myself, it would nice to choose when the electric powertrain was in use to help conserve range. EPA says the 2018 Pacifica Hybrid will return 84 MPGe on electric power and 32 MPG when running on hybrid power. Overall electric range is rated at 33 miles. My averages for the week mirrored what I saw in the 2017 model - about 32 miles on electric range and an average fuel economy figure of 32. Having the Pacifica Hybrid for a week reminded me of one of the key issues that will face many, charging times. On a 120V outlet, it takes 16 hours for the battery to fully recharge. If you have a 240V charger, that drops to a reasonable 2 hours.  Handling is possibly one of the biggest surprises in the Pacifica Hybrid. The added heft of hybrid system allows the Pacifica to feel poised in the corners and have minimal body roll. Ride quality is the same as the standard Pacifica - almost all bumps are smoothed over. Road and wind noise are kept to almost silent levels. Pricing for the Pacifica Hybrid begins at $39,995 for the base Touring Plus and climbs to $44,995 for the Limited. My tester came to $49,825 with a few options, including the Advanced SafetyTec group that adds adaptive cruise control, surround view camera system, and blind spot monitoring. Sadly, this package isn’t available on lower trims.  There is the $7,500 federal tax credit and various state incentives that will be swayed around to draw some people in, but be forewarned those only come into effect when it is time to do taxes, not when you purchase the vehicle. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Gallery: Quick Drive: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
      Year: 2018
      Make: Chrysler
      Model: Pacifica Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 3.6L V6 eHybrid System
      Driveline: eFlite EVT,  Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ N/A (Combined)
      Torque @ RPM: N/A
      Fuel Economy: Gas + Electric Combined, Gas Combined - 84 MPGe, 32 MPG
      Curb Weight: 4,987 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
      Base Price: $44,995
      As Tested Price: $49,825 (Includes $1,345 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Tri-Pane Panoramic Sunroof - $1,595.00
      Advanced SafetyTec - $995.00
      18-inch x 7.5-inch Polished Aluminum wheels - $895.00
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