Suzuki’s midsize sedan has a European feel

 The midsize Suzuki Kizashi sports sedan looks, feels and drives like a more expensive car than its price would suggest. The interior is not only comfortable and attractive, but the instrument panel is nicely styled and has a pleasing combination of textures and brushed silver accents. The panel gaps are tight and the center stack controls are laid out in a symmetrical design that looks sharp and is easy to use.

The Kizashi is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, in S, SE, GTS and SLS trim levels.

The test car was an all-wheel-drive SE with a sticker price of $21,754. The SE price compares favorably with that of the Nissan
Altima and Honda Accord, although neither of those cars has eight airbags or standard dual-zone climate control.

The SE has 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10-way power driver’s seat with three memory positions, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with fingertip controls for audio and cruise control. Convenience items include keyless ignition, a seven-speaker audio system, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, split-folding rear seat and power windows and locks.

The GTS comes with either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters, an upgraded stereo, Bluetooth connectivity and 18-inch wheels. The top SLS has heated leather seats, heated outside mirrors, parking sensors and a HomeLink garage-door opener. The optional leather seats have French stitching and three-stage heating. Suzuki press materials describe the Kizashi as the antithesis of a boring, midsize sedan, and they’re right. The name, pronounced kee-zah-shee, is a Japanese word that means something great is coming. The production car was spawned from a series of concept cars introduced over the last two years. The Kizashi is designed for the enthusiast driver, and the distinctly European ride is solid and tight without being harsh. Suzuki said the suspension was tuned on the roads of Europe and the famous Nurburgring racetrack in Germany. Antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability control are all standard.

The 2.4-liter, 180-horsepower four-cylinder engine, with aluminum block and heads, delivers lively performance. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual or a CVT. The test car was equipped with the CVT, and it has a unique feel because it doesn’t change gears like a normal automatic transmission. The CVT steps away from a stop with reasonable vigor, but the six-speed manual is the best choice for maximum acceleration. The engine gains 5 horsepower when paired with the manual transmission.

Fuel economy is estimated to be 23 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway. All-wheel drive is activated by a button on the instrument panel, so that means the car spends most of the time in front-wheel drive mode where fuel economy is better. The virtue of having all-wheel drive for inclement weather is a terrific selling point for folks living where heavy rain and snow are common.