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2010 Suzuki Kizashi

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Apparently, the word, “Kizashi” is Japanese for: “something great is coming”. But, given the market was up against, the Suzuki Kizashi needed all the greatness it could muster. Launched in Canada in 2010, it was duking it out with well-entrenched mid-size sedans such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Mazda6, and Nissan Altima. Arguably, this was – and still is – the most hotly contested segment of the market in Canada.

So what did Suzuki do to make the Kizashi stand out in the crowd? In a nutshell, all-wheel-drive. When it hit Canadian showrooms in the Spring of 2010, all models offered AWD, accessed via a dashboard-mounted button, located to the left of the steering wheel. Press the button and, hey presto, you got AWD. Although fuel economy was slightly inferior with all four wheels churning, handling and traction were dramatically enhanced. Suzuki called this their i-AWD system, and it worked a treat.

Power was delivered via a 2.4 litre four cylinder that developed 180 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. Essentially the same engine found in the best-selling Grand Vitara SUV, it was initially mated to a CVT only, in Canada. A manual gearbox came later, in 2011. The CVT was probably the car’s weakest point, especially when you considered that Suzuki was pitching the Kizashi as a sports sedan, with a high fun-to-drive factor.

According to the company, the Kizashi was styled in part by Giorgetto Guigiaro’s ItalDesign studios, but completed in-house. Suzuki has used ItalDesign’s services before, with the Verona sedan, and the result this time was a muscular-looking, compact body style with the same approximate dimensions as the Honda Accord. The car was also apparently put through its paces on the Nurburgring track in Germany and on back-roads in the UK during the R & D process, and Suzuki’s benchmarks were comparable sedans from Alfa Romeo and Volkswagen. The CVT may have been it’s weakest point, but its styling was its strongest.

Still, it was the most upscale sedan Suzuki had ever put forward,  with things like air conditioning, one-touch up and down front power windows, keyless entry, push-button start, four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, and 18-inch wheels and tires coming standard. Available extras included leather interior, climate control, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, rear park assist, a vehicle dynamics control system, Rockford-Fosgate stereo, and Bluetooth integration.

So did it live up to its advertised greatness?

Depends who you talk to.

There is one safety recall from Transport Canada and it’s a fairly minor one involving a possibly loose instrument panel centre box door that may not remain closed during an accident. Easily fixed by dealers.

The US National Highway and Traffic safety Administration likewise has this recall, plus some complaints from owners. These include: “the engine’s belt pulley tensioner came off and tore apart”, and “the display, including speedometer, tachometer, blinker and multifunction display, shut down”, and “tires went bad on this car very fast”. NHTSA also has three technical service bulletins for the 2010 Kizashi. Two of these deal with the aforementioned faulty alternator belt tension pulley and the third concerns a “voluntary emission campaign” from Suzuki regarding the CVT transmission. The short version: stay away from the CVT and check your alternator belt.

Mixed reviews from Consumer Reports. “Not quite the bargain sedan Suzuki hyped,” says this organization, adding, “fuel economy is pretty good but acceleration is leisurely.” Comments from owners include: “Acceleration….not!”, “My car is black, but I’ve decided painting it green…..green for LEMON”, “the best car you have never heard of”, and “fun to drive”.

Marketing researcher, J.D. Power seems to have a love/hate thing going on with the Kizashi. While they like its overall performance and design, and award it top marks in this area, with a “Performance Award” designation, it gets a “below average” grade for predicted reliability.

Prices these days aren’t so great. From a base price of just under $26,000, the Kizashi seems to be going for about $17,000 to $24,000, depending upon the model and trim level. The upmarket SX seems to be fetching about $3000 – $4000 more than the base S.

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

Original Base Price: $25,995; Black Book: $20,775 – $24,000;  Red Book: $16,900 – $19,975

Engine: 2.4 litre four cylinder

Horsepower/Torque:  180 hp / 170 ft. lb.

Transmission: CVT

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 8.7 city/6.3hwy.  Regular gas.

Alternatives: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Subaru Legacy, Chev Malibu, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata.