Sunday, May 9, 2010;
Bottom line: The recasting of markets for small and mid-size cars in the United States is a good thing. We're beginning to see high-quality, efficient, affordable, fun-to-drive cars from everybody, even here in Monterey, where annual displays of horsepower, fueled by a median household income of $60,363 -- a full $10,000 more than the national figure -- range from the delightfully shocking to the seductively obscene.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The Kizashi SE gets very good marks in all three. It's competitive, though not dominant.
Head-turning quotient: Competitive, but not dominant.
Body style/layout: The Kizashi is a mid-size, mid-price family car available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive depending on model and equipment chosen. Only four-cylinder gasoline engines are available in the United States at this writing. Suzuki reportedly is planning to introduce a six-cylinder model. But the company might also employ its small-engine expertise to bring forth a small diesel for U.S. consumption of the Kizashi. That would change the family-car market in the United States decidedly in Suzuki's favor.
Engine/transmission: Standard equipment includes a 2.4-liter, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder engine (185-horsepower, 170 foot-pounds of torque) mated to a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed continuously variable automatic transmission is optional.
Capacities: There are seats for five people. Four can sit comfortably. There's enough luggage capacity for six paper bags of groceries. Fuel capacity is 16.6 gallons; regular unleaded gasoline is recommended.
Mileage: With six-speed manual and optional all-wheel drive, you get 22 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear), four-wheel anti-lock protection, side and head air bags, and electronic stability and traction control.
Price: Base price on the 2011 Suzuki Kizashi SE with all-wheel drive is $22,749. Dealer's invoice price on that model is an estimated $21,000. Price as tested is $23,739, including options ($125 premium floor mat, $130 platinum metallic exterior paint) and a $735 destination charge. Estimated dealer invoice with options and transportation is $22,000.