DETROIT -I just spent a week test driving Suzuki’s latest effort to expand its offerings with the 2011 Kizashi Sport SLS Sedan.
The front fascia was more muscular, it had chrome accents, a lower grille, body side sill extensions, lower body side molding and chrome accents, a rear integrated spoiler atop the trunk, 18-inch alloy wheels and a slightly lower ride height.
The automaker said the lower height makes for better aerodynamics, a lower center of gravity, an enhanced grip and sharper handling.
In a phrase, the Kizashi looked good. Anytime a vehicle can turn heads as it passes by is evidence that it has what I call street credibility.
Still, I think the Suzuki is running close to a perilous edge with the Kizashi. There’s nothing wrong with the car, its design or its build quality. The potential problem that looms is failure to meet expectations. The Kizashi is not as quick as it looks. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
No matter the model, the Kizashi is powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission is available but my test car was equipped with the six-speed manual gear box. And though my test vehicle had front-wheel-drive, there is an all-wheel-drive version of the Kizashi.
Now here’s the deal, 185 horsepower is more than enough oomph for normal day-to-day driving. I never experienced any lack of speed problems with my test vehicle. Anytime I needed a little more torque, thus speed, I just downshifted which I didn’t have to do often.
The numbers I think Suzuki should be promoting with this car, using four bucks a gallon gasoline as a backdrop are 20 mpg and 29 mpg. That would be the city-highway EPA fuel economy rating of the Kizashi.
What’s more, the numbers racked up by my test vehicle were even better. After six days my average speed was 30 mph and I averaged 32.8 mpg. I had driven 281 miles and the readout told me that I had 90 miles left. That’s not bad for a vehicle with a fuel capacity of 16.6 gallons.
Although the Kizashi certainly had a sleek design that bordered on exotic, the car was awfully practical. The trunk looked as though it had about 16 cubic feet of capacity. The back seats were very spacious for a compact sedan. There was plenty of head, hip and leg room. What’s more there was plenty of space for me to get my feet under the back of the front seat.
I had just test driven a sedan and that was an issue. I had a dickens of a time getting into and out of the back seat because getting my feet under and out from under the back front seat was difficult. I had no such problem in the Kizashi.
There was a moon roof, a sport-tuned suspension, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rear parking sensors and heated mirrors. All that and more was standard on my Kizashi SLS. In fact, the only extra was the metallic paint, premium floor mats and the satellite radio which came to $605.
I thought all that stuff, plus the Kizashi’s good looks, for that amount of money was not bad, it was not bad at all.
Frank S. Washington is managing partner/editor of AboutThatCar.com.