Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Two Styling Dents on the New Suzuki Kizashi Sedan

"They make cars?" used to be the common response when asking people about Suzuki's automobile offerings. That's about to change, though, because the runt of the Japanese litter has decided to go head to head against the first-stringers. With its Kizashi mid-size sedan, Suzuki thinks it knows what mid-size car buyers want, but the big question is: how can this stubby mid-sizer hope to compete?

For the time being Suzuki is playing it smart and starting out simple, offering a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with either a 6-speed stick or a CVT. The controllable all-wheel drive system is a nice option in the segment, and with a V6 and hybrid rumored to be in the works, this mid-size saloon should be more than ready to take on the world (putting a few more nails into the Mitsubishi Galant's coffin...).

In the cockpit is where the Kizashi scores some serious points. Compared to its contemporaries, it's easy to tell time was invested in designing it for driver/passenger comfort, ease of use, and a sport-luxury ambiance - apparently I'll hold off quality opinions until I feel the polymers with my own bare hands.

The Kizashi's center stack doesn't choke you with switches, but it doesn't bore you to death, either (take a look at those metallic fangs).

For comparison, the Toyota Camry's dash is to the point, but oh so boring. There's nothing there that stands out. Add to that the top-heavy, anorexic-Dolly Parton gated shifter and you have an interior that's as charismatic as a corpse. In fact, I feel like I'm aging just looking at it.

The Honda Accord's dash layout is a step up from the Camry, but not by much. At least Honda's "robot designers" threw in some bisecting lines, making it more stylish than the Camry but drowning drivers in buttons and knobs.

Also, to let everyone know that the Kizashi isn't messing around in the entertainment department, there's an available Rockford Fosgate sound system to go up against Toyota's optional JBL stereo setup and Honda's "premium" one.

From the outside, the Kizashi is possibly the most youthful in the segment. I like its tough, chunky form and stubby up-ticked rear, but that doesn't blind me to the fact that it's lines are far from original.

Easily identifiable on the production model is a blend of the Kizashi concepts' facial features with those of VW's Jetta (the proportions seem much better than the Jetta, though). Now follow the sculpted line along either side of the hood, up the A-pillar, over the flared fenders and back towards the trunk. While admiring the rear three-quarter view you'll see hints of Toyota's Mark X sedan.

Below the rear bumper, you'll either like those geometric tailpipe surrounds or you won't. They're not the best part of the car, but at least the exhaust pipes can be seen inside them (unlike the superfluous faux exhaust tips found on the . . . ahem . . . nigh-$60,000 Lexus IS-F). Up above, I would have liked that third brake light mounted flush in the trunk lid, but that's a minor deal that shouldn't deter anyone from taking a look at this car.

More and more it seems like Suzuki has a potential winner on its hands, one that could draw plenty of people out of the competition's showrooms. The runt has put out a cute and butch car that, if there isn't a whole lot of brand loyalty in one's diet, may get some serious attention over the next few years. Now if only they would release the rest of the specs. After all, those mid-size sedan buyers are a finicky lot.

By Phil Alex

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