Kizashi Sport GTS
With enough power to justify the sporty styling, the Kizashi is a fun alternative most mid-sized wannabe racers.
By Tamara Warren
THE BIG PICTURE
Red is doing it for me this season. I bought a sharp candy apple red blazer that I want to wear every single day. Everywhere I look on the streets of SoHo, NYC, the models are wearing saucy red jeans. At writing, I have a taste for these red velvet cupcakes that my local baker concocts, which admittedly is not going to help me get into red jeans. Often, I’ve come across my finest traffic-stopping red purchases at Top Shop or H+M, where style is accessible and ahead of the curve.
I was delighted and surprised by the look and hue of the “vivid red” 2012 Suzuki Kizashi Sport GTS I picked up at LAX, and as soon as I shifted into first gear on the manual transmission model, I knew red was exactly the message I wanted to send with this feisty car. The vivid red Kizashi would fit right in the window display at Top Shop, next to some Kate-Moss-like mannequins.
From the airport, I headed to meet my party for a late dinner at the Chateau Marmont. I was taken aback as the valets greeted me with low whistles. “Holy s^&* this is the new one isn’t it?” (They were talking about the car, not me.) At the end of the evening, I asked for their take on the Kizashi. As a rule, valets are excellent journalistic sources for opinions. They were unanimous in their approval of the exterior styling, with its sports wheels, and from the sly smile on one guy’s face, I could tell he had a little fun with the revs in the parking process.
I liked the sound of bio-fit ergonomic front seats — a point of note in this range of mid-size sedan. The overall cabin aesthetic gets good marks — in which many reviewers use the code word “European.” This quality refers to the less-is-more minimalist approach to design and tasteful application of materials on cloth seats. The substantive steering wheel that is standard on the Sport is something I appreciate. Perforated grips on standard wrapped leather made for pleasant handling and improved driving satisfaction. The optional built-in first aid kit in the trunk sub-floor organizer is a clever touch. Suzuki should concentrate on refining the dash design, though. At first glance, it had the look of a DVD player — somewhat banal with oddball tech fonts.
My travel partners know that, when possible, I like to have options when it comes to my shoes. Yet, I had no problem storing my cumbersome luggage in the trunk. I appreciated the tie-down hooks for my smaller bags.
Kizashi breezes through the steps of the safety dance. The vehicle is compliant with 2014 NHTSA front, side and rear crash standards. Standard equipment includes 8 airbags, tire-pressure monitor system, high-strength steel on the body, ABS brakes, electronic stability control and traction control.
GIZMOS AND TECH
While the Kizashi has a gizmo vibe, I didn’t find much extra tech in the model I tested. The Rockford Fosgate 8-channel 425-watt 10-speaker sound system with a subwoofer was a welcome accompaniment for cross-town cruising — solid output to drown out my voice as I sang along to Garth Trinidad’s soulful Friday evening selections on KCRW.
I forgot my iPod, but the Sport version had a standard USB audio input. If I had tested a model with NAVI, the option list would have included a cable for my iPod, saving me a trip to Radio Shack. The next level SLS is where things get a little crunchier with paddle shifters, power passenger seats, sonar parking assist and automatic headlamp control.
The Kizashi Sport handles as if it is eager to please. As I turned the wheel one click, the car seemed to respond, “Is this how you like it ma’am’?” I answered back by doing a few sweeping turns for kicks on an empty road.
The 2.4-liter 16-valve I-4 engine does a respectable job of kicking out 185 hp. (Hey Suzuki, if you’re listening, a turbo option would take this car to the next level of performance mustard.) The manual transmission I tested had a tantalizing fuel economy rating of 29 MPG on the highway, though in stop-and-go LA traffic, it was closer to the 20 mpg it captured for city conditions. I grew up driving stick shifts, and the Kizashi was a nice reminder of engaging driving practices with a pleasant, gooey transmission.
Since I had dedicated my fun-filled weekend in L.A. to impulse, I stopped in Santa Monica to take a pilates class, and then I dashed across the street to a lowbrow nail salon, where had my toes painted a lovely shade of “red nouveau.” Naturally, the head turning action I had driving the Kizashi inspired this gesture.
A car that feels more fabulous for less. Word on the street is that sales are up for the Kizashi — it’s a well-priced car that still delivers verve.
The driving experience is nothing to sneeze at — I felt like I could anywhere, fast, with confidence.
Take caution, if you start driving like a New Yorker and cutting people off — there are a few dodgy blind spots.