Recently, I was chatting with my friend Jeff and mentioned that I'd be test driving the new Suzuki Kizashi Sport. Knowing his penchant for putting pedal to metal, I mentioned he might want to give it a spin as well. His response? "But I don't have a motorcycle license." Little did he know the SKS is a car—and a pretty snazzy one at that.
Of course, Jeff probably isn't alone in pegging Suzuki as having mostly cycle-centric offerings. After all, the Japanese manufacturer has long been synonymous with the two-wheeled set. Yet 2010 marks a new era and a whole new direction for Suzuki: they're looking to make flashy vehicles without the flashy price point. Enter the Kizashi Sport, which seeks its place among stylish but pricier peers like the Mini-Cooper, Mazda6, and VW Passat. Geared for "the confident explorer," the Kizashi Sport will run consumers anywhere from $19-28,000.
Recently, I was invited with a group of journalists to test drive the new 2011 model through the twisty, scenic roads of Poway, Ramona, and Julian in San Diego County. (Side note: for a fun road trip straight out of a car commercial, crank up the country tunes and take a meander through routes 67 and 78 in the aforementioned locales.) Though I'm no car expert (check here or here for more technical reviews of this model), I came away with several key observations:
**One thing I really appreciated about the Kizashi Sport was its "have it your way" appeal. Each side of the dashboard offers dual climate control (you know, for that girl who's always freezing and the guy who's always roasting—no more need to quabble over the controls). Also, you can switch into all-wheel drive as needed, which according to actual car experts, is rare at this price point.
**Another cool thing about the SKS is its bluetooth capability (in the GTS/SLS models). Built into the dashboard, you can use it to make and receive calls and all that fun hands-free stuff. There's also a USB connection to hook up an Mp3 player and rock out to your own driving playlist.
**I think it's also important to mention the killer warranty on this bad boy. Having just undergone a transmission nightmare with my beloved Beetle, I now understand the importance of a lengthy warranty! Suzuki offers a 100,000 mile/7-year powertrain limited warranty with zero deductible, so any lemons in the bunch are sure to yield lemonade.
**And finally, it's pretty! Leather seats, chrome accents, alloy wheels, and a cool sunroof make for a sufficiently sporty ride. Rumor has it that a convertible is in the works, which is music to this open-air girl's ears.
So if you're on the lookout for a new set of wheels for your everyday and/or travel needs, I think it's safe to say that the Suzuki Kizashi Sport is a good bet for a getaway car. (The editors at Motor Trend seem to agree; they're currently driving an SKS from Tokyo to LA and blogging it here.) Infinitely sexier than the Accord or Camry, it's got the features and look of a luxury car with a more reasonable price tag—so you'll actually be able to afford those rockin' road trips. Learn more at: http://www.suzukiauto.com/