2010 Suzuki Kizashi SE AWD MSRP $22,749

Suzukis are mostly Eugenes. The Kizashi isn’t.

You do know what a Eugene is, right?

Eugene is the kid from the 1978 movie “Grease” who wears horn-rimmed glasses and a bow tie and who makes his entrance coming down hall stairs in school. He’s met by the T-Birds, who knock his books to the floor and mess up his clothes.*

Almost without fail, as soon as I get behind the wheel of a Suzuki go cart automobile, I want to stop and get out and kick it a few times, then go drive something that isn’t boring, tepid, cheap and plastic. That’s always been puzzling to me since the company makes some absolutely kick-ass motorcycles.

However, with the Kizashi, Suzuki’s massively upped the design quality, and has introduced a winner.

The Kizashi leads this year's crop of low-end sports cars.

This is a relatively cheap, good-looking, functional ride that, over a week’s recent test, drove well, was easy to park, got me going when I stamped on its accelerator, and is worth what they’re asking for it.  A beaut? Not really. But a Suzuki doesn’t have to be beautiful.  There are little bits of nerd here and there, but mostly, the embarrassment factor’s gone and there’s no need for a sticker reading, “My other car is a Hyundai.”

Sleek lines and a streamlined profile make this a swank ride for not-too-many dollars.
From the side, if you squint, you can (almost) imagine an Audi A-4. Almost.

Its got standard all-wheel drive, making it a good all-weather car—but you can de-activate it to send power to just the front wheels to save you a little gas—and it’s got track-tuned suspension and high-end Akebono-sourced brakes. Its front and back seats are nice and roomy, as we Americans like.   It’s also got a “sport version” option available on the more expensive GTS and SLS models, delivering a spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels, a tighter, more aggressive front end, chrome stripping on the sides and other goodies. Cloth or leather seats are both available as well as a 425-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with iPod connectivity and Bluetooth capability.

The sport version will be available this August, honchos say.

The only gripes I had were with the car’s  stubborn trunk lid, which, over the week’s test, could never seem decide if I was serious when I  pushed the key fob trunk-opening button a bunch of times.  The Kizashi could use an interior trunk-opener.  Maybe it has one already. I didn’t see it.

The other goof is the Name.

A Googled “Kizashi definition” brought up nothing besides this ride, so I cannot tell you the meaning of the name. How sad.  The meaning of a name is everything, don’t you agree? If we’d named the Statue Of Liberty “Spiky-headed green lady who needs 200 gallons of underarm deodorant a day,” it wouldn’t have the same ring, would it?

Suzuki "huh?"

Reminds me, actually, of when I was living in an Indian ashram and received my new name, “Swami Gyan Shunyam.”  It means “wisdom” and “emptyness.” I was jazzed about the name and went up to an older, jaded disciple, and asked him what his name meant.

“Oh, bliss, sunshine, all that crap,” he said.

Someday, though, someone is going to get smart and just stick a badge on a Suzuki reading:

That’s not a slam. Sometimes cheap’ll get you where you’re going. Suzuki has hung in there all these years and the brand remains well-known if not spectacularly popular.  If the brand is your ride of choice, the Kizashi’s a great pick.

Josh Max – AutoGigolo

*I’ve always wanted to re-shoot Eugene’s scenes in Grease, arming him with brass knuckles, construction boots, a psychotic tendency to over-react when being picked on, and have the scene directed by Martin Scorcese.

The 2010 Kizashi is available in four trim levels ranging from the well-equipped entry-level Kizashi S priced between $18,999 for FWD and $21,899 for AWD, to the “luxuriously appointed” SLS model ranging from $24,499 for FWD M/T to $26,899 for AWD Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Prices do not include the $735 destination and handling charge.

Standard features include a six-speed manual, eight airbags, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, a nine-speaker audio system, EPS stability control, ABS, projector beam headlights, power windows, doors and mirrors, and ambient footwell lighting.