The story: The Kizashi (pronounced: Key-zash-ee) has only been on sale for a few months and has yet to catch fire with a large number of buyers. Suzuki has limited marketing resources, so much of the future success of the Kizashi will depend on word-of-mouth, rather than paid advertising.
There is quite a bit to talk about here, too. Sure, the Kizashi is a tad smallish for a mid-size, but the car is loaded with features and has an aggressive exterior design that includes a sharp front end, a well-proportioned profile with a sweeping roofline, and a slightly higher back end. At the very rear you'll find an arching deck lid and two big exhaust tips.
Under the clamshell-type hood is a 2.4-litre, inline-four-cylinder engine that makes 180 horsepower. Suzuki sells a front-drive version in the United States, but in Canada only the all-wheel-drive version is available. The continuously variable transmission helps fuel economy (9.3 litres/100 km city, 6.8 highway).
The cabin, meanwhile, is nicely designed, though not particularly out of the ordinary. Simple silver trim divides the open black cockpit, and all of the touch points feel soft and well-planned. Overall, this Suzuki is comfortable and the AWD system helps it stand out from the crowd. True, Suzuki is better known for motorcycles and mini-cars than AWD sedans, but there is good value here. In short, this is a new entry worth a test drive.
2011 HYUNDAI SONATA
Price range: $22,649-$28,999
The deal: $500 in Clean Air Cash factory-to-customer rebate plus 0.9 per cent financing for five years.
The story: Hyundai now has a sedan capable of taking on the top sellers in the segment, including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. The Sonata is well-priced and feels solid and well-built. The last version of the Sonata had very good quality and there's no reason to think this one won't follow in those tracks. For buyers who want something a little jazzier, a little out of the ordinary, hybrid and turbo-powered versions are coming, too.
On the other hand, Hyundai no longer offers a six-cylinder Sonata and that may be an issue with some buyers. Hyundai types feel the Sonata's standard 2.4-litre four-banger with direct fuel injection is plenty of engine for the vast majority of family buyers.
Indeed, direct injection is a premium technology. It boosts power and fuel economy by precisely metering gasoline into the cylinder at exactly the proper time. The Sonata's engine is rated at 198 hp in a field of rival fours typically sporting 170 to 190 hp. And fuel economy comes in at 9.4 litres/100 km in the city, 5.7 on the highway with its six-speed automatic transmission.
Not to be overlooked is the Sonata's cabin. It's as well done as anything in this class and better than many. The controls operate with a firm feel, white and silver markings on the gauges look sporty (though in certain lighting they are washed out) and the seats are well-padded, though the cloth upholstery is not particularly rich.
Overall, this Sonata is refined, pleasant to drive, stylish and comfortable. The six-generation remake looks like a success. Hyundai is trying hard here to make the case that a family sedan need not be boring.
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