The Suzuki Kizashi is a smallish four-door midsize sedan at 183 inches long. That’s almost as big as a Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, or Volkswagen Passat, bigger than a Honda Civic or Volkswagen Jetta. (Suzuki also fantasizes that this is a competitor to the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. On specs, yes; on sales conquests, that’s a reach.) Hop in the cockpit and your first two thoughts are, “What a well-trimmed interior; this is no Suzuki I remember,” not that you remember many Suzukis, and, “Is that the smallest navigation system or biggest radio display in the center stack?” That would be the radio. Every Suzuki Kizashi comes with keyless entry and pushbutton start, dual-zone climate control, and eight airbags. That’s impressive for the price. The other surprise-and-delight feature is how well the Kizashi handles. Except for the name, you’d think you were in a sporty VW. The name approximates, in English, to “something great is happening.” Fair enough. You can get it with a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT) in front- or all-wheel-drive versions ($1,350 more than front-drive), but there’s only one engine, which develops 180 hp, 185 hp on models with the manual transmission. It’s willing but it’s a little buzzy when you push it hard. Want Technology? Add $6,000The cheapest Kizashi is the Kizashi S at $19,744 with front drive, 16″ steel wheels, and a six-speed manual. The mid-range SE, $22,744 and up, adds 18″ alloy wheels. The Sport GTS and Sport SLS have 18″ sport alloy wheels. If you want a car equipped with the right technology, you need to head for the Kizashi Sport models, which start at $25,574 and rise to $28,024 for the model with all-wheel drive and the CVT (clutchless) transmission. (AWD adds $1,350 to the price. Navigation and a backup camera run $1,399 (not on the test car), available only on the Sport GTS (it has a sport suspension) and Sport SLS. Fully optioned, a Sport SLS can run $29,948 list. The top-line Sport SLS has standard rear parking sonar, automatic headlamp control, rain-sensing wipers, and heated front seats. These aren’t even options on other models. The sunroof is standard on the Sport GTS and Sport SLS, not available on the other two models. Bluetooth and Excellent Audio (Sport Models Only)The Kizashi S and SE get a 7 speaker AM/FM/CD audio system. The two sport models get a Rockford Fosgate 10-speaker, eight-channel AM/FM/CD/XM audio system with 425 watts of amplification. That’s not an upgrade option on the cheaper cars. Only the two Sport models offer Bluetooth streaming audio and handsfree phone calling. It’s standard on the Sport SLS, optional ($250) on the Sport GTS. A couple footnotes in the online brochure indicate some limitations: If you order navigation, the Bluetooth is downgraded to phone-only Bluetooth, and the USB jack is replaced by an iPod cable. Bluetooth isn’t available on the entry S model and it’s included, says the build-your-own tools, on the SE with all-wheel-drive but not the front-drive version. As automakers scramble to add features more tech features, sometimes a higher-end option (navigation) that has been around for a while interferes with another one, such as streaming Bluetooth audio.Satellite Radio: Expensive or More Expensive XM satellite radio is a costly $350 option. Free is the right price, since the embedded chipset doesn’t cost a lot, and when it’s included on every car, a decent number of drivers opt to continue the free starter trial. If you don’t order a Kizashi with factory-embedded satellite radio, you can buy a retrofit kit for $590, or the price of two or three iPods. On the Road I drove a Suzuki Kazashi SE with all-wheel drive and the CVT transmission. The car was fine around town, excellent in wintry conditions. Even in this mid-range configuration, the cockpit seemed plenty upscale, and the handling was first-rate. It would probably be better on the Sport models but make sure, if you head toward the Sport GTS, that you test drive it on typical roads with your spouse or partner because it has a lowered sport suspension and there are times when a sport suspension is just too harsh. The music coming out of the head unit was fine, even if this was not the Rockford Fosgate. I was underwhelmed by the large type on the radio display. Usually big type is good, but in this case it meant you only saw a few characters of any track, artist name, or album name. Suzuki needs to make another pass at the non-navigation interface, perhaps considering a small LCD display (smaller than on the navigation system).The back seat is smaller that most of the true midsize competitors in its segment. This is not the car of choice for four adults on extended trips. Typical Steering Wheel The steering wheel buttons are typical in that they’re just-adequate most of the time and too small when you’re wearing gloves. Suzuki is another automaker that imitates Audi’s world-class roller wheel buttons (photo above). With Audi, you roll the wheel up to increase the volume or tune up a channel. It’s the fastest way to change a setting. With Suzuki and a few other imitators, it looks like a roller wheel but it’s really a one-step-at-a-time adjuster. Want the volume up four steps: Press the roller wheel upward four times. The steering wheel is typical of most every car I’ve driven: When it’s set to a comfortable position, it cuts off the tops of the gaugesUnderwhelming Suzuki Web Site The website is adequate. There’s an online features comparison among trim lines that is helpful. There’s also an online version of the print brochure, but on one PC it wouldn’t expand to full screen; on another it would. You will be baffled by the options lockouts (option A on model B precludes having option C) that are not fully explained and in places seem to be contradictory. The dealer could probably sort this out for you, but one reason for an automaker website is to let the handful of car shoppers who don’t love the dealership experience hone up at home. The build-your-own tool has glitches. It won’t lock out conflicting options, so you could spec out a Kizashi with both factory-installed satellite radio and the dealer-installed satellite kit. Should You Buy? As a driver’s car, the Suzuki Kizashi should be on your short list so long as you’re happy with an energetic 180-hp our cylinder engine. (A V6 should arrive in 12 to 18 months.) It’s attractive outside and in. Keyless entry, dual zone climate control, and eight rather than six airbags, and standard USB are unusual on compact cars. That’s the good story about the Kizashi.The downside is the muddled technology story. Much of the tech gear is reserved for the top trim line, the Sport. Satellite radio is expensive, and if you get navigation, you lose some Bluetooth capabilities. Still, it’s good to see one more serious contender providing competition that moves the industry forward. 2011 SUZUKI KIZASHI KEY FEATURESInfotainment Base audio — 7-speaker AM / FM / CD audio systemUpgrade audio – Rockford Fosgate 8-channel, 425-watt, 10-speaker audio system AM / FM / CD with subwoofer and digital sound processor . USB / iPod jack – Standard Line-in jack – Standard Bluetooth — $250, standard on Sport SLS Bluetooth audio – Included with Sport GTS / SLS, N/A other models with Bluetooth, N/A on navigation-system models Satellite radio — $350 factory-install, $590 dealer kit HD Radio – N/A 12 volt adapters – 2 120-volt adapter – N/ANavigation — $1,399, Sport models only Rear seat entertainment – N/A Driver Aids Parking sonar – Standard on Sport SLS, N/A other models Rear camera – With navigation Blind spot detection – N/A Lane-departure warning – N/A Adaptive cruise control – N/ASafetyAirbags – 8 total: 2 front, 2 front side, 2 rear side, 2 air curtain Antilock braking system (ABS) – Standard Dynamic stability control (DSC) — Standard Traction control – Standard Electronic brake force distribution (EBD) – Standard Active headrests –Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) – Standard Embedded telematics – N/A Mayday calling – N/A 2011 Suzuki Kizashi Specifications General specs: 4- to 5-passenger, four-cylinder gasoline engine (180 hp with CVT, 185 hp with manual), continuously variable transmission (CVT) or six-speed manual transmission, front-drive or all-wheel drive, 183 x 72 x 58 inches, 3,241-3,3290 pounds, four-door compact- to midsize sedan. EPA fuel rating: 21 mpg city / 30 mpg highway, S with MT or CVT. 23/30, SE. 23/30 MT. 23/29 MT, 23/29 CVT, Sport GTS. 21/29 MT, 23/30 CVT Sport SLS. 16.6 gallon tank. Price: $19,744 (includes $750 shipping) to $29,948 list. Competitors: Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, VW Passat, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry (same size or bigger); Honda Civic, VW Jetta (smaller). Aspirational competitors: Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Suzuki Kizashi in BriefPro: Cockpit materials, fit and finish. Performance. Standard USB jack, keyless entry / start, 8 airbags. Con: Limited tech options on cheaper models. Navigation removes streaming audio half of Bluetooth. Non-navi radio display with big letters displays few characters. Snug back seat. Bottom line: The finest Suzuki automobile to reach our shores has a cockpit to die for, very good handling, a nice design, and a hard-working engine. The availability of tech options is hard to figure out. It’s skewed toward the top Sport model. After two decades selling forgettable cars in the U.S. (Suzuki Samurai, anyone?), Suzuki got serious recently and its best car ever is the new, midsize Suzuki Kizashi. It’s a fun-to-drive car with decent technology once you move past the entry models. Each of the Kizashi model offerings includes a USB jack, but for a well tech-equipped Kizashi you have to choose the top-of-the-line Sport model.