2006 Suzuki Forenza

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2004 Suzuki Forenza

This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 6

Bottom Line:

Stylish, bargain-priced new entry in small sedan market.
Pros:
  • Slick styling
  • Roomy
  • Fuel miser
  • Long warranty
Cons:
  • Moderate acceleration
  • Engine noisy when pushed
  • Road noise

Taking on established cars such as the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic is no easy job, but Suzuki's stylish new Forenza sedan has a decent shot at grabbing a good number of small car buyers.

The Forenza is part of Suzuki's plan to greatly increase U.S. sales by 2007. The new model is sold as a value-packed budget alternative to competitors and has a lot going for it, including a stylish body, modest prices and lots of equipment. There's plenty of space for four tall occupants and more rear leg room than in the Civic, Corolla and other small car rivals.

Long Warranty
To help attract potential buyers, the Forenza has a transferable 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It includes roadside assistance and could enhance resale or trade-in values.

The fuel-stingy, $12,499-$15,999 Forenza should be cheap to run. It joins Suzuki's funky subcompact Aerio sedan and new midsize Verona sedan in the automaker's expanding car line. Suzuki also offers Vitara and XL-7 sport-utility vehicles, and also has long been known for its motorcycles.

While Suzuki is a Japanese automaker, the Verona and Forenza are built in South Korea by GM Daewoo Auto and Technology. That outfit was formed after General Motors bought part of bankrupt South Korean Daewoo, which largely designed those two cars. GM gave them to its Suzuki affiliate because they didn't fit in the giant automaker's U.S. lineup.

Stylish Body
The front-wheel-drive Forenza looks good because it was styled by Italy's Pininfarina design outfit, which styles Ferraris and Maseratis.

The Forenza doesn't resemble an exotic Italian car, but its slick aerodynamic body helps provide good fuel economy and added stability at today's elevated interstate highway speeds. Enhancing the car's appearance are color-keyed bumpers, door handles, mirrors and bodyside moldings.

There are three trim levels: S, LX and top-line EX. All are well equipped.

Lots of Equipment
For instance, the S has air conditioning, a tilt wheel with audio controls, an AM/FM/CD/cassette with eight speakers, a rear defroster, 60-40 split/folding rear seatbacks and power windows, locks and heated mirrors. The driver's seat has a manual height adjuster.

The LX adds a power tilt-slide sunroof, cruise control, remote keyless entry, a leather-wrapped wheel, fog lights and alloy wheels. The EX adds leather upholstery and door inserts.

The 5-speed manual transmission shifts nicely and is standard in the S and LX. The responsive 4-speed automatic raises the price of those versions by $800, but is standard in the EX.

Weak Spot
A weak spot of the car is its small 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, which gets noisy when the throttle is floored. Although sophisticated with 16 valves and dual overhead camshafts, the engine only kicks out 119 horsepower. That results in decent in-town acceleration but modest 65-75 mph passing times on highways. However, 70 mph highway cruising is no problem.

One benefit of the small engine that you can take to the bank is high fuel economy. The Forenza provides an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 22 and 30 with the automatic transmission.

It's typical to get lower figures than those provided by the EPA; however, the Forenza I tested with the automatic got 25 mpg in the city and nearly 35 mpg on highways—partly because the car is fairly light at 2,701 to 2,756 pounds.

Decent Roadability
The Forenza is not a sports sedan but is fun—if not driven too hard. Its speed-sensitive power steering is quick, although somewhat heavy. Handling is good, but wheels larger than the 15-inch ones on the car would enhance roadability.

The all-independent suspension has gas-pressurized shock absorbers and provides a comfortable ride. Potential buyers taking the car for a spin around the block will be impressed, even if roads are rough. Braking with the all-disc setup is acceptable, although the pedal is rather sensitive.

Safety Features
The Forenza's crumple zones dissipate impact energy, and shoulder belts are height-adjustable. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution are a worthwhile $500 option for all versions, but no side airbags are offered.

The front bucket seats are rather flat, and the center of the back seat is too hard for comfort. It's best to fold down the rear center armrest, which contains cupholders.

Some Road Noise
The interior is quiet, except for some road noise, and there is good visibility in all directions. The tachometer is rather small, but the speedometer is large—as are climate controls. Audio system controls are small, but work smoothly.

The climate system emits a good amount of heat soon after the car is underway, and there's a rear heating duct. All doors have storage pockets.

The sun visor vanity mirrors are practically useless at night because they're not lit. Silver metallic accents brighten the cockpit, but its materials are mostly average.

Large Trunk
The trunk is large, with a low, wide opening. The interior of its lid has an unfinished look. The pass-through opening between the trunk and rear-seat area is moderately large.

The nicely assembled Forenza should give Suzuki more presence in the auto market, although some folks might want a larger engine.

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BB01 - 7/29/2014 10:30:13 PM