2006 Suzuki Reno

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2005 Suzuki Reno

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2008.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 6.25
Pros:
  • Maneuvers nimbly
  • Roomy interior for a compact
  • Pleasant, though unassuming, looks
Cons:
  • Buzzy 4 cylinder
  • Noticeable transmission shifts
  • Some cheap-looking materials

Forget what Suzuki says about the Reno being a "crossover." From a first glance, you'll see the Reno as I do—a pleasant-looking compact car with 5 doors and seating for 5 passengers.

There's no crossover here, at least not the way the term has been used in the auto industry thus far—meaning a sport utility mixed with car ride and handling characteristics. Or the other way around, a car mixed with SUV characteristics.

The front-wheel-drive and economically priced Reno doesn't even offer all-wheel drive, as a few others in this 5-door, compact car segment do, such as the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe. And people sitting inside the Reno don't ride higher up in their seats than do people in other cars.

So, I don't know where this crossover label came from, but just ignore it and take the Reno for what it is: A small car that offers hatchback versatility.

Another new Suzuki car
The Reno is the fourth new nameplate at Suzuki recently, and the fourth car. The others are the Suzuki Aerio, a compact sedan and hatchback whose 5-door model, interestingly, is offered with all-wheel drive; the Suzuki Forenza, another compact sedan that added a wagon for the 2005 model year, and the Suzuki Verona, a bit pricier midsize sedan. (If you remember the Suzuki Esteem, you might want to know it has been eliminated from the lineup.)

But yes, with the Reno, Suzuki now has three compact car nameplates, and like the Forenza, the Reno was designed by an Italian design firm and is built not in Suzuki's Japan homeland but in a factory in South Korea.

The Italian designers gave the Reno some European styling, which is pleasant, even if it's not terribly eye-catching or memorable on American streets.

But, a buyer can always add an optional "street package" that Suzuki is selling for the first time in the U.S. It's called the Suzuki Works Techno package and sells well for Suzuki vehicles in Japan. Pricing is about $500 and the package adds such things as unique rear spoiler and trunk gear net.

But here's what I noticed: The Reno's tires and wheels aren't large enough to help this car make a statement on the road. My test Reno was the top-level EX and it rode on rather plain, 15-inch wheels.

Roominess inside
The Reno is decently spacious inside. I didn't feel scrunched in the driver seat, and there was an acceptable amount of space between me and my front-seat passenger. The dead pedal was well-positioned for me to use to brace my left leg, too.

The back seat provided commendable legroom, shoulder room and headroom, too. For example, someone sitting behind me could extend his or her legs quite comfortably back there.

Specifically, the 36.7 inches of rear-seat legroom in the Reno is a tad more than the 36.3 inches that's in the Mazda3 hatchback and Toyota's Matrix. And there's 37.9 inches of headroom and 53.7 inches of shoulder room back there, which compares with 38.4 inches of headroom and 54 inches of shoulder room in the compact Mazda3 5-Door and 39.8 inches of headroom and 52.6 inches of shoulder room in the Matrix.

Even the middle person in the back seat of the Reno has a soft seat cushion, a three-point safety belt and an adjustable and lockable head restraint.

Hatchbacks offer versatile cargo storage, so it's worth a look at these figures in the Reno, too. Maximum cargo room, with split, 60/40 rear seats folded down, is 45.5 cubic feet vs. 31.2 cubic feet in the Mazda3 hatchback and 53.4 cubic feet in the Matrix.

Only one 4 cylinder
The Reno, however, can feel anemic if it's carrying more than one or two people and some cargo. The only engine is a 2.0-liter double overhead cam, inline 4 that generates 126 horses and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.

I heard this engine readily as I drove. I also heard as it downshifted and worked up a noisy buzziness to get the car up hilly roads. This is not a refined, quiet ride.

A 5-speed manual is offered, but the tester had the 4-speed automatic that, at times, shared with passengers its shifting from gear to gear. This isn't the smoothest shifting tranny, and the 22/30-mile-per-gallon, city/highway fuel economy rating for this model of Reno is about mid-pack for the compact car class. Vehicles in the segment that have higher fuel economy include some well-known models, such as the Honda Civic (35/40-mpg with automatic), Toyota Echo (33/39-mpg with automatic), and Toyota Corolla (30/38-mpg with automatic).

Note the Mazda3 hatchback has a more powerful 4 cylinder: A 160-horse 2.3-liter engine capable of 150 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The Matrix has two 4-cylinder engines, the top one producing 170 horses and 127 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.

The Reno's rack-and-pinion steering and small size make for nimble maneuvers. The ride is fine for a mainstream small car. The car passes over most road bumps without harshness.

But I seemed to hear the impact of expansion cracks and road bumps more than I felt them, making me wonder about the sound insulation of this car. I also noticed the Reno's doors felt lightweight when I opened and closed them, and on a windy day, the Reno was buffeted by crosswinds at times. Also, one rainy day, I felt compelled to close the inside shade on the closed sunroof that was in the test car. The noise from the downpour was very loud.

Equipped to sell
The Reno has three trim levels: the S, LX and EX, and they come with a good number of amenities. For example, even the base S starts at less than $14,000 and includes a standard eight-speaker audio system with CD player with MP3 playback. I liked the smart cupholder adjustment that can move from one of the front-seat cupholders to the other, and the base S also comes standard with steering wheel controls that operate the radio.

Just be sure to note where the Reno's horn is. You don't get a peep by pressing on the center of the steering wheel. There are two small horn buttons on two of the steering wheel spokes, and they are the only spots that activate the car horn.

As you'd expect, the Reno LX adds more standard equipment, including keyless remote entry and power sunroof. Its MSRP at introduction was more than $15,300.

Meantime, the top EX, which started around $17,000 comes with leather-trimmed seats, though it was hard to tell if the dark gray upholstery in the test car was leather or nicely-done vinyl. The material wasn't very supple or soft.

There were other less-than-impressive materials and issues. The floor in the cargo area is covered in a hard, fuzzy material that doesn't convey a quality feel. Neither do the various controls on the Reno's dashboard. They seemed flimsy in the test car.

With just 3,500 miles on it, the test Reno had noisy windshield wipers that scraped noisily across the glass in a hard rain. The liftgate struts moved the hatchback lid slowly on cold mornings, perhaps portending struts that would need replacing soon. And intermittently during city driving, the test Reno gave out a loud "eeee" sound from somewhere below. I couldn't tell where it was coming from, but it was not a confidence-inspiring noise.

Lastly, no one could use the safety belt in the middle seat in back. The shoulder part of the belt always ratcheted immediately, locking in the passenger uncomfortably. It definitely needed to be fixed.

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BB01 - 9/20/2014 9:44:58 AM