Like Hyundai and Kia, the Korean manufacturer Suzuki has accepted the difficult task of trying to infiltrate the sub-compact market dominated by Honda, Toyota and Ford. Its new 2004 offering is the Forenza, a front-wheel drive sedan offered in three models, the S, LX and the top-of-the-line EX. All models have a 2.0-liter, 126-horsepower, 16-valve engine.
The LX and EX models include 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry and alarm, power sunroof and fog lights as standard features.
The EX model I drove for a week includes standard leather upholstery. Cruise control, air conditioning and AM/FM/CD and cassette system with eight speakers are also among the long list of standard equipment.
Still, the Forenza faces an uphill challenge. While priced under $16,000, the new vehicle’s appealing design and well-considered appointments can’t overcome a few all-too-apparent drawbacks.
During my weekly test drive, the vehicle had difficulty starting on several occasions and its limited horsepower doesn’t bode well for needed power in a tight spot, like a sharp uphill stretch at altitude.
Likewise, the four-speed automatic transmission has a less-than-smooth shifting mechanism. To maneuver between gears, the shifting handle has to be pushed down before it’s engaged into gears.
Nonetheless, the Forenza does have impressive considerations. The exterior was designed by Pininfarina, noted for its Ferraris and Maserati contributions. The lines are clean, if basic, and they give no impression of]]> the vehicle’s classification as a subcompact.
The remainder of the vehicle has a varied pedigree. Suzuki is the transformation of the bankrupt Daewoo Motor Company, Ltd. It’s assembled by GM Daewoo Automotive Technologies, which was formed by General Motors after it purchased Daewoo’s parts.
Like its attractive exterior, the interior of the Forenza is far from an afterthought. The look is simple and clean, and the brushed aluminum console accents the leather seats nicely. Instrumentation is straightforward, lighted well, and the seats are comfortable and well positioned.
Considering its market position, the Forenza can’t be expected to be noiseless, and it certainly isn’t.
I had only one long-distance passenger during my test drive, a 6-foot, 185-pound friend. He said the passenger front seat was comfortable, but otherwise nondescript.
Like other new vehicles, the Forenza has an untested resale market, and that places it — at least for several years — at a great disadvantage to its popular competitors.
Suzuki is also hoping its transferable seven-year, 70,000-mile warranty, roadside assistance and loaner car provision will attract economy-minded buyers seeking a less-expensive alternative to some of the country’s most popular vehicles.
Safety Features — Dual-front airbags, rear-seat, three-point seatbelt with headrest.
Fuel Mileage (Estimates) — 22 mpg (city), 30 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 7 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 3 years, unlimited mileage. Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
Base Price — $15,999.00.