According to the National Automobile Dealers’ Association, the average price of a new car in the United States in 2006 is $28,600. That’s $1,400 less than what not too long was considered beginning price point for a luxury vehicle.
Average price or luxury price, it makes little different. A new vehicle approaching $30,000 still far exceeds many budgets.
But what if the benefits of a new warranty are appealing and a consumer has less than half of the average new car price available?
One decent option is the Suzuki Reno. It’s not as well known as most of its competitors, most notably the Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Focus and Honda Civic.
But during my weekly test drive, the South Korean manufacturer’s four-door compact not only provided solid transportation, but it did so with surprising responsiveness, good comfort and good overall functionality.
The Reno is a basic vehicle, and I don’t want to give the wrong impression. There are reasons the Honda Civic ($16,510) and Focus ($15,015) and their respective comparable models are top-sellers. The Civic and Focus have received stellar marks — fuel mileage to design to resale value.
Suzuki isn’t yet established in the U.S. for good resale prices and it doesn’t have the refinement of the aforementioned cars. But it does offer a lot, particularly for the price of $13,199.
The Reno, redesigned for 2005, has a different style but it shares the same engine and other features with the Forenza. Combined, there are 14 models available.
I drove the four-door hatchback Reno, which includes 2.0-liter, 16-valve, 127-horsepower engine. It’s also available with an automatic transmission, but the manual option seems suitable to the vehicle and its around-town peppiness.
The Reno looks smaller than it is, and I had no restrictions as a 6-foot, 185-pound driver. The vehicle has a 102.4-inch wheelbase and 169.1-inch overall length, both mid-range totals in the crowded compact class.
The interior of the car is straightforward, simply styled and offer no frills. The gauges are cleanly designed and easy to read, and all controls have a refreshing, ease-of-use quality.
One national consumer car guide gave the Reno a below average acceleration rating, but it also commented that the manual transmission was appreciably quicker than the automatic. I didn’t drive the automatic transmission, but I like shifting through gears and the Reno responded well. Steering and handling, ride quality and quietness are adequate overall — better than what might be expected for the price point.
For its class, the Reno has a strong standard features list: power windows, doors and locks, heated mirrors, titled steering wheel, AM/FM/cassette/CD player, daytime running lights, rear defogger, air conditioning, interior air filter and rear wiper/washer, among other features.
My test vehicle also featured one of the most unique exterior paint colors on the market. Officially, it’s called Sunburst Metallic. In reality, it’s a copper-tinted orange. After a week with the vehicle, I began to appreciate the odd tone, particularly matched against the black interior.
It’s likely the Civic and Focus will continued their stellar sales, but the Reno has a lot going for itself, particularly considering its availability at less than half the cost of today’s average new vehicle.
Safety Features — Dual front and side airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 23 mpg (city), 30 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain 7 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 3 years/unlimited miles; 24-hour roadside assistance (optional).
Base Price — $13,199.00.