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Great looks, average drive
Bob Golfen
Road Test
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 13, 2004 12:00 AM

Suddenly, station wagons are cool. Maybe it's the effect of sport utility vehicles, which are mostly used as station wagons anyway. Or the youthful view of minivans as hopelessly domesticated.

Or could it be that drivers are starting to recognize that compact five-door hatchbacks are not only practical and economical, but they also can be stylish. Fun even.

The competition is stiff, but upstart automaker Suzuki has an ace in the hole: value pricing on a well-equipped automobile that undercuts anything the better-established brands can dish out. Starting at $13,949, the base Forenza wagon comes complete with such amenities as power windows, mirrors and locks, air-conditioning, a six-speaker audio system, roof rails, four-wheel disc brakes and an excellent warranty.

Forenza is also a good-looking wagon with styling by Italian design house Pininfarina, and an interior that looks richer than its price tag would suggest.

There is a downside: Drivers who prefer strong engine performance or tight handling will be disappointed at the Forenza's mundane driving characteristics. The Suzuki certainly gets the job done, just don't expect a whole lot more.

The Forenza runs with competence, accelerating well enough and cruising quietly on the freeway. For those seeking comfortable transportation, that should be enough. Those wanting more should look elsewhere.

Initial acceleration is fairly sharp, but the four banger runs out of breath at midrange, sounding noisy and strained under heavy throttle. On the highway, passing maneuvers are accompanied by abrupt downshifts and a strident roar from under the hood as the engine works to deliver the power.

The automatic transmission shifted nicely, though I would have preferred the stickshift version of this car for improved power delivery.

I said it when I tested the Forenza sedan, and I'll say it again: Here's another car that would benefit immeasurably from a decent set of shock absorbers. As it is, the underpinnings feel soft and spongy, with poorly controlled rebound after bumps and too much body sway in curves.

That's too bad since the Forenza otherwise feels well-balanced, with steering that is responsive and brakes that are fairly strong.

For a small car, the wagon maintains a high level of comfort on the highway, feeling generally solid and well-built. Fit and finish seemed high quality, better than one might expect in this price range.

All together, the Forenza wagon is a lot of car for the money, despite the issues of engine power and suspension mushiness.

An important piece of this value package is the warranty: 100,000 miles or seven years powertrain coverage that is transferable to resale owners and a 36,000-mile or three-year vehicle warranty that includes roadside assistance.

Full, Uncut Review HERE:


197 Posts
I really like the Forenza sedan and wagon along with the Reno. They are pretty stylish (especially the Reno) and are packed with features that the Civic can't match. I hope Suzuki well with these new vehicles! :)
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