When you're shopping in the $15,000 new-car market, chances are that head-turning style and high-performance aren't first on your priority list. No, more likely you're looking to get as much car as you possibly can for as few dollars as possible.
It is into this hotly contested, price- and feature-sensitive market that Suzuki enters with two new models this year. The Suzuki Forenza Wagon and Reno are new to Suzuki's Forenza family for the 2005 model year. Both are based on the Forenza sedan, which was introduced as an all-new model for 2004. The underpinnings of the three body styles are mechanically identical. The major difference among them is exterior styling and a few trim choices.
From the standpoint of stuff for the money, the Forenza family of cars does well. They are well equipped even at the base trim level, and retail for less than most of their competitors.
The Reno is the fun member of the family. Its job is to be Suzuki's pretty face, attracting buyers who might otherwise consider cars sitting on Scion showroom floors, or perhaps the sleek lines of the Mazda 3, to which it bears a slight resemblance. The Forenza Wagon's most compelling feature is just that: it's a wagon. Larger than the Chevy Aveo and Kia Rio, it costs significantly less than comparably sized wagons such as the Ford Focus ZXW or the Toyota Matrix. The Forenza sedan is designed to offer a strong value in a sea of value-priced compact sedans, no easy job. It does this by providing side-impact airbags as standard equipment; they're extra-cost options on the 2005 Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus. Other features that are optional on the big brand names are standard on the Forenza, including air conditioning, power windows and door locks, and a CD player.
Suzuki is able to keep prices low because, despite the Japanese nameplate, the cars are built in Korea by Daewoo, courtesy of General Motors, which owns a stake in both Daewoo and Suzuki. General Motors benefits by keeping its Daewoo plant active, and Suzuki gets a full line of cars to draw more people into its dealerships.
The cars resulting from this complex genealogy are not ground breaking; few cars in this segment ever are. Breaking ground costs money, after all, so breaking ground is a job usually done by more expensive vehicles. However, these cars are strong on features, have warranties, and are good values for the money, even if they are short on pizzazz.
Suzuki Forenza and Reno models are available in three trim levels: S, LX and EX. All models come with four-wheel disc brakes and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Five-speed manual gearboxes are standard on S and LX models, four-speed automatics are optional ($800). Forenza sedan and Reno hatchback are the same price, while the Forenza wagon adds $500.
Reno S ($13,499), Forenza S ($13,499) and Forenza wagon S ($13,949) come standard with air conditioning, cloth upholstery, AM/FM/CD/cassette with six speakers, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, power windows, power door locks, heated power mirrors, 60/40 split folding rear seats, intermittent wipers and other features. Also standard are details such as a trunk light, seatback pockets, and remote releases for the trunk and fuel filler door. The Reno's stereo also supports MP3 playback.
Forenza and Reno LX ($15,349) and the Forenza wagon LX ($15,849) add remote keyless entry, cruise control, fog lamps, a power sunroof, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Forenza and Reno EX ($16,949) and the wagon ($17,449) come with leather upholstery and the automatic.
Safety features include side-impact airbags as standard equipment along with the mandated dual front airbags. We recommend getting the optional anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution ($500), which are available for LX and EX models. Three-point seatbelts are provided for all positions and we strongly recommend wearing them because they are your first line of defense in any crash; the front seatbelts are equipped with pretensioners designed to reduce belt-related injuries in a crash and adjustable shoulder-height adjusters for better comfort. The LATCH system of lower anchors and top tethers for child seats comes standard along with rear-door child safety locks. Safety sells, and these Suzukis are long on it for this class.