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2006 Suzuki Forenza review

December 2, 2005 04:06 PM EST | Sedans , Suzuki , Wagons | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageWith a generous features list, roomy interior and low price, the Forenza looks like a bargain. Unfortunately, the driving experience falls short of everything else in the economy car class.

Pros
Long standard features list, comfortable cabin with lots of storage, available wagon body style.

Cons
Subpar fuel economy, weak acceleration with automatic transmission, sloppy road manners, inconsistent materials quality.

What's New for 2006
For 2006, the Forenza receives a new front fascia, redesigned seats with upgraded fabric, new wheel designs and revised trim levels.

Introduction:
Ever close to General Motors, Suzuki is reaping the benefits of GM's purchase of Daewoo Motor Company. One of two new Suzukis introduced at the 2003 Chicago Auto Show, the Forenza compact sedan is essentially a replacement for the Daewoo Nubira sold in the U.S. from 1999 to 2002 and is built by GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Company in South Korea.

In the midst of the highly competitive economy sedan segment, Suzuki's homegrown and distinctive-looking Aerio is a decent car that beckons buyers with a powerful four-cylinder engine, available all-wheel drive and a spacious interior. Knowing this, one can't help but wonder if the segment has room for yet another entry, as solid offerings from Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota make it tough for newcomers to gain a foothold. Suzuki sets the Forenza apart with European-inspired styling penned by Italian designer Pininfarina, a roomy interior and a host of standard features.

For power, the Forenza offers a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated for 127 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. Compare that to the Aerio, which starts only slightly higher up the price ladder than the least expensive Forenza and makes 155 hp. Nevertheless, the Forenza gets around OK when equipped with a manual transmission, but feels underpowered when saddled with the automatic. Refinement is not a particular strong point of this engine, nor is fuel economy. With a mileage estimate of 21 to 31 mpg, the Forenza is one of the thirstiest budget cars on the market. Driving dynamics are another sore spot, as the Suzuki exhibits sloppy handling and a less composed ride than its competitors. Additionally, wind noise tends to be excessive when cruising on the highway.

Inside, the Forenza comes standard with most of the essential features, and its attractive cabin is among the roomiest in this class. Unfortunately, inconsistent materials quality detracts from the otherwise inviting interior.

On the surface, the Suzuki Forenza looks like a good value. Unfortunately, its acceleration, fuel economy and handling fall well short of the leaders in this segment. Bargain hunters would be wise to put their money on a Kia Spectra instead.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The Forenza is available as a four-door sedan or a four-door wagon in one basic trim level. Standard features include body-color bumpers and door handles, four-wheel disc brakes, a height-adjustable driver seat, a padded center armrest, air conditioning, an eight-speaker stereo with a CD player, steering wheel audio controls and power windows, mirrors and locks. A Premium package available on both body styles adds alloy wheels, foglights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control and a remote keyless entry system.

Powertrains and Performance:
The Forenza comes with only one engine -- a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder making 127 horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy is below average, rating just 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway with the manual and 22/31 with the automatic.

Safety:
Front-seat side airbags and four-wheel disc brakes are standard, and ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution is optional. In frontal-impact crash tests, the Forenza earned four stars (out of five) from NHTSA, and an "Acceptable" rating from the IIHS for frontal-offset safety. In IIHS side-impact tests, it earned a rating of "Poor."

Interior Design and Special Features:
To liven things up a bit, designers used plenty of metallic accents throughout the cabin and an attractive set of gauges. Several features not normally found on a car in this price range include cabin air filtration and an eight-speaker, 140-watt stereo with steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The driver seat offers two-way seat-bottom tilt, and most people will be able to find a comfortable driving position. A padded center armrest provides a comfortable place to rest an elbow on long trips. In the backseat, there's plenty of legroom for adults. The rear seat offers a 60/40-split-folding arrangement and sedan trunk capacity comes in at 12.4 cubic feet. The wagon offers 24.4 cubic feet (61.8 cubic feet with the rear seat folded).

Driving Impressions:
When equipped with the manual gearbox, the Forenza has little difficulty keeping up in traffic. However, when the car is saddled with the automatic transmission, acceleration is weak and highway maneuvers take planning. Compared with other economy cars, the Forenza also comes up short in ride quality. It strives for comfort with its soft suspension, but there's too much movement over bumps and ruts. Handling around corners is sloppy as well, as the suspension allows too much body roll, while cheap tires offer little grip. On the positive side, the Forenza's four-wheel disc brakes provide short stopping distances (although pedal feel and stability are unimpressive).

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