Suzuki automotive does not have the name recognition, that companies such as Honda, Toyota, and Nissan have. While they have been selling cars on the international market for a long time, and in the United States for decades, they always seem to find themselves in last place. While they have hung around, unlike Yugo and Daihatsu, they are ominously known for having produced the dangerous and unreliable Samurai from the 1980’s. This car was displayed on many news programs, as it had a propensity for flipping over in sharp corners. Although it has not been manufactured for years, due to the intense pressure it received from safety advocates and publications such as Consumer Reports, this company has not been able to escape its formerly negative reputation.
The car industry is more competitive than ever, with more companies releasing an increasing number of models yearly. Gas prices are at an all time high, with manufacturers engaging in cut throat tactics to bring customers to their showrooms. With the price of a gallon hovering at over $2.00 in most places, the market share is being squeezed harder, than a lemon on a summers hot day.
That is why you will notice a large amount of television and newspapers advertisements focusing on overall efficiency. While Honda and Toyota are the traditional leaders in this segment of the automotive market, Suzuki has decided to offer their Forenza model as a competitor. It is priced lower, has a 7 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and courtesy roadside assistance. However, does it measure up to the Civic or Corolla?
I decided to test drive this car for a day, and I was impressed by its appearance. It is a darn good looking car, and it seems to exude more confidence than its low price tag. The Forenza certainly has some sporty influences, and its rounded curves make it look a bit European. The headlights and grille give it some personality, and I like how the hood is sloped for an aggressive look. While its appearance can hint at a dash of masculinity, its engine performance is far below average.
There will be no white knuckling excitement in this car, as this engine cannot provide enough strength for some routine driving conditions. It has the speed of a turtle at the line, and while it does seem to improve at higher speeds, I did not feel comfortable in merging situations. During one merge onto a major highway, I put the pedal to the metal, to see if I could gain access in typical rude driving conditions.
The engine made a lot of noise, which I considered to be thrashy, and barely moved. This car could cause one to become an ambulance passenger in L.A. or New York. Perhaps the stick shift would be an improvement, but I do not think that most consumers would be satisfied. While economy cars are not supposed to be all out performance machines, they should have enough acceleration to survive on the road.
Handling is outstanding, and I appreciated how easy it is to maneuver in to a different lane. All it takes is a minimal amount of effort to steer, so this would be a good choice for someone with low muscle tone or upper arm mobility issues. It is a joy to take on a curvy road, even though it is a shame to think of how fun it would be if they had one model with a bigger engine. Driving it is a comforting experience, as it is very forgiving, and it does not have the “floaty” feeling that many small cars have. It holds onto the road properly with its 15″ tires, and braking is excellent. I was thrilled by how easily it stops, and I applied the brakes during city and highway conditions.
I was quite pleased with the interior of this vehicle, even though there were a few quality control issues. The dash gauges, and the Suzuki emblem on the steering wheel, complete the sporty look. While it is fairly conservative, the gauges illuminate in a way that guarantees complete visibility, and the drivers seat is very comfortable. It allows a good view of the road, and it felt like being a pilot of a plane.
The front seats have plenty of room for tall people, and allows for adjustments. The back support is above average, and the seats have enough width to guarantee comfort on road trips. Unfortunately, the back seats will only be comfortable for people under 5″10, due to very limited leg room. There is only enough room to get two adults back there, and the padding was a bit too strong. If you have kids, and they are a bit obnoxious on a trip to Grandma’s house, these seats will make them ask “Are we there yet?” even more.
Controls are easy to use, and all within safe reach of the driver. The knobs for the air conditioning and heat are huge, which allows for easy turning. They are conveniently located right under the stereo, and the cold air will be a big plus during the summer months. All newer cars have environmentally friendly air conditioning, as Freon was replaced years ago, and a lot of them cannot cool you down. The Forenza shines in this regard, and its among the best I’ve ever seen. There are eight speakers, and while the sound is clear, I was disappointed by the level of bass.
If you expect an excellent warranty from Suzuki, you won’t be impressed by what they offer. While other low cost cars such as Hyundai and Kia offer long warranties, you will only get 3 year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper coverage with the Forenza. While this company does offer a 7 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, which is better than nothing, it is comparable to most other manufacturers. All the powertrain covers is the engine and transmission, which is not usually a maintenance issue that costs money during that time frame. If roadside assistance is an item you would be interested in, the warranty does cover that plus a rental car under some circumstances.
The car I drove had the following options mentioned, plus power windows, locks, cruise control, rear defroster, alloy wheels, and tilt steering. For its safety components, it had front driver/passenger airbags, along with side curtains. This is a great option, however on the Institute for Highway Safety’s crash tests, the Forenza scored poorly in side impacts. As for its front offset crash results, it was graded acceptable.
I wish that I could say that I loved this car, but I did not. It is certainly an improved product over Suzuki’s of years ago, but it has a ways to go before competing with the “big boys.” The acceleration and safety standards are a concern, as is the amount of room and comfort in the back seats. This might be a good first car for a high school or college student, with its low cost and amount of features for the money.
The Forenza has only had limited success, so it might be possible to negotiate an even better price at local dealerships. Sometimes the Suzuki company offers incentives, which are especially common around the end of the model year. This car is not as good as the Civic, Corolla, Sentra, or Elantra, but if you want the cheapest possible transportation, the Suzuki Forenza might be an acceptable choice.