With the introduction of the Forenza, Suzuki goes head to head with the big boys in the hotly contested compact class. Segment leaders Civic and Corolla have long had a comfortable chunk of this sector, and the field is further populated by quality entries from Nissan (Sentra), Mazda (3) and Korean offerings by Kia (Spectra) and Hyundai (Elantra). Into the mix comes Forenza, a four door, front drive sedan offered in three trim levels. The base, Forenza S stickers for $12,499, and is well contented at that price. Standard are air conditioning, AM/FM/Cassette/ CD sound system with eight speakers and redundant controls on the steering wheel, tilt wheel, floor mats, heated mirrors and power windows and door locks. Next up is the mid-level LX, with a starting sticker of $14,399. LX adds the following to the list of standards: leather-wrapped wheel, remote keyless entry, aluminum alloy wheels, fog lamps, cruise control and a power moon roof. Topping off the line is the EX. At $15,999, it has all of the foregoing equipment plus leather seating surfacesForenza’s design was penned by Pinanfarina. The Italian studio has styled many exotic cars over the years, and this, of course, is not one of them. With the subject economy and not exotic, the charge and the challenge are obviously different, and the designers have responded well.
Page 2: Modern Look
The Forenza’s lines fit well with the modern, long hood/short deck standard for the small sedan class. The profile shows a sloping front end, rising gradually to a taller, squared off tail. Bridging the gap – a rounded greenhouse arching sharply over the top. In all, it’s a pleasant, contemporary shape
Forenza offers adult size seating for four inside (five, if you include young‘uns). Silver metallic trim bisects the dashboard north/south, and rings the four gauge instrument cluster. The front seats adapt well to various size drivers. Switchgear is mostly found on steering wheel column stanchions: stalk left for lights, stalk right for wipers. HVAC controls are dialed in with a trio of rheostats placed low on the center dash array, with sound system above. Nothing is out of reach or hard to engage. The trunk measures 12.4 cubic feet. It’s usably shaped, has a low lift over height for easy access and the rear seat backs fold forward if you want to carry any long gear.
One engine is offered with a choice of two transmissions. The 2.0 liter four cylinder develops 199 horsepower @ 5,400 rpm and 126 lb. ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm. A five speed standard is standard, with a four speed automatic available.
Page 3: New Kid
On the road, Forenza offers respectable engine performance, moving easily off the dime and cruising well at highway speeds. It is neither a rock nor a rocket. Like all small displacement motors, those who opt for the manual transmission will get the most out of the motor. The engine loses some refinement at the edges, but generally acquits itself well. Gas mileage ratings with the manual gearbox are 22 mpg’s city/30 highway. Automatic drivers can expect 20/28, according to EPA, which puts Forenza towards the lower end of the pack, compared to its segment rivals.Near the top of the pack is the powertrain warranty. Suzuki backs it up for 7 years or 100,000 miles. The suspension is four wheel independent, with MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link layout in back. Forenza handles predictably, feels solid if not overly sporty and has a comfortable, small car ride. Brakes are disc at all four corners; Suzuki is one of very few cars in this class to be so equipped. Antilock brakes are available optionally. The disc binders stop the Forenza in short order.
Suzuki is new to this segment, and like any new guy, it’s trying to get a toe-hold. It doesn’t have a long resume here, and it’s up against established benchmark models like Honda’s Civic and Toyota’s Corolla, with well earned reputations for quality and value. Forenza’s buyers will come from those willing to trade the lack of a long-term reputation and a little less refinement for a high standard content level and very aggressive pricing.
Page 4: FAQs
How much does it cost?
Three trim levels are offered. The base, S model stickers for $12,499. The mid-level LX lists for $14,399. The top model is the EX, for $15,999. Add $500 to the above for freight.
What are Forenza's strong points?
A high level of content for the dollar, and a long powertrain warranty. A Forenza S has a delivered price of $12,999, and fairly long list of standard equipment, including air conditioning, an eight speaker AM/FM/CD/Cassette sound system, tilt wheel, heated mirrors, power windows and door locks. Suzuki's powertrain warranty covers 7 years or 100,000 miles.
And the downside?
Lack of a track record and a little less refinement than in some competitive models. Forenza is a new model and is up against two benchmark compact cars (Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla) and several other quality players, like the Mazda 3, and the Nissan Sentra. Making a name for yourself in this company is an uphill battle.
Page 5: Writer's Notes
As tested: $14,899The 2004 Suzuki Forenza is a 4-door, 5-passenger family sedan, available in 3 trims, ranging from the S to the EX. The 2004 Suzuki Forenza's competitors include the Ford Focus, the Mitsubishi Lancer, and the Volkswagen Golf. Upon introduction, both trims are equipped with a standard 2.0-liter, I4, 119-horsepower engine that achieves 22-mpg in the city and 30-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard on the S, and a 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. A 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard on the EX. The 2004 Suzuki Forenza is all-new for 2004.