The Forenza, which targets value-oriented buyers, was partially designed by Pininfarina in Italy. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder is rated at 127 horsepower, and rivals include the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags were installed in all models for 2005. Fresh front-end styling, a new wheel design and a revised interior marked the 2006 Forenza. For 2007, a tire pressure monitoring system and warning light come standard, and remote keyless entry with remote trunk release is optional.
A Forenza Wagon joined the sedan for the 2005 model year.
Suzuki touts the Forenza's "gracefully curved roofline and uniquely free-flowing silhouette," noting that it provides maximum visibility. Clear, oversized taillamps complement European-style dual cylindrical halogen headlights, and the side molding is color-keyed.
The Forenza features pull-out door handles, and fog lamps are available. Speed-sensitive power steering and all-disc brakes are installed. Measuring 177.2 inches long overall, the Forenza rides a 102.4-inch wheelbase and stands 56.9 inches tall. Steel or aluminum wheels hold 15-inch tires.
Up to five occupants can fit inside the Forenza. The instruments are rimmed with metallic silver accents, and the panel emits a jade-green glow for night driving. Equipped with three head restraints, the 60/40-split rear seats fold flat.
Height and lumbar support adjustments for the driver and a tilt steering wheel are included. The padded front center armrest contains a storage compartment. Trunk space totals 12.4 cubic feet.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning with micron air filtration, heated mirrors, and power windows and locks. A standard in-dash cassette/CD stereo system includes eight speakers. Suzuki's Premium Package adds cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and antilock brakes.
Under the Hood
The Forenza's 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 127 hp at 5,600 rpm and 131 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission can be installed. A "hold" button for the automatic prevents gear hunting in hilly terrain.
Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are included in the Premium Package. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard. Each rear occupant gets a three-point seat belt.
Late in 2004, a Forenza Wagon joined the original sedan in Suzuki's lineup. Like the sedan, the wagon uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that develops 127 hp and 131 pounds-feet of torque. Cargo space totals 24.4 cubic feet.
All-disc brakes, side-impact airbags, roof rails, air conditioning, an eight-speaker cassette/CD stereo and a 60/40-split, folding rear seat are standard. Wagons can be equipped with the optional Premium Package.
Except for a couple of ergonomic annoyances, including the steering-wheel radio controls, the Forenza Wagon is enjoyable to drive. Performance with the automatic transmission is satisfactory — even a touch spirited — though acceleration yields typical small-car engine blare.
Ride comfort is quite nice and generally smooth even in the city, with few unpleasant motions. Steering and handling are typical compact-car, but visibility is excellent. The seats are comfortable, and there's plenty of space in the front. Backseat room isn't bad, either. Cargo space is ample, and items are easy to load
There's more to the story of the Suzuki Forenza -- a competent, attractive little sedan at a very affordable price -- than you might think.
You know Suzuki as a Japanese company, but you might not know that it's a partner of General Motors. And you likely remember Daewoo as a Korean company that went bankrupt. General Motors rescued Daewoo, and the company still builds cars in Korea, but they are sold here under different names, such as the Chevrolet Aveo. But since Chevrolet couldn't take all of Daewoo's production, GM leaned on Suzuki to take the compact Forenza, the larger Verona and the smaller Reno, which is sort of a hatchback version of the Forenza. The Verona is gone, but the Forenza remains.
That isn't quite all: The Forenza's Italian name isn't that much of a stretch, as well-regarded Italian design company Pininfaria did most of the Forenza's styling.
So we have a Korean car, with an Italian name, built by a company controlled by General Motors, sold by a Japanese brand. And did I mention the engine is from Australia?
Though the Forenza's passport may be more interesting than the Forenza itself, this is a nicely executed car, as it has been since it was introduced as a 2004 model. It received a mild update in 2006, though only members of the Forenza Fan Club could tell the difference, assuming there even is a Forenza Fan Club.
The test model was the Forenza sedan -- a wagon has been offered since 2005 -- with quite a bit of equipment, considering the sub-$16,000 sticker price. Standard features included air conditioning, disc brakes, side air bags, a good eight-speaker stereo with a CD player, a tilt steering wheel, heated mirrors, and power windows and locks. Remote keyless entry added $150, and cruise control cost $200. The transmission was a four-speed automatic.
The Forenza's only engine choice is a 2.0-liter, 127-horsepower four-cylinder, EPA-rated at 22 miles per gallon city, 31 mpg on the highway. If you are willing to shift for yourself, the Forenza is offered with a five-speed manual transmission for $1,000 less. With the automatic, cruise control, remote entry and shipping, the test Forenza listed for $15,944. Suzuki sweetens the deal with a limited seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty that is transferable, as well as roadside assistance and a loaner-car program.
The real appeal of the Forenza is the packaging. The cloth-covered front seats are more comfortable and supportive than you would expect in an inexpensive car. Rear seats are very roomy for a car this size -- four 6-foot adults fit pretty well in a Forenza, and taller rear-seat passengers will run out of headroom before they run out of legroom. The trunk is plenty big, too.
On the road, the Forenza's ride isn't as quiet as a Toyota Corolla's, but it's comparably smooth. Handling is limited by the smallish 15-inch tires. The engine and transmission aren't up to the best Japanese standards, but they aren't bad at all.
Given the price, and the likelihood that a Suzuki dealer might be more willing to deal on a Forenza than a Honda dealer will on a Civic, this is a nice car for a single person or a small family. It's large enough to feel like a real car on the highway, but they're small enough to get good fuel mileage. You could do much worse.