With Italian styling, a British suspension and an Australian engine, this Korean-built Suzuki Forenza wagon shares the same international lineage as the Forenza sedan that arrived last year. Now, Suzuki knows a thing or two about marketing slick high-value transportation. With all that, plus an exceptional warranty, can this very affordable Forenza wagon really make a wrong turn?
Well, if the brisk sales of Suzuki’s Forenza sedan bears any weight here, the 2005 Forenza Wagon should have no trouble finding its place on the lot and off pretty quickly! Made by GM’s Korean Daewoo subsidiary, this newest Suzuki joins a roster of fresh competitors, including the also new Suzuki Reno, that have brought the compact 5-door segment back from near extinction.
Crisp lines make up the Euro-penned Pininfarina styled wagon, with a look that is expansive and fluid. Its taut sheet metal stretches over its lean, low profile emphasizing its sporty aerodynamic body. From its multi-reflector jeweled headlights, brushed aluminum roof rack, and streamlined taillights, the Forenza completely sheds the boxy image that often comes with a covered wagon.
This wagon rides on the same 102.4-inch wheelbase as the sedan and Reno. It’s supported by standard 15-inch wheels, steel on the S grade and alloys with LX and our car’s EX trim, all shod with substantial P195/55R15 tires Its rigid stamped-steel unibody makes for a solid foundation, and a good root for the wagon’s quick reactions. The independent MacPherson front strut system and dual link rear suspension configuration are tuned for a good balance between smooth highway ride and responsive around town handling.
And motivating this front-wheel drive chassis is the sedan’s familiar 2.0-liter engine, discharging a modest 126-horsepower and 131 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on S and LX models, making the sport in this wagon more than cosmetic. But most buyers will select the 4-speed automatic that’s standard with our car’s top drawer EX trim. This Forenza wagon managed 0-60 in a reasonable 10.9 seconds, and quarter mile in 18.1 seconds at 76 miles per hour. That’s the same as the automatic Reno we tested earlier, but about 2 seconds slower than a manual Forenza sedan.
In normal highway situations, you won’t notice the slow shifts of the automatic nearly as much as the engine noise. GM needs to send some of its NVH specialists to Korea for a working vacation. But the Forenza Wagon redeemed itself through our repetitive slalom test. There is a lot of weight transfer, and with the soft springs quite a bit of body lean. But the car never lost composure or grip until you were well past sensible limits. Even in our high speed lane change, the rear end stays nicely planted. Overall it’s too spongy for true sports wagon status, but it also never surprises you.
Braking comes by way of standard four-wheel disc brakes with optional ABS and Brake Assist. With ABS, stops from 60 averaged a good 130 feet. Pedal feel is somewhat stiff, but nicely progressive.
Now, while styling and performance are important, it is the interior of a small wagon that is its most important asset. The Forenza Wagon opens to a very airy 121.6 cubic feet. Our EX is lined with sturdy and supportive leather trimmed seating. All models are well equipped including a height adjustable driver’s seat. Behind the tilt leather-wrapped wheel, complete with auxiliary stereo controls, gauges appear clear and substantial. The dash is also shared with the sedan and Reno, with the center stack carrying large climate controls and an eight-speaker AM/FM CD cassette sound system.
Standard on the LX and our EX is a power tilt-and-slide sunroof. The rear quarters feature a 60/40 split fold-down bench for three with height-adjustable head rests. Just be careful not to cram the tall ones in back. It gets a little tight on leg room. Release the folding bench and expand the Forenza wagon’s 24.4 cubic feet of storage space to a generous 61.4 cubic feet. That’s a third better than the hatchback Reno, it surpasses the Volkswagen Jetta Wagon, and it’s almost as big as some compact SUVs. Protective features includes standard front-seat mounted side-impact airbags. That’s still a rare find in a compact car.
As for EPA fuel economy estimates, our EX automatic calls for 20 city and 26 highway. Our test loop was high at 25 miles per gallon.
So, interested in a test drive of your own? Well, a base price Forenza S Wagon is a modest $14,494. Step up to the LX for $16,394. And to drive our test car, the EX with ABS, it’ll cost you $18,494. Not bad for a sturdy family car. Especially when you factor in Suzuki’s irresistible 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Besides, this is one great looking, competent, affordable, and spacious wagon. So, all in all, it looks like Suzuki’s made another turn in the right direction with all signs pointing to sold! Coming up, a car for women, by women.
Engine: 2.0-Liter 4 Cylinder
Torque: 131 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 10.9 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 18.1 Seconds @ 76 MPH
60-0 MPH: 130 Feet
EPA Mileage: 20 MPG City 26 MPG Highway
Motorweek's Mileage Loop: 25 MPG Mixed City/highway