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April 13, 2005

New Car VIII « Car Issues »

Okay, with the help of Consumer Reports "New Car Reviews 2005-6" (or titled something like that), I did some more research on my 2004 Suzuki Verona. I guess I want more evidence I'm not an idiot for this car...

I found out a few things.

First, the car review media seems to have a bias against Suzuki, for some reason.

As I discovered, the difference between a 4-cyl or 6-cyl isn't as big as I thought. So my previous statement of incredulity (echoing the reviewers' criticism) that there are 4-cyl engines that put out nearly as much horsepower as my car's inline 6-cyl needs to be retracted. What makes the difference, it seems, is the amount of displacement of the cylinders. So when you compare my 2.5 liter I-6 to other engines in the 2.3-2.5 liter range (regardless of cylinders), you see that most of them put out between 130 and 160 horsepower. That puts my cars 155-hp at the high end. And while a 4-cyl might get 1-2 mpg better than my car's I-6, they are almost always noisier, rougher, and slower to 60 mph and in the quarter-mile. There are 4 exceptions: the Camry's 4-cyl, the Accord's 4-cyl, the Altima's 4-cyl, and the Mazda 6's 4-cyl, all of which have just about the same horsepower, 3-5 mpg better, and about 1 second faster to 60mph. But they all also cost at least $5000 more for similar equipment, so I don't feel that bad.

I also found that few cars have Continuously-Variable Transmissions, so Suzuki not having that engine to offer doesn't seem so strange, now.

And so, lacking a CVT for smoothness, it seems clear that the Verona used a small-displacement Inline 6-cyl engine for smoothness rather than power or fuel economy. And yet, the Suzuki Verona wasn't the worst at acceleration or fuel economy for that level/size car; rather, that dubious honor belongs to Big 3 vehicles, Kia, Mitsubishi...Hyundai actually seems to be fairly close to the top Japanese cars for engine ability. But Hyundai gets accused of using cheaper materials that break/fall apart/disintegrate before the car is paid off, much less reaches 100k miles. One of the few points of praise the Suzuki Verona and Forenza earn is that they at least use good quality materials that should have a long life...since both Hyundai and Suzuki get points for being good workmanship (from most reviewers), it should be the better materials that sets the Suzuki apart.

Why was Suzuki knocked down for having a substandard engine? True, there are few manufacturers putting out 2.5l 6-cyl engines to compare it to, but you'd think a car reviewer would understand that and critique accordingly.

The media bias was confirmed for me today when I read a complimentary review of the 2006 VW Jetta today. Now, it supposedly will offer a bigger engine in the future, but for right now, all you can get is a 2.4l Inline 5-cyl that produces 150-hp. 5 less than my car. And despite being a much smaller car, it does the 1/4-mile at only .5 seconds faster, and gets to 60mph less than 1 second faster, as well. Yet there were no negative statements of "lacking power" in this review; rather, it said it had just enough power to give the driver confidence. Well, that's what my Verona's engine gives me, in a much bigger, much more comfortable car. And despite using electric steering assist to improve fuel economy, the Jetta only gets 2mpg better than my Verona. Again, in a significantly smaller/lighter car.
...and let's not forget that VW vehicles are known for having electrical problems. And it's not even like the brand-new Jetta looks any better than my car, even. Plus, the Jetta they tested, lacking many of the appointments of my car, starts at $21k, according to the article (the 2005 model starts at $18k and goes up to $25k). $7k is a great deal more money to pay for a car that doesn't perform appreciably better and doesn't look any better, either. So why doesn't the Verona get as much notice as the Jetta, then?

The other thing I noticed from all the reviews I've read is that nearly all criticize the Verona's (and the Forenza's, as well) handling as being "mushy" or "imprecise". I really don't see where they're getting that.

Most reviewers also praise the Ford Focus's first test-drive in the quest that ended with a Verona was a didn't really feel much different than my 1991 Toyota Corolla, to tell the truth. But the first thing I noticed when I test-drove a Forenza was the tightness and response of the steering. I felt like it went exactly where I wanted it to.

That same feeling was in my Verona. I only test-drove it as a comparison point, at that stage. To tell the truth, I was happy enough with the Forenza that I would have purchased it, but the 2005 Forenza had pretty much the same starting price as the 2004 brand-new Verona. It just seemed like there was more room to negotiate a better price on the Verona, then (they were desperate to get it off the lot), and even if I couldn't negotiate much further, it seemed like I was getting a much bigger and better car for the price.

Well, the more I drove my Verona, the more I liked it. I previously said that it seemed to know where I wanted to go before I did. Driving over mountain passes, it took the corners great at high speeds and wet conditions. I found that every time I felt like I was at the edge of the tires' traction (where you would normally brake to retain control), I could actually cut the turn tighter, and the car would settle in and corner like it was on rails. That's not mushy or imprecise.

On a whim, I checked out the review of the CRV (our other car). Guess what? Supposedly it had tight/precise steering...but where it did used to feel nice and tight to me (about the same as my Corolla), it now feels mushy and imprecise compared to my Verona.

What gives?

The other inaccuracies in reviews (one reviewer said the cupholder couldn't hold anything but 120z cans...I found it holds a 44oz cup fine, and more securely than any other car I've been in), the overall wonderful impression I had from the very first time I drove it, and that wonderful impression only being strengthened in the month I've driven it since just makes me think Suzuki is getting a raw deal from car reviewers. Why?

I might think that maybe it's just me; maybe my driving habits and style and preference are different than most other people. Except that my friends all seemed suitably impressed when given a chance to ride and/or drive it themselves. Not enough to make it a wishlist car, no...and they might have just been being polite...[shrug].

All I can say is, if you are considering purchasing a new car, or if you just like going on test-drives, I think you'd be a fool not to include a Suzuki Forenza and Verona on your list of cars to try. At least to have a baseline of what an inexpensive, nice-looking car can be.

If anyone else has test-driven a Forenza or Verona, I'd love to hear what you thought, especially the negatives. Obviously, there is a huge disparity between what the reviewers think and what I think. I'd like to know who is crazy, and I'm okay with it if it turns out to be me.

Posted by Nathan at 05:07 PM | Comments (2)

I just bought a 2004 Verona and I love it. I was a little scared at first because I hadn't heard anything about this car. After reading varied reviews, I decided to go ahead and give it a try since 1, it fit into my budget and 2, it has an excellent warrenty. My complaints are the sometimes seemingly racing of the engine when I am accelerating and at times, it seems to jump into gear. But nothing severe. I love the smoothness of the ride, the control I feel at the wheel, and the style is out of this world. I feel fortunate to have such a nice car at an affordable price. Like you said, the quality of the materials seems to be good, so I'm hoping to drive my Verona for many years to come.

Posted by: Vik at July 22, 2005 09:50 PM

I feel like you do!!! I bought a Forenza last year and I love it!! As far as mushy or imprecise steering goes, I think it handles much better than my other car, and my other car is a Lincoln Town Car!!! Which costs SIGNIFICANTLY more!!
The only negative I have come across, is at higher rpms, the engine seems buzzy and whiney, but it's definitely not unbearable, just could be a little quieter. The car has excellent fit and finish, very tight no rattles or whistles. All in all i don't think you can beat it for the price you pay!!

Posted by: B.D.Kalaf at September 5, 2005 02:01 PM
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