2005 Suzuki Reno

Suzuki has carved out a market niche in the United States by making cars that offer a lot for the money. For 2005, Suzuki introduces two new models, the mid-sized Forenza wagon and compact Reno five-door. Engineers used Suzuki?s alliance with General Motors to source parts globally, and reduce manufacturing costs. As a result, a person can buy the base Reno S for a tick under $14,000, including the destination charge. The Reno, like all Suzuki models, comes with a fully-transferable 7-year, 100,000 powertrain warranty, and three years of free roadside assistance.

Lots of Functionality in a Compact Package

There?s no doubt about it: the Reno is a very small car. Its wheelbase is 102.4 inches, and overall length is 169 inches. As a point of comparison, the Toyota Camry rides on a 107 inch wheelbase, and is 189 inches long. However, designers made the most of the Reno?s interior by having a tall rear cargo area with a pass-through. The 60/40 split rear seats fold flat to create a cargo floor large enough to hold a weekend?s worth of luggage and camping gear.

Cyclists will probably want to take advantage of the standard roof rack grooves and install a bike rack, although it?s possible to shoe a road bike in the rear with the front wheel removed. There is also a small hidden area under the cargo floor for storing valuables out of sight.

A compact spare tire, standard on all models, takes up a minimum of storage space. While I?m not a fan of compact spare tires (they don?t have the speed rating or durability of full-sized tires), they are adequate for getting to the nearest gas station, especially when used on compact cars. There are plenty of bins and cubbies around the front seats for holding everything from water bottles to cellular phones. A 12-volt power point in the instrument panel is standard. The EX model has a standard storage area under the front passenger seat, a driver?s side change tray, and map pockets in both the doors and behind the front seats.

Italian Styling

Italdesign penned the Reno?s exterior, giving the car more flair than many competitors in the segment. The Italian styling is especially noticeable in the front, where a stylish grille is framed by two, jewel-like headlamps. A small rear spoiler on the LX and EX models breaks up the profile of the car. Together with a raked rear end, it makes the Reno look more like a sporty car than an econobox.

Fifteen inch wheels and tires are standard, improving handling in the corners. While styling may not be the primary consideration if buyers looking at this web site, it?s nice to drive a car that looks good.

Adequate Power and Excellent Fuel Economy

The Reno shares the same basic powertrain as the mid-sized Forenza: a 126 horsepower four-cylinder engine and the choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Drivers who don?t mind pushing a clutch pedal would do well to choose the manual: this is definitely a case where high revs boost power. The engine reaches peak power at 5,600 rpm, and peak torque at 4,000 rpm.

The EX model comes standard with the four-speed automatic, which features an adaptive control system that automatically adjusts shift points according to a person?s driving habits. Still, it?s a pretty tame ride. As a fan or Suzuki?s sporty Aerio SX, the performance is a little milk toast for me. On the other hand, fuel economy is excellent: 22/30 miles-per-gallon average city and highway.

And to be fair, the Reno certainly has enough power to get out of its own way. On a test drive through the hills east of Los Angeles, the Reno, with manual transmission, had enough power to ascend grades with ease, hunker down in the corners, and pass other vehicles when necessary.

Standard front and rear stabilizer bars keep the car flat in the corners, and the MacPherson front and dual link independent rear suspension provides a compliant ride. Both the manual and automatic models have adequate low-end acceleration to merge into high-speed traffic. The Reno?s small wheelbase makes it an ideal city car: it?s easy to maneuver through dense traffic, and can slip into the most compact parking spots.

Comfort for Drivers of All Sizes

All models come with a driver?s seat that has dual height and lumbar adjustments, and a tilt steering wheel. The AM/FM/CD player is pre-wired for MP3 players: steering-wheel mounted audio controls, standard on the EX, allow the driver to change channels without taking his eyes off the road. Comfort and convenience features on the EX model include a power sunroof, alloy wheels, air conditioning with air filtration, remote keyless entry, cruise control, heated side mirrors, rear defroster and speed sensitive steering. Front and side airbags are standard on all models. Antilock brakes are optional. All models come with four-wheel disc brakes.

Well-Equipped for Well Under $20,000

The Reno comes in three trim levels. Pricing ranges from $13,449 for the base S model with manual transmission, to $17,994 for the top of the line E grade with automatic transmission and antilock brakes. The Reno is currently available for test drives at area Suzuki dealerships.

2005 Suzuki Reno EX

Like: Stylish exterior and comfortable, versatile interior with plenty of creature comforts. The Reno is a lot of car for the money, and it?s a miser at the gas pump.

Dislike: Lack of power. The 126-horsepower engine, while adequate, doesn?t serve up a lot of driving excitement. Performance enthusiasts should test drive the 155-horsepower Aerio SX.

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