Category Archives: Suzuki

2005 Suzuki Verona EX TC (544)

Overview:

Well we’re continuing with another fuel-efficient (relatively fuel efficient) 2005 Suzuki Verona EX TC. If this car doesn’t excite you then I’m a little funny… know what I mean. But I fall in love too easily so maybe it’s just me. I like nice looking, fun to drive, enjoy going places with, low maintenance and not to spend-ee. Ok that also fits the description of this car as well. And before you think I’m a cheap date, we need to talk more, perhaps over dinner at Victoria Station. For readers in France or elsewhere, that is a nice restaurant in the high desert of California.

I love the name. I’m Italian and Verona is in Italy. Ok, so it’s a flimsy reason for liking the name, but I bet horses on their names too. It’s as good a handicap method as other systems. But then when you can count the times you’ve been to the track on two hands and one foot, that’s as good a handicapping system I could come up with.

Another reason I like this car is that it is one answer to BMW on my budget. Sweet. I would have to pay twice that for the Beeeeemer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not cheap, but rather I have other things I’d rather spend my money on. I’ve enjoyed the Porsche, Lamborghini and Mercedes Benz cars I’ve owned, but now I find travel and good friends more important than dumping lots of money into cars like I used to. Come to think of it good friends have always been more important. I’m reminded of the plaque hanging on my Swedish “second mom’s” kitchen wall that … “Vee Get toooo soon old’t undt tooo late schmart”. I loved that lady.

Handling & Performance:

Wonderful. This really was a pleasure to drive and for the money you’ll be blown away by how well it handles and performs. You’ve gotta wonder why 400 horsepower is so important. And zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds will cost you about $1.50 with gas prices as they are.

Styling: 

You be the judge. If you like the styling of BMW and Honda Accord you’ll be impressed by this Verona. And this is a full five-seat sedan.

Fit and Finish: 

Very nice and exceptional for the money.

Cost:

 … and the money folks – it is also exceptionally competitive. Suzuki is on a quest to be a more serious player and $20,000 for a great family sedan is a great place to start.

Conveniences:   

Really great array of things you’d expect to pay a lot more for and only find on more expensive cars. Climate control and moon roof to start with and leather seating as a kicker.

Consumer Recommendation:  

The Verona is a must see. This is a stand out car this year.

The Competition:  

Suzuki Verona $17-20,000, Chrysler 300 $23-39,000, Nissan Altima $17-29,000, Mercury Montego $24-29,000, Subaru Legacy $21-29,000, Ford 500 $22-28,000, Chevrolet Malibu $19-24,000, Buick LaCrosse $23-28,000, VW Jetta $18-24,000, Honda Accord $16-29,000, Saturn L300 $21,370, Mitsubishi Galant $19-26,000, Toyota Camry $18-26,000, Mazda 6 $19-27,000.

Good News:

Priced very well, lots of standard equipment, great styling and decent fuel economy.

Bad News:

Bad news, are you kidding, what more do you want. Ok, so traction control is optional and Stability control is not available. But com-on with everything else how can anyone complain?  And for my friend Jonathan B – I don’t only say good things about the cars I review. For those who have read my reviews over the past 11 plus years know I’m not always so kind. And the manufacturers have never once questioned what I say about their cars.

Standard Equipment: 

2.5 liter inline 6-cylinder 155 hp engine (zero maintenance timing chain), 4-speed automatic trans, speed sensitive power steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, climate control, leather seating and door trim, 8-way driver power seat, cruise control, heated front seats, 60/40 folding split rear seats, audio system with cassette and CD players, tilt steering wheel with remote audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Alloy wheels, fog lights, remote keyless entry, remote power trunk release, power widows and locks, power / heated mirrors, power tilt / slide moon roof and tire pressure monitoring system.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing:
MSRP $20,449.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2005 – An Automotive Love Affair

2005 Suzuki Forenza Wagon EX (543)

Overview:

”Here I go again, I hear the trumpets blow again…” as the lyrics go in an old time tune … “taking a chance on love”. So I’m back on the road again with another fuel-efficient transportation car. The 2005 Suzuki Forenza is just that and I really enjoyed passing a few more gas stations. This wagon gives just that little more cargo area than the sedan has; yet it still retains that sedan look. Remember when a Station Wagon was massive and bulky in appearance?

Also in our trip down memory lane, remember the Ad campaign for Avis Rent-a-car that went … “We’re number 2, we try harder”. Well that applies here. This Korean assembled, Japanese car is a product of “We try Harder” philosophy. You’re gonna like what you get in this family car. I guarantee it.

Handling & Performance:

It only has 126 horsepower but it will surprise you that it isn’t more. Lev and Richard took me off road to cut some firewood above Lake Hughes in Southern California and it made me proud how far I got before we had to move the chain saws from the cargo area to the 4-wheel drive truck for the remainder of the journey up the hill. Truly I could have made it, but dodging all those rocks and boulders was not worth the effort. Highway driving was just great however. It was smooth and comfortable for the 100 miles per day I drive.

Styling:

Nice lines and while it is a station wagon it is sharply formed. Kind-a like a scaled down SUV rather than the traditional station wagon of yesteryear designs. I liked driving this one, and my golf clubs fit nicely, thanks.

Fit and Finish:

Just fine Vern… I think the Koreans like other emerging industrial nations pay more attention to detail. Nice job guys.

Cost:

Very good for all you get. I can’t imagine why people futz around repairing their old jalopy when they can have a brand spanking new car for this kind of money.

Conveniences:

Fantastically appointed features for the money.

Consumer Recommendation:

Surely this is a must see. Get in on the ground floor. Cost to produce is lower than other competitors and that allows you to get the best bang for the buck. Perhaps the buck should stop here!

The Competition:

Suzuki Forenza $14-17,000, Ford Focus Wagon $17-18,000, Kia Rio Cinco $11,500, Mazda 3 $14-19,000, VW Jetta Wagon $19-22,000, Scion xA $12,530, Subaru Impreza Wagon $18-24,000, Chevrolet Malibu Maxx $21-25,000, Toyota Matrix $15-19,000, Pontiac Vibe $17-20,000.

Good News:

Decent fuel economy, roomy, good cargo area, comfy, nice ride, well appointed and well priced.

Bad News:

Short on the horses.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder 126 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, speed sensitive power steering, 4-wheel disc brakes, air conditioning, dual airbags front and side, cruise control, audio system with cassette and CD player and 8 speakers, tilt steering wheel with remote audio controls, leather seating, door trim steering wheel and shift knob, 60/40 split folding rear seats, alloy wheels, fog lights, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, power heated mirrors, power tilt and slide sunroof. 100,000 mile 7 year transferable power train limited warranty24/7 roadside assistance, warranty repair courtesy vehicle program.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing: 

MSRP $17,449.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2005 – An Automotive Love Affair

2003 Suzuki XL-7 4WD LTD (456)

Overview:

This week I drove the 2003 Suzuki XL-7 4WD LTD, because SUV’s are simply the hottest vehicle on the market. It really is a phenomenon that may end up with everyone owning at least one. But no crystal ball and if gas prices go much higher you’ll see an exodus to fuel efficient small cars. As you may recall, about 40% of all vehicles on the road today are truck or truck-like in the form of the Sport Utility Vehicle.

These Truck frame products are the most profitable for a car company’s lineup and they will necessarily give people what they want. But what we want seems to ignore practical transportation cars. You know, those are cars that get 35+ MPG of gasoline with an initial purchase price of about $10,000 new. Ok, so you won’t impress your friends, but you will impress your banker and retirement fund administrator. But in the real world car buyers insist on putting their financial security (reserve cash) into auto industry related company bank accounts. Why do we do that? As always I love to hear from the “Real” people so drop me a line and I’ll share your views with other readers.

On a positive note, some car companies are now advertising programs where the prospective buyer can take the car home a day or two. I guess they are hoping you’ll like it in your driveway instead of theirs. I’ll be interested to see how that works out. On balance it sounds good for the consumer but costly for the dealers, especially if people abuse the car and thus the program.

Handling & Performance:

Comfortable, low center of gravity for stability, but very sluggish with the 183 horses and if you insist on quick starts off the line the bad mileage will turn to horrible.

Styling:

Wonderful. I rather like the Star Wars Storm Trooper look – especially with the Pearl White paint and clean, smooth lines. I liked the car from the git-go. It is the largest vehicle Suzuki has produced.

 Fit and Finish:

For a car / SUV at this price range it is clearly a standout ready to do battle.

Conveniences:

Loaded! – As they used to say in the old days at a typical “high-pressure” sales lots. It was probably the 1950’s when car salesmen gave dealerships in California a bad name. That’s when transient migrant people from all over the US moved to California, the largest car market in the world, for jobs. Too many became car salesmen and the unsuspecting consumer was descended upon by hungry salesmen who glorified the automobile and impressed you with all the stuff that you just had to have. Conveniences were really few, by comparison with today’s gadget rich rides, so every innovative feature would garner a lot of attention, in the “good old days”.

There is third row seating for up to 7, but the rear two are tight and accessible for the “Little People”. They also fold forward nicely for a great cargo area. The door opens toward the curb to please 50% of the people, but at least it doesn’t open upward that allows stuff to fall to your feet and tick you off.

Cost:

Suzuki is here to play and so they priced this XL-7 to sell.

Consumer Recommendation:

Of the competition listed below this Suzuki is at the top of the heap. I took the 2002 Ford Escape for two weeks to Yellowstone Park, CA and although it was nice this 2003 Suzuki is beefier with more plush seats. For a long trip that could be a factor. On the other hand the Ford got 25 mpg on the road compared to 20 for this Suzuki so I didn’t complain about the Escape. I’m in the Montero as I write this so next week I’ll summarize its performance. So far I only see design and pricing issues in this class.

The Competition:

Suzuki XL-7 $20-25,000, Chevrolet Tracker $20-23,000, Ford Escape $19-26,000, Mazda Tribute $18-25,000, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $23-33,000.

Good News:

Classy styling, priced well for what you get.

Bad News:

Sluggish acceleration, lousy mileage.

Standard Equipment:

2.7 liter 183 hp V6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, 4WD 2-speed transfer case, ABS brake system, climate control, tilt wheel with remote radio controls, audio system with 6 disc CF player, cruise control, leather, third row seating, alloy wheels, power windows, locks and heated mirrors, power tilt and slide sunroof, remote keyless entry, 100,000 mile 7 year transferable power train warranty.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $26,299.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2003 – An Automotive Love Affair

2003 Suzuki Aerio SX (432)

Overview:

This week I jumped from a $50,000 Hummer H2 (overstated, impractical, gas guzzling super SUV) into one of the most practical of family passenger vehicles on the planet. This week I tested the 2003 Suzuki Aerio SX. I guess you could view it as a “mini-wagon”.

In spite of the fact that most men secretly want to own the H2, they would be hard pressed justifying it to mama and the kids. Of course I’m not making mama out to be the hero here, because if the truth be known and she had her way she would buy a Jaguar for her and the “Kids”.

We all know we shouldn’t drink, smoke and chase fast women, Bill Clinton, but we are weak and fall to temptation. So, go out and buy a Jag for her and a H2 for him and forget practical cars like this Suzuki Aerio SX. Just kidding. Anyway there probably isn’t enough in the checkbook anyway, dear.

Handling & Performance:

Naturally small cars are easy to zip around town in. It was a major production to just run up to the store for a quart of milk while driving the H2. It would be easier to walk or I could take the Toyota Corolla or the Suzuki Aerio.

Styling:

The Aerio reminds me of the Pontiac Aztek that so many said was ugly. Ok so I agree it isn’t pretty but neither was the girl next door when I was a kid. I wonder what ever happened to her. She was practical, well constructed and would have been a great mom to the kids, and an unlimited warranty. I wouldn’t have noticed back then. I was into different styling. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder and it had a different meaning – then. I probably needed glasses back then and didn’t even know it.

Fit and Finish:

Good, like most Japanese cars tend to be.

Conveniences:

Austere – basic and boring to some, while adequate and cheap to others. Life is a series of tradeoffs, eh? My favorite saying, “Enough is abundance to the wise”, speaks volumes.

Cost:

Hard to imagine what you’d do with all the extra money by not buying that Jag or Hummer. Let’s see, the Hummer could cost as much as $112,000 so if I bought this Aerio I could bank about $100 grand. Or consider financing. Payments with 10% down, 7%, 5 years on each would be $267 on the Aerio and $1980 on the Hummer. Then there’s the consideration for repairs and operating costs. Gas consumption on the Aerio at an average of 30mpg vs. the Hummer at an average of 10mpg. You do the rest of the math and you will likely come up with a monthly cost to own the Hummer at about $2,500 and $350 for the Aerio. Pretty sizeable trade off.

Consumer Recommendation:

It is said, “A budget is something we stay within when we go without”. Only you know what you should really spend on transportation. The bus may be the best alternative. Or if you’re a health and fitness nut, buy a bicycle and save money and live long enough to spend it on other things.

The Competition: (in order of average price)

Suzuki Aerio SX $14,999, Chrysler PT Cruiser $17-26,000, Ford Focus $13-19,000, Ford Focus Wagon $17-18,000, Kia Rio Cinco $10,750, Mazda Protege5 $16,635.

Good News:

Good gas performance and priced well, great transferable power train warranty.

Bad News:

No ABS brakes, styling only a mother could love.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder 145 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual transmission, power steering, alloy wheels, fog lights, power windows, locks and mirrors, rear defroster and washer wiper, air conditioning, audio with 6 speakers and 6-in dash CD changer, Cruise control, tilt wheel, 5-passenger seating, covered rear storage area, split folding rear seat, 100,000 – 7 year transferable power train warranty with courtesy vehicle program.

Gas Stats:

26 City and 32 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $14,999.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2002 – An Automotive Love Affair

2002 Suzuki Esteem Wagon (378)

Overview: 

This week we’re looking at the 2002 Suzuki Esteem Wagon GLX. I suspect our egos take us too far and away from good sense when it comes to buying a car. Saturn also puts out a nice low cost car but BMW, Mercedes Benz and the like mesmerize buyers. We buy beyond our need for transportation. While I was in Japan I got the distinct impression that people there buy cars for their utility. In fact, look at most countries other than the United States and you see how much they push the envelope on getting the most out of the cars they buy. If a carmaker says the truck will carry a 1-ton load you can bet your bippy the carmaker has underestimated the real potential by magnitudes.

Well, I guess my point is that this little wagon will deliver more utility per dollar than those heavy hitter Beemers and Benz’s. Look at the gas performance, repair costs, insurance and all the rest and if my kids didn’t buy something like this I’d be disappointed. Ok, so I’m disappointed.

When my family was young I always recommended that you buy a better-equipped, more luxurious used car than spending a lot of money on a new car that depreciated in value simply by driving it off the lot. Today the world has changed and technology is abundantly available and cheap! So, today I say buy new, but don’t buy the big name brands where too much of the price tag is for the nametag. The other advantage of buying new today, (because they are relatively cheaper), is that you don’t have to gamble on the mechanical roadworthiness of the purchase. You don’t want to inherit the problems the seller is dumping onto someone else. You just have too much to choose from at great prices and you get an uncontested warranty to boot.

Handling & Performance:

Just great, kids (do you think they’re listening?). How they get so much from a 1.8-liter engine is marvelous these days. And although I thought this little 4-cylinder engine was adequate for the car, I tested the VW Beetle with a Turbocharged 4-cylinder that put out 180 horsepower.

Styling: 

More than “plain wrap” and that makes it competitive in this market segment, but why’d they think they needed the Roof End or rear roof spoiler? Well I guess they’re the designers, but I have to look at it and does it serve any real good purpose? I doubt this will be in any road races where aerodynamics is critical.

Fit and Finish:

Great for the dough.

Conveniences:

Well equipped for the money.

Cost:

Well priced.

Recommendation:

If you’re in the market for trouble free transportation for a young family this is a good choice. If you’re not interested in snob appeal this is a must drive option. The field of similar small wagons is limited so you should be able to test-drive them all. I’ve tested all and they are very close in my opinion, so it will come down to: 1. Is it big enough for your need? and 2. Which has the styling that suits your taste?

 The competition:

Suzuki Esteem Wagon $17,374, Ford Focus Wagon $17-18,000, Mazda Protégé 5 $16,000, Saturn SW $14,000, Subaru Impreza Wagon $17-23,000.

Good News:

Well-priced, comfortable, economical gas miser, typical Japanese quality and odd looking roof end spoiler.

Bad News:

Will not boost your ego as it builds your bank account.

Standard Equipment: 

1.8 liter inline 4-cylinder 120 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, power steering and brakes, Roof End Spoiler, power sunroof, alloy wheels, child safety locks, remote keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, rear defroster, tachometer, cruise control, air conditioning, audio system with cassette and CD and dual front airbags.

Gas Stats:

26 City and 33 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $17,374.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2002 – An Automotive Love Affair

2002 Suzuki XL-7 (377)

Overview:

This week’s review is the Suzuki XL-7 mid size sport utility. It is affordable to buy and even a little better on gas consumption than other larger SUV’s. But like all 4-wheel drive vehicles you expect lower numbers here.

It is rather nice looking, has a beefier build than other Suzuki products and more powerful with a 2.7 liter V6 engine. It is a long stretch from the early days of the Samurai that scared me to drive. It is very unstable with a narrow track and high center of gravity. The little 2-door Vitara looks to be simply the renaming of an old dog, but I haven’t driven it. Memories are obviously lasting. I must admit however that Suzuki did help pave the way to more affordable SUV’s and that little Samurai put Suzuki on the map in the America.

Surely this second year model of the XL-7 is a nice addition and improvement in affordable mid size SUV’s on the market today. I believe as a family car the mini van is a better option to the SUV but some shy away from the accompanying “soccer mom” image of a van.  Thus they go for the less fuel efficient SUV and 4-WD capability they will never use anyway. Go figure.

I heard it said that although the XL-7 doesn’t have a more prestigious nameplate it does a nice job of combining utility, comfort, performance and ruggedness. And of course I have to add, affordably.

Handling & Performance:

Performance is not bad for normal driving but if you push the limits you feel and hear the straining of the engine. It handles nicely and doesn’t have that top-heavy feeling of the Samurai that left its mark on my memory. It is also surprisingly comfortable and provides a smooth ride on good highways. Naturally it won’t handle those potholes as well as its larger, more expensive competitors.

Styling:

Very nice. This largest of the Suzuki fleet has clean and classy lines. Not what I had expected. The interior is also very comparable with most other SUV’s with much higher price tags.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. This will surprise you.

Conveniences:

Very good for the money.

Cost:

Because it is a mid size SUV that is roomy and comfortable, it is apparent you really don’t have to spend more money to get the job done. Very well priced.

Consumer Recommendation:

In the market for a Sport Utility?  I would definitely include this XL-7 in my test drive line-up. Perhaps the closest competitor is the Mazda Tribute from the numbers but I like this XL-7 a little better.

Manufacturer Recommendations:

Generally a nice job. But for the US market put the hinges on the opposite side of the cargo door so it opens away from the curb for ease of loading and it’s safer too. I found little else to complain about.

The competition:

Chevrolet Tracker $16-22,000, Ford Escape $19-26,000, Mazda Tribute $18-24,000, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $23-33,000.

Good News:

Well-priced, nice styling, smooth ride, comfortable and affordable. Seats up to seven with third row seating.

Bad News:

 Engine strains when pushed and a little noisy, rear door opens to the curb, but then they drive on the left side in Japan.

Standard Equipment:

2.7 liter 183 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans, power brakes and steering, shift on the fly 4-wheel drive, air conditioning, stereo with CD player, power windows/locks and heated mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, child safety locks, tilt steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,799.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2001 – An Automotive Love Affair