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Review: 2004 Suzuki Verona

2004 Suzuki Verona	
Base price: $19,499
Price as tested: $20,499
EPA mileage: 20 city/ 28 highway

By Des Toups


The midsize sedan market is perhaps the auto industry's toughest, with 
great cars (Accord and Camry), interesting cars (Mazda6 and Altima) and 
bargain cars (Taurus, Impala, Sonata) slugging it out for a piece of a
3-million 
car pie.

The Suzuki Verona is not a great car or even an interesting one, but it 
does strike a convincing note on the bargain front. Our tester, an EX , 
positively dripped with extras: sunroof, climate control, heated leather

seats with eight-way power for the driver, antilock brakes and
six-cylinder 
engine. The tab is just $20,499 -- about the cost of a marginally
equipped 
four-cylinder Camry or Accord. (Even the $17,499 base model includes the

six, automatic, air and power windows and locks.)

Oddly, the one extra not available at any price is side air bags, a
critical omission in this class.

All the extras come wrapped in a roomy, attractive and
substantial-feeling 
package. Quality of interior fittings is a step above the domestics, as
is 
the silky feel of the 2.5-liter inline six.

If, stopping there, you feel like that's enough, you're probably the 
customer Suzuki is going after in its newly aggressive push to go 
mainstream. The Verona tops a new lineup that starts with the
entry-level 
Forenza (both are mined from the lineup of General Motors' Korean arm, 
Daewoo) and last year's weird but peppy Aerio compact. The defining
trait 
across the board is value, with these cars undercutting the segment
leaders 
by thousands. All are backed by a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

If, though, you think there's more to a car than a monthly payment, look
a 
little closer. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with the way the

Verona accelerates, turns or stops, there's nothing especially right,
either.

Take acceleration, for example. The sweet-sounding six develops just 155

horsepower, less than the four-cylinder engines in the Camry, Accord or 
Mazda6. (Suzuki's own 2.3-liter four offers just as much horsepower in
the 
humble Aerio.) It's hitched to a four-speed automatic rather than a 
five-speed, which has rapidly become the class standard.

What an unhappy pair. There's not much grunt down low -- entering a busy

street usually requires a second, panicked flooring of the gas pedal --
and 
little grunt up high, either. The slightest acceleration at highway
speeds 
forces the transmission to downshift in search of power. A manual 
transmission, not offered in the United States, would go a long way
toward 
getting more out of this potentially alluring engine.

The engine may be silky enough, but there's a coarse feel to the way the

Verona rides and handles. Tire roar and fierce wind noise from around
the 
sunroof and windows wear on passengers during Interstate cruising.
Reception on the six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo is weak. The overly soft
suspension manages to offering both mushy handling and a jiggly ride.

These rough edges probably don't do much to reassure shoppers concerned
about Suzuki's poor reliability history. Though Suzuki has countered
with the long warranty, buyers may need it: On our low-mileage tester,
the cruise control was out.

This is a passable effort, assuming quality stands up, but the only
compelling reason to buy it is price. Bargain hard.

Des Toups <http://www.theautochannel.com/search/search.html?words=Toups>
is a Seattle
<http://www.theautochannel.com/search/search.html?words=Seattle>
free-lance writer whose work has appeared in Driving Sports and
AutoWorld
<http://www.theautochannel.com/search/search.html?words=AutoWorld>
magazines, MSN Money, The Seattle Times
<http://www.theautochannel.com/search/search.html?words=Seattle%20Times>
and newspapers nationwide.