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2004 Suzuki Verona - Review

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MODEL: Suzuki Verona
ENGINE: 2.5-liter inline 6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 155 hp @ 5,800 rpm/177 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 106.3 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 187.8 x 71.5 x 57.1 in.
STICKER PRICE: $16,499 - $19,499

For years Suzuki has cultivated and nurtured a reputation as a builder of small, inexpensive-to-cheap cars. The small Suzuki sport utilities are good vehicles at the bottom end of the scale. As are the small sedans.

There was a hint of a shift to upscale with the introduction of the XL-7 variant of the Grand Vitara. The XL-7 was an almost-midsize SUV with quite a few nice luxury features. This year, the XL-7 adds a 5-speed automatic transmission, but that isn't the vehicle under discussion this time.

The vehicles we're discussion is another step up for Suzuki, the Verona mid-size sedan. Verona is an all-new vehicle for Suzuki and is a product of a joint working arrangement among Suzuki, GM and Daewoo. The car is built in Korea.

Verona began life as a Daewoo Leganza, which in its own right was a decent mid-size car. But with input from GM, it has been transformed into a very nice mid-size sedan. The chief engineer, for example, is a Korean who spent many years working for GM of Europe at Opel, and has had several other Gm assignments along the way. Verona is also the first of at least two vehicles to be adapted from the Daewoo parts bin.

Under the odd of the Verona is a 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine that develops 155 horsepower. Suzuki has more powerful six-cylinder engines in its arsenal, but the inline six was chosen for its inherent smoothness. Unfortunately, it's lower in power than the other sixes and is designed to compete with the Camry and Accord four-cylinder models, the best-selling of these cars.

I would have liked to have had examples of these cars at the introduction for a side-by-side comparison. My memory tells me, though, that the Verona has adequate power and roominess to compete favorably with the competition.

The six offers a wider track than would be attained by use of a V6, giving the Verona a stable stance on the highway. Our test route took us through some winding roads, Interstates, hills and beachside highways, and the Verona proved capable of handling all these.

Initially, I felt the Verona had a "boaty" ride as it floated along on the Interstate. With more mile sunder the tires, though, I realized that the mushy ride was more a product of the road than the car. I liked the slight stiffness of the suspension, making it a pleasure to drive on winding roads.

The front suspension is comprised of MacPherson struts, while the rear suspension is a sophisticated multi-link arrangement. There is a front anti-sway bar and gas-filled shock absorbers.

Interior room in the Verona is excellent. According to Suzuki, the car's interior dimensions exceed those of Camry and Accord, while legroom is also greater. In a car that aspires to be a family car, rear-seat legroom is important.

There's also a generous 13.4 cubic foot trunk in back to carry all your belongings.

Standard equipment on the base Verona S includes a four-speed automatic transmission, power windows and door locks, heated mirrors, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The LX adds automatic climate control, alloy wheels and ABS. The top-of-the-line Verona EX adds a power sunroof, heated leather seats and an eight-way adjustable power driver's seat, with traction control as an option.

The sound system is an in-dash CD/cassette player with AM/FM stereo radio. Sound system controls are on the steering wheel. Other high-end goodies include overhead illuminated vanity mirrors mounted in the sun visors, split folding rear seat backs, a padded fold-out rear center arm rest and floor mats.

I was impressed with the XL-7 when I first drove it. I've been impressed with the vehicle on every subsequent ride. When I had a chance to drive one with the new 5-speed automatic, I liked it as well.

But the Suzuki Verona is a step up and in another direction for Suzuki. The car is pleasant to look at, has decent power and handling, and has enough room inside to qualify as a solid mid-size sedan without obscene exterior dimensions that make it seem too large.

Suzuki's step up is a big one, and can only mean more interesting cars and SUVs in the future.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate