2008 Suzuki Forenza Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
October 21, 2008

The 2008 Suzuki Forenza still offers a lot of features for the money, but its older design lags in performance, refinement, and safety.

As the auto experts at TheCarConnection.com put together this comprehensive review regarding the 2008 Suzuki Forenza, they combed through the Web’s best review sources. And to help make sure the information is useful and up-to-date, TheCarConnection.com’s editors included their own driving impressions.

The 2008 Suzuki Forenza, built by Daewoo in South Korea, is a small, inexpensive sedan and roomy wagon that were first sold in the U.S. as the Daewoo Nubira, but later updated and sold under the Suzuki brand. For 2008, the Forenza is basically a carryover with only minor changes.

The Forenza’s shape was originally styled by the design house Pininfarina. The design is still quite clean and attractive, and wagons have bright roof rails as a functional accent. The interior follows a nice, basic design, but it uses a hodgepodge of mismatched surfaces and hard plastics. Seating is a high point for the 2008 Suzuki Forenza, though. In front, the seats are among the better ones in this especially low-priced car class, and in back there’s just adequate legroom for average adults, though headroom might be tight. With the seats folded forward in the wagon, an already impressive 24.4 cubic feet can be expanded to 61.8 cubic feet.

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The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the 2008 Suzuki Forenza produces 127 horsepower and drives the front wheels via either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, but with either transmission it’s just adequate and noisy under moderate or hard acceleration. Fuel economy is poor for such a small car, at 19 mpg city with the automatic.

The 2008 Suzuki Forenza rides on MacPherson struts up front and a dual-link suspension in the rear, with variable-assist power steering and four-wheel disc brakes. The tuning is such that the Forenza has a rather firm, pitchy ride, but handling doesn’t feel especially confident either.

Features are a strong point; the 2008 Suzuki Forenza is a very good value, at least in terms of features for the money. Air conditioning, a CD stereo and power locks, windows, and heated mirrors are standard on the base Forenza, with anti-lock brakes, cruise control, fog lamps, keyless entry, and a power sunroof available on the Premium version. Changes for 2008 are limited to new chrome door handles, and standard fog lamps and steering wheel audio controls on the Convenience package. Bluetooth is a new option.

The Forenza received straight four-star ratings in the federal government’s crash tests for frontal and side impact, but the more demanding tests conducted by the insurance-affiliated IIHS found the 2008 Suzuki Forenza just ‘Acceptable’ in frontal impact and ‘Poor’ both in side and rear impact protection. Front and front-side airbags are standard across the line. Anti-lock brakes are only available, as a $500 option in addition to the $400 Convenience Package, and electronic stability control is not offered.

The 2008 Suzuki Forenza is especially attractive from one other aspect, though: warranty. Suzuki offers one of the best warranties of any manufacturer, with coverage up to seven years or 100,000 miles, and it’s fully transferable to other owners.

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2008 Suzuki Forenza

Styling

If you can live with the gray interior, you might like the way the 2008 Suzuki Forenza looks.

Although many reviewers consulted at TheCarConnection.com express approval of the 2008 Suzuki Forenza’s basic shape, its interior earns it an average score.

The Forenza's shape was originally styled by the design house Pininfarina. The design is still quite clean and attractive, and wagons have bright roof rails as a functional accent. Cars.com describes the Suzuki Forenza in glowing terms, noting its "fresh front-end styling...gracefully curved roofline and uniquely free-flowing silhouette." These traits are also noted at MyRide.com: "the [Suzuki] Forenza's lines fit well with the modern, long hood/short deck standard...the profile shows a sloping front end, rising gradually to a taller, squared off tail [with] a rounded greenhouse arching sharply over the top...in all, a pleasant, contemporary shape." The tester at Mother Proof reports that the 2008 Suzuki Forenza "has a 'kind of cute' look and a sleek design." Edmunds states that the Suzuki Forenza is "available as a sedan or wagon," and Kelley Blue Book adds that "with sheetmetal styled by Italian design house Pininfarina, both Forenza models have a clean, well-proportioned look punctuated by a crisp shoulder line, crystalline headlamp and taillamp lenses, body-color mirrors and door handles and pronounced fenders."

The interior follows a basic design, but it uses a hodgepodge of mismatched surfaces and hard plastics. There were major revisions of the interior in 2006, and Cars.com reports that the Suzuki 2008 model "is mostly unchanged...the instruments are rimmed with metallic silver accents, and the panel emits a jade-green glow for night driving." ConsumerGuide notes these "gauges are nicely lit," but beyond this, Suzuki 2008 interior decor options are limited, according to Edmunds: "charcoal and silver define the sole color palette in the Forenza's spacious cabin, with that theme appearing on the dash, door panels and seats."

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2008 Suzuki Forenza

Performance

Performance driving enthusiasts should definitely give the 2008 Suzuki Forenza a pass.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com find most reviews in agreement: The 2008 Suzuki Forenza is severely underpowered, despite its relative thirst for fuel.

Cars.com reports that the current Suzuki Forenza is powered by a "2.0-liter four-cylinder [that] produces 127 hp and 131 pounds-feet of torque," adding "acceleration yields typical small-car engine blare." Edmunds finds it "feels burdened and underpowered." Testers at Car and Driver note "the engine struggled to get to highway speeds and was annoyingly loud and vibrated in a coarse manner." MyRide.com suggests "those who opt for the manual transmission will get the most out of the motor."

The Suzuki 2008 transmissions draw mixed reviews: According to Cars.com, "either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission can be installed...performance with the automatic transmission is satisfactory—even a touch spirited." Car and Driver is not impressed with the latter: "the [Suzuki Forenza] automatic transmission was knocked for the balky way it shifted and for how convoluted it was to move the shift lever from drive to park; no one liked the wrestling...involved." ConsumerGuide reports the automatic "downshifts very quickly for more power," while "a hard shove on the throttle results in more noise than progress at higher speeds." This source also notes "acceleration is livelier with the manual transmission, though passing power is still lacking."

For a vehicle with such a small, modestly tuned engine, the 2008 Suzuki Forenza’s gas mileage is inexcusably poor. In ConsumerGuide tests, "sedans averaged a dismal-for-the-class 17.8 mpg with manual transmission in all city driving, 29.5 in mostly highway work," while "automatic-transmission models averaged just 17.8 mpg in mostly city driving." Car and Driver reports that the Suzuki Forenza "recorded a mediocre 25 mpg over the long haul."

Overall, Suzuki Forenza handling is similarly mediocre. According to Edmunds, "the Forenza exhibits soft, rubbery handling and poorer ride quality than many of its competitors...suspension and ride quality are also unimpressive." Kelley Blue Book reports "the amount of body roll during even modestly spirited cornering will not impress enthusiast drivers in the least." ConsumerGuide notes this Suzuki 2008 offers "quick, responsive steering," but adds that "noticeable body lean is evident even at modest cornering speeds."

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2008 Suzuki Forenza

Comfort & Quality

There’s ample room but not much sophistication in the 2008 Suzuki Forenza.

According to most reviews examined at TheCarConnection.com, the 2008 Suzuki Forenza scores slightly better on passenger comfort and interior quality, but don't bring high expectations.

Cars.com reports "up to five occupants can fit inside the [Suzuki] Forenza...height and lumbar support adjustments for the driver and a tilt steering wheel are included." Kelley Blue Book confirms that the Suzuki 2008's "tilt steering column and height-adjustable driver's seat make it easy to settle in behind the wheel." ConsumerGuide comments that this year's Suzuki Forenza offers "plenty of headroom and legroom, even for taller folks," even in the backseat "as long as the front seats aren't set far back." Edmund agrees on this point, noting "lots of rear legroom for adults" in the back.

Cars.com reports "[sedan] trunk space totals 12.4 cubic feet," while "[wagon] cargo space totals 19.3 cubic feet with both rear seats up." ConsumerGuide considers that the 2008 Suzuki Forenza "total capacity is slightly below average for the class," but "wagons have a usefully larger cargo hold." Edmunds says the Suzuki 2008 "Forenza sedan's trunk capacity is a reasonable 12.4 cubic feet, and the wagon offers a useful 62 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded."

Kelley Blue Book points out "an abundance of hard plastic trim," but notes "the general level of fit and finish here is competitive in its class." To Edmunds, however, this year's Suzuki Forenza "loses points with inconsistent/poor-quality materials that detract from an otherwise inviting environment."

Finally, this vehicle is not the quietest either. ConsumerGuide reports that the engine "roars intrusively during acceleration and turns buzzy at higher speeds"; they also note "some suspension pounding over bumps and substantial wind rush at freeway speeds." Edmunds notices "excessive wind noise at times on the highway."

In contrast to several reviews citing unimpressive ride quality, only Cars.com has completely positive comments: "ride comfort is quite nice and generally smooth even in the city, with few unpleasant motions."

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2008 Suzuki Forenza

Safety

The 2008 Suzuki Forenza lacks competitive safety gear.

A dismal side-impact score and a lack of standard safety features places the 2008 Suzuki Forenza relatively low for those who value occupant protection or the latest accident-avoidance aids. You might even have a hard time getting ABS.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Suzuki Forenza four of five stars in front-impact protection, side-impact protection, and rollover ratings. However, the government agency does note that "during the side impact test, the head of the left rear passenger dummy struck the C-pillar, causing a high head acceleration," which corresponds to “a higher likelihood of serious head trauma." The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which conducts more rigorous tests, awards the 2008 Suzuki Forenza its second-highest rating of "acceptable" in frontal offset tests, but a disappointing "poor" rating in side-impact tests and rear crash protection tests.

The Forenza lacks some safety features considered necessary in any car of any class. Cars.com reports that "seat-mounted side-impact airbags were installed in all [Suzuki Forenza] models for 2005," while "a tire pressure monitoring system and warning light were added as standard equipment" for the 2007 Suzuki Forenza. According to Edmunds, "The Suzuki Forenza offers standard front side-impact airbags and the stopping power of four-wheel disc brakes." However, they add that at Suzuki, 2008 Forenzas only have anti-lock brakes available; they’re “optional with Convenience Package-equipped Forenzas."

Visibility is a concern at ConsumerGuide, where "some testers say the rear headrests interfere with the over-the-shoulder view."

Curtain airbags and stability control are not available on the Forenza.


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2008 Suzuki Forenza

Features

The 2008 Suzuki Forenza has a decent standard feature list for the money, but it’s missing the latest convenience and luxury options.

Those sources consulted by TheCarConnection.com that even referred to 2008 Suzuki Forenza features were more impressed with the standard equipment than available options.

Along those lines, Kelley Blue Book reports that the 2008 Suzuki Forenza has "loads of standard equipment, few options." Cars.com states that standard equipment includes "air conditioning with micron air filtration, heated mirrors, and power windows and locks." The reviewer adds that the Suzuki Forenza "standard in-dash CD/MP3 stereo system includes eight speakers."

When it comes to options—offered only in "packages"—Cars.com states that the Convenience Package "adds cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, remote keyless entry, and an antitheft alarm," while the Suzuki Forenza Popular Package brings "front fog lamps and a power sunroof" as well.

According to Car and Driver, the "top-of-the-line [Suzuki Forenza] EX model includes fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, power sunroof, leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and cruise control." The Suzuki 2008 offers Bluetooth as "a dealer-installed accessory," according to Edmunds, but no other advanced features—even iPod connectivity—are available.

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Styling 6
Performance 4
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Features 6
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