2005 Suzuki Reno Review

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High Gear Media Staff High Gear Media Staff  
October 17, 2004

by John Matras



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Suzuki by Jim Gorzelany (9/17/2004)

Suzuki's Web site: http://www.suzuki.com



About the new 2005 Suzuki Reno, first things first:

1. There are no plans for a “ Reno 911” special edition with a seven-pointed star on the front fender, A-pillar spotlights, a three-year/36,000 donut warranty, and poor aim with a Glock sidearm.

2. A “Janet” Package with extra-length driver’s seat track and a Sense of Humor Delete will not be offered.

3. A Reno Gambler option (“Roulette” alloy wheels, exclusive “Blackjack” paint and Kenny Rogers in bas relief on the steering wheel hub) is not in the works.

Not that it matters. The ’05 Reno is good enough as it stands. As a contestant in the Gen-Y market hotly pursued by the Mazda3, Ford Focus, and just about every Scion, the five-door Reno packs a lot of value onto its 102.4-inch wheelbase. It brings Italian style to the small car market and proves that just because you’re frugal and functional, you don’t have to be frumpy.

Skirt lifting

2005 Suzuki Reno

2005 Suzuki Reno

There’s no secret, however, that when you lift up its skirts, there are Suzuki Forenza petticoats underneath, and under those are the legs of a Daewoo Nubira, late to these shores. Like both of those models, the Reno is made at GM’s Daewoo facilities in Korea as part of a longstanding relationship between GM and Suzuki.

2005 Suzuki Reno

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The Forenza has been responsible in part for Suzuki’s 25-percent increase in sales since its introduction last year. It’s a solid platform that’s attracted buyers interested in a solid compact family sedan, particularly one penned by Italy’s Pininfarina design studio.

This is great if you want a family sedan. But if the PTA and youth soccer are not yet part of your life — or at least your mindset — you just might want something a little snappier, something like the Mazda3 and Focus, or maybe Hyundai’s Elantra GT frequently seen on college campuses. The new Reno bulls-eyes that market.

The base Reno S matches other base Suzuki models, the Forenza S and Aerio S, as the least expensive Suzukis, all listing at $13,449. Add $545 for delivery and all three have an MSRP just six dollars under fourteen grand. For comparison, the Hyundai Elantra GT has a base price of $15,389, including delivery, though for a more thoroughly equipped model.

For the price of a Reno S, one gets a neat five-door hatchback with a distinctly European shape, penned at the Italian design studios of Italdesign. A triple crease is formed by a contour line on the hood and a shoulder line on the fender flanking the curve of the A-pillar that’s carried into the fender crest, a unique touch. Out back, the shoulder line wraps around beneath the C-pillar and onto the hatch like a belt. Round wheel flares add some muscularity to the Reno’s look. All-in-all, it’s a bobtail coupe that just happens to have a lot of room inside and four doors to boot.

The Reno comes in three trim levels, an accurate term as the base S, upmarket LX, and top of the line EX are mechanically identical. The S includes power windows and locks, heated power outside mirrors, tilt wheel, variable intermittent wipers, rear defroster, and remote fuel door release. All trim levels come with an AM/FM/CD with MP3 playback capability and eight speakers including four tweeters. Steering-mounted audio controls are also standard. They look tacked on, but they’re there and they work.

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2005 Suzuki Reno

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JD Power button
J.D. Power Circle
2004 Scion xB
2004 Mazda3

2004 Ford Focus

Missing on the S, however, are cruise control and power remote locking, added in the LX and EX trim levels along with alloy wheels, fog lamps, rear hatch-top mounted spoiler and a tilt-and-slide sunroof. The EX includes the four-speed automatic transmission that’s an option on lesser trim levels, and leather-trimmed seats and door panels are standard. All Renos also have front seat-mounted side airbags. Four-wheel discs are standard; four-channel ABS with brake force distribution is optional on all models.

Little lacking

Tested was the base Reno S which, other than the cruise control, lacked little operationally from the richer levels. It was obvious from the start that the engineers had been hard at work behind the scenes because the Reno was noticeably smoother than an ’04 Forenza recently driven, though our press contacts knew of no specific changes. (The new ’05 Forenza Wagon shared this improvement too, so it’s not changes specific to the Reno). Its ride is smooth, like warm buttermilk over an ice cube, enough so that it seemed likely that the Reno’s composure would melt during a drive up California’s sinuous

Ortega Highway
. Not so. The Reno kept its cool. While not a full-on sports sedan, ride and handing are well balanced.

Performance is typical for a 126-hp engine in a 2739-lb car, though the engine’s 131 lb-ft of torque, even at a relatively high 4000 rpm, meant that the Reno wasn’t straining desperately on uphill stretches. Just don’t expect an F-15’s rate of climb. It is what it is. If acceleration is a priority, however, stick with the five-speed manual. As usual with smaller engines, the automatic soaks up a lot of punch.

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With the manual gearbox, clutch take-up is light and progressive, but the throws on the shifter are long and it feels like it’s in a bucket of rubber bands. It never missed a shift, though.

Brakes match engine performance, at the least, and are smooth and progressive. The pedals are even close enough to heel-and-toe. If your expectations match your wallet, you can Mitty the Reno into a baby sports sedan.

Trunk space is a meager 8.8 cubic feet, if you insist on rear seat passengers. Fold the rear seatback, however, and cargo capacity jumps to 45.4 cubic feet, not terribly much less than a compact wagon. The trunk also has hidey places under the cargo floor.

Warranty of the gods

There’s lots of room at the helm, and with tilt steering and manual height and lumbar adjustments for the driver’s seat, the Reno doesn’t force the driver into a take it or leave it seating posture. The rear bench is by no means the medieval punishment device either. We question the long-term durability of the cloth inserts in the door panels. They won’t wipe with a damp rag and we wonder whether they’d begin to look soiled after several years of use.

Suzuki does back up all of its vehicles with the typical three-year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty with 100,000-mile engine/drivetrain coverage, plus roadside assistance and up to five days of free rental car coverage if the car is that long in the shop. Unlike many extended warranties, it’s fully transferable to a new owner, which should aid the Reno’s resale value.

Although Suzuki’s plans for special editions and trim packages are not as expansive as some might wish… a Janet Reno, ferchrisakes… Suzuki offers trim pieces including body graphics, rear deck spoiler, special alloy wheels, and other bits under the Suzuki Works Techno — or SWT — name used for factory speed parts in Japan. Trim parts for the U.S. now, says Suzuki, and speed parts later. Then you can make your own Reno special edition and call it anything you want. Hey, “ Nevada” isn’t taken yet! You know, as in the Reno Nevada. Oh, never mind…


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GET Kelley Blue Book Pricing for this vehicle


2005 Suzuki Reno
Base price:
Engine: 2.0-liter in-line four, 126 hp/131 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual/four-speed automatic; front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 169.1 x 67.9 x 56.9 inches
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Curb weight: 2739 lb (manual); 2783 lb (automatic)
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 22/30 mpg (manual); 22/30 mpg (automatic)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, side airbags for front seat, seat belt pretensioners and shoulder height adjustment; four-wheel disc brakes; optional anti-lock brakes
Major standard equipment: AM/FM/CD with MP3, eight speakers, and steering wheel-mounted controls; power door locks and windows; heated power outside rearview mirrors; variable intermittent wipers; air conditioning; driver seat height and lumbar  adjustment 15-inch wheels
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles; seven years/100,000 miles powertrain

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