2004 Suzuki Verona Review

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John Pearley Huffman John Pearley Huffman Editor
October 5, 2003




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The automobile industry is starting to look like the Cold War. Alliances and pacts form out of convenience, necessity or panic between manufacturers resulting in blocs within which one dominant industrial state pursues its self interest through clients who strive to appear to be acting independently. Not a brisk analogy, but certainly, an overpriced one. (Have you seen the tuition bill at day care these days?)

Japan’s Suzuki falls under the General Motors sphere of influence and so does the remnants of Korea’s Daewoo (GM has an ownership stake in both). And with trade between them almost a requirement of their co-prosperity under GM hegemony, it was almost inevitable that Suzuki would adopt some Daewoo vehicles as its own.

To put it in a 1970’s Warsaw Pact context, Suzuki’s deal to sell the Daewoo-built and Daewoo-engineered mid-size Verona and compact Forenza is the equivalent of a Hungarian baking cooperative buying Bulgarian wheat to make their bread. It’s not the best wheat, but that’s not important. What is important is that it be bought.

It may be bland Hungarian-baked Bulgarian wheat bread, but at least the Verona is nourishing.

A lot of car, not a lot of money or a lot of power

2004 Suzuki Verona

2004 Suzuki Verona

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The Verona’s glamour feature is its transverse-mounted straight six engine driving the front wheels. With V-6 orthodoxy having swept through most manufacturers, the idea of this $16,500 car being blessed with the inherent smoothness and silken torque curve of six in-line cylinders (just like a BMW!) is undeniably attractive.

2004 Suzuki Verona

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The Daewoo straight six displaces 2.5 liters, puts two cams over its cylinder head to open and shut 24 valves, but it lacks any sort of variable valve-timing system to extract the most from it. So while BMW gets 184 horsepower from the 2.5-liter straight six it puts in the 3-Series, Daewoo/Suzuki extracts just 155 horsepower from the Verona’s similar displacement six. In the Verona’s favor however, and with the help of a variable volume intake, Suzuki claims the engine punches out an admirable 177 pound-feet of peak torque at a reasonably low 4000 rpm. That same BMW motor peaks at 175 pound-feet at an even lower 3500 rpm.

That the Verona’s engine is being compared to a BMW’s here is a mere accident of displacement and layout similarity. But while the Verona’s six completely lacks the German’s eager sporting character, it runs virtually as smoothly. And though the Verona gives up five horsepower and entertaining verve to the similar-size Honda Accord’s four-cylinder engine, the six’s placid nature may be more attractive to some buyers regardless of price. The Honda though has the significant advantage of a fifth gear in its optional, more refined automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is also available) while the Verona makes do with a standard, sometimes clumsy four-speed auto.

Beyond the engine, the Korean-built Verona is very much a standard Japanese mid-size, front-drive sedan. The structure is a unitized body; the front suspension consists — of course — of MacPherson struts while the rear is an independent multi-link system. All four brakes are discs, ABS is optional on the base Verona S and standard with the volume-leader LX and EX trim levels, and while the S gets 15-inch wheels, the LX and EX wear 16s (either way the tires have a 205-millimeter section width).

At 187.8 inches long overall and riding on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the Verona is not a small car. That’s 1.7 inches shorter overall on a 1.4-inch shorter wheelbase than a new 2004 Accord and both cars are exactly 57.1 inches tall. Hit the Wayback Machine to 1996 and the Verona is 2.2 inches longer than the Accord EX that was being built that year (that’s two generations ago). The Verona is squarely in the deepest part of the mainstream, size-wise.

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2004 Suzuki Verona

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And at 3380 pounds, the Verona is no lightweight either. In fact it weighs just four pounds less than the 2004 Accord EX V-6 sedan, and that much more expensive Accord has the advantage of an additional 80 horsepower aboard. The four-cylinder Accord EX automatic weighs in at 3210 pounds.

Not at all bad looking

Wearing chrome “S” in its grille that looks like it was ripped off the chest of Superman’s and the Silver Surfer’s secret love child, the Verona is cleanly styled machine whose proportions and general silhouette seem to be cribbed from the just-superseded 2003 Acura TL. It pulls off the neat trick of being both the best-looking Suzuki and the best-looking Daewoo ever sold in the United States. ItalDesign gets credit for the design, but it’s hardly a design that calls attention to itself.

2004 Suzuki Verona

2004 Suzuki Verona

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The interior features a forest of faux wood no matter what trim level is ordered, but the most opulent part of the car’s innards is the elegant electro-luminescent instrumentation that is also used at all trim levels. This is lush, rich-looking instrumentation in a bargain-priced car. In fact the interior decoration is generally well done throughout with a high apparent level of fit and finish. It’s not an avant-garde interior by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t feel like a penalty box either.

It’s also relatively roomy coming in slightly behind the Accord in measurements for front and rear legroom while having a slight advantage in the width measurements. And because of the advantage in width, the Verona is a more plausible five-seater than the Accord.

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Drive it like you rented it

There is nothing exciting about how the Verona drives. The chassis is softly sprung and the modest all-season tires mean the cornering limits seem low. The steering isn’t particularly communicative, but it may just be that there’s not all that much interesting going on for it to report back about. Understeer is, no shock, the car’s natural behavior at the limit but with such modest power aboard it’s tough to sustain limit-testing velocities from corner to corner on tight roads.

There’s also nothing upsetting about the how the Verona drives either. It glides without too much wallow, it brakes without much drama, and there’s little wind or excessive tire noise. This is a car whose entire behavior indicates it wants to be taken for granted — and that’s something more than adequate for many potential buyers.

But the most impressive feature of the Verona is its almost ludicrously low price. Even the leather-lined EX carries a price of just $19,499 and includes such plucks as a power sunroof, an eight-way power driver’s seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a decent stereo. A four-cylinder Accord EX automatic starts at $22,500 and that doesn’t include leather or eight-ways worth of power driver’s seat adjustment among other things. Sure, the Verona doesn’t have the Accord’s overwhelming quality reputation, its outstanding driving dynamics, much of its contemporary interior detailing, or its proven track record for high resale values, but it’s nowhere near bad and it’s cheap.

GM should be proud of its client states.

2004 Suzuki Verona EX
Base Price: $19,499
Engine: 2.5-liter in-line six, 155 hp
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 187.8 x 71.5 x 57.1 in
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Curb weight: 3380 lbs
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 20/28 mpg
Safety equipment: Front airbags, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes
Major standard equipment: Cruise control, power windows and door locks, tilt steering wheel, sunroof, remote keyless entry
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles basic; seven years/100,000 miles powertrain

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