Suzuki Verona car reviews
|Review Notes: 2005 Suzuki Verona EX|
|Personality||Luxury car exterior and sporty interior reflect the Verona's dual nature|
|Unusual features||Little ergonomic touches; in-line six-cylinder engine|
|EPA gas mileage||20/28 (automatic)|
|Above Average||Features for price; nicely assembled interior|
|Needs Work||A/C power, indecisive transmission|
|Price||$20,500 as tested; base $16,499|
|Notes||Passed driveway scrape test; review by David Zatz|
One of the most crowded segments of the American auto industry has always been family cars, the mid-sized sedans that so many drive. Now dominated by Toyota and Honda as surely as it had been by the Big Three, the mid-sized car market still has many niches and offers many surprises.
The Suzuki Verona EX is one of those surprises in some ways, and not in others. It resembles in character nothing so much as the similarly sized Toyota Camry, the most popular car in America, but at a lower price. Our top of the line EX doesn't seem much cheaper than a Camry until you compare similarly equipped vehicles; then the $20,499 price tag makes a lot more sense. That includes a huge number of options in a rather attractive package. As we've noted before, Suzuki, Hyundai, and Kia don't sell luxury cars, so they can style their sheet metal to look as luxurious as they want. That's why you can find entry level cars with Jaguar curves.
The interior of the Verona EX certainly doesn't show much cost-cutting, though we don't find it as attractive as the Forenza we reviewed last week. It does offer many little luxuries map pockets on both front doors and on the back of the seats, an overhead sunglass tray, thermostatic heat control, woodgrain-style center console bezels and door treatments, and such but overall, the driver faces a large expanse of black plastic which, while good for avoiding distraction and reflection on the road, doesn't impress quite as much. Underneath the black is a pleasant light-brown leather (or plastic depending on where you look), with chrome door handles and gearshift standing out nicely.
The little six-cylinder engine seems to try hard, and its 155 horsepower is nicely balanced with 177 lb-ft of torque at a reasonable 4,000 rpm. It's a quiet, well-mannered engine in terms of noise and idle quality (not surprising in an in-line six), but despite having less power than many competitors (who generally run about 200 horsepower nowadays), it gets similar mileage: 20 city, 28 highway, slightly below the Camry, which benefits from an extra gear in its automatic transmission. The smog index is relatively high as well. Under hard throttle, it does well in first and second gear (with a fairly wide drop between them), but acceleration is not thrilling. The engine is moderately quiet under full throttle.
On the lighter side, once it engages, the engine grabs and moves the Verona quite nicely; there's no feeling of lacking power then. However, the transmission tends to be indecisive and seems to always take a moment or two for it to downshift or grab, and in the meantime, you're stuck there, waiting. Then it tucks in and you lurch forward; if you reach the speed you meant to go quickly and let off the gas, the transmission lurches again. The Camry showed the same behavior, to a lesser degree, but in either case, we'd rather have quicker, firmer shifts, and let the engine rev for a second or two longer when we reach a steady speed in case we need to take off again.
One nice touch with the transmission is the dual display: you can see your gear from the position of the shifter, or from a large dash display. The shifter has a gated pattern which allows for selection of any particular gear (except fourth), and the EX has a hold button for semi-automatic driving. It was not always easy to guide the shifter through the gate, as the path from Drive to Park had complicated path.
Cornering is good, though not as light and easily juggled as Suzuki's Forenza. The Verona deals with moderate shocks and rough pavement like the Camry does, but passes through larger shocks and bumps to the cabin; on the lighter side, the Verona also provides more road feel. This is still a pleasant, soft-riding vehicle, it's just not quite on the soft extreme as the Camry which may be a good thing. Handling feels more balanced and assured, with more of a willingness to take tight turns quickly. Think of the Verona as being right in between the Camry and the Accord.
Steering feels good with variable assist, while the competent braking is assisted by four wheel disc brakes; antilock brakes are included.
Like the less-expensive Forenza, the Verona comes with an integrated remote control fob built into the key. It's small enough to be unobtrusive, a good overall design.
Inside, the interior is a mixed bag. The three-pod whitefaced instrument panel is pleasing to the eye day and night, thanks to even yellow-green backlighting. The ignition key is set into the dashboard, where it is easier to find than on the steering column, and no doubt less expensive to fix if needed. It's a better-looking lock than the ones used by many competitors, including Toyota.
There are some nice small touches, including trip odometer buttons which are set into the trim rather than the clear gauge lens, so you don't get fingerprints on the lens; a large gear indicator above the temperature and gas gauges; a tachometer; and, for once, a rear defrost button that actually indicates that it also activates the side mirror heaters. The side mirrors fold in, a convenient feature lacking on many American cars. We also liked the thermostatic climate control, which includes a graphical display of which vents are on, and provides outside air temperature with a push of the temperature knob. The system is clean and easy to use, with a quiet fan that pushes a lot of air, though the air conditioner is fairly weak.
Instrumentation is a mixed bag; generally, we had no problem with the standard controls, headlights, wipers, and such. Things were in convenient locations where we expected them, and the stereo controls on the wheel were sensible enough. The cruise control looks just like the standard Toyota model: press a button on the side of the stalk to activate, then push up or down to set, coast, or speed up; but there's no cancel button (normally, this type of cruise stalk pulls in to cancel), and we found it took a second or two for the cruise to come on, which is a bit inconvenient.
The sound system is good, though, surprisingly, not up to the standard of the Suzuki Forenza. The head unit appeared to be identical, so the difference would be speakers and speaker placement. It is not a bad sound system, just not an outstanding one. As with the Forenza, the CD player has one annoying flaw: it returns to the beginning of a track whenever it's restarted, so if you're making lots of short trips, you'll hear the same song over and over and over again.
Unusually, both front and rear passengers have ashtrays; in both cases, they fold out from the center console. Front passengers have two different sized cupholders, one rather small and the other big, sitting underneath a hinged door, while rear passengers have two very large cupholders in the folding center armrest. That armrest also contains a covered storage unit, a handy feature absent from many competitors.
The trunk is a bit smaller than the Camry, but still quite large and well-shaped. Rear seats fold down for larger objects.
The front console has two levels: one very small, shallow level, capable of holding a cellphone or EZPass, or a small pair of sunglasses (which can also go overhead); and a deeper, but not very large, storage unit which easily pulls out for cleaning. A small storage unit also slides out from the dash just above the hood release; it cleverly includes a little receptacle for turnpike or parking tickets. You can also put these into either of the vanity mirror covers on the sun visors.
Our test EX model had most possible options standard, so all but one of the row of option buttons was active; the inactive button was simply left blank. The others were seat heaters, fog lights, and rear defroster. Again, by the gearshift, we had a traction control off button, a blank button, and a gear-hold button all in a row. There is no way to shut off the daytime running lights.
We liked many of the Verona's creature comforts, some standard on cars of this price, and some not: the overhead sunglass bin, the vented moonroof cover, the extensions coming out of the sun visors to cover areas that are normally missed, the folding outside windows, the conveniently located power trunk release, the gas cap cover, the very adjustable driver's seat, and the user-friendly gauges, with bright, even backlighting that increased visibility day, evening, and night. The Verona doesn't have many annoyances; we already cited the weak air conditioning, odd CD player behavior, cancel-free cruise control, and the indecisive automatic with the ill-planned gate.
The Verona EX comes well equipped. In addition to the six-cylinder engine and automatic, you get speed sensitive steering, four-wheel discs with ABS, air with thermostat, power driver's seat, heated front seats, cruise, CD/cassette sound, tilt wheel with remote stereo controls, leather, floor mats, full size spare, fog lights, remote entry, power all around, and sunroof, but a seven year, 100,000 mile transferable powertrain warranty with roadside assistance and free courtesy cars. All that retails for $19,999, including destination. Our test car had a single option, traction control, at $500. That's two or three thousand dollars less than a comparable Toyota or Honda (see chart). We encountered only one problem, which we would not mention had Consumers Guide not noted the same thing: in the morning, for about a minute, the engine had a very lopy idle and hesitated severely on acceleration.
Overall, the Verona is a worthy entry into a crowded market. We won't venture to guess how well it sells we haven't seen a clear relationship between sales figures and vehicle worthiness but we certainly think it's worth a look, especially if you're interested in the Toyota Camry. Other leading options in this class include the Mitsubishi Galant, Kia Optima, and Chevrolet Malibu.
|Characteristic||Suzuki Verona EX||MMC Galant ES V6 with Sun & Sound||Mazda6 with Comfort||Toyota Camry XLE w/Premium Plus||Honda Accord 2.4 EX w/Leather||Kia Optima SE V6 with Leather|
|Bumper to Bumper Warranty||3/36||3/36||4/50||3/36||3/36||6/60|
Figures are from Suzuki; rebates are not included.