2004 Suzuki Verona must have seemed like a good idea.
Suzuki, known for
its small cars and sport utility vehicles, had an opportunity to expand
into the larger, midsize sedan category in the U.S. with this new entry.
Problem is, the Daewoo-designed Verona comes only with a six-cylinder engine with
power on a par with some four-cylinder powerplants. Meantime,
the Verona's fuel economy lags even some popular V6 competitors, such as the Toyota
Verona's starting price tag of around $17,000 might come across as pricey for
Suzuki's budget-conscious buyers. In fact, the starting price is about the same
as the base manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge,
for another popular midsize sedan, the Honda Accord with four-cylinder engine.
And, this Accord's four-cylinder powerplant has more horsepower — 161 — than
the Verona's 155-horse six banger.
Unlike some Suzuki car designs from
the past, there's nothing weird in the Verona's exterior styling. The looks are
standard midsize sedan fare, not fancy, and not particularly memorable.
interior treatment impresses. The test car had leather-trimmed seats
that had well-aligned stitching, upscale, textured ceiling fabric and soft-to-the
touch plastic dashboard and window ledge material.
I liked how designers
put a darker gray color at the top part of the dashboard it helps reduce the amount of glare
into the windshield.
They put a lighter gray color at the lower part
of the dashboard. This combination gives the interior a more open feeling and
provides a pleasing, upscale contrast. Helping to accent the interior of the EX
model was a good amount of fake, but nice-looking wood pieces here and there.
Seats are comfortable, with even the middle person in the back seat having
a spot. Rear-door windows provide views outside.
But the leather in the test car had a tough, vinyl feel. Interior door handles
are on the small side and the driver's sunvisor in the tester couldn't always
be positioned where I wanted it. It would flop down all the way or sit too close
to the windshield with not a lot of positions in between.
I also found
the top of the center storage area between the front seats sat too low and was
located too far back to be used as an elbow rest for someone my size 5'4".
There is no four-cylinder Verona. So it's surprising to learn
the Verona's 2.5-liter, double overhead cam inline six produces just 155 horsepower
and 177 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm.
The 2.4-liter four cylinder in
Honda's Accord sedan produces more horsepower, 161. So does the 160-horsepower,
2.3-liter four that's the base engine in the 2004 Mazda6.
And the V6s of the Accord, Camry and Mazda6 far surpass the Verona's six cylinder in torque. The Accord's 3-liter V6 generates 212 lb.-ft. at 5,000 rpm, while the Camry's 3-liter V6 is capable of 220 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm, and the Mazda6's 3-liter V6 produces 192 lb.-ft. at 5,000 rpm.
You might think the Verona at least wins out in fuel economy. But this isn't necessarily the case. With only a four-speed automatic transmission offered, this sedan is rated at 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway, which is a tad above the Mazda6's 19/27-mpg with V6.
But it's less than the 21/30-mpg ratings for city and highway driving, respectively, that the Accord with V6 has and less than the 29-mpg in highway travel that the Camry with V6.
While power may not be as strong on paper, as in other models, it came on readily and smoothly to move the 3,380-pound test Verona into traffic efficiently. It's not a sports car feel, but it gave me confidence when merging into traffic and getting on highways. With two passengers inside, Verona didn't lose steam, even when passing other vehicles on highway uphill grades.
Shifts from the transmission were usually unobtrusive, and the transmission downshifted at the right points when I needed an extra kick to get past someone. That's about the only time I heard the engine loudly, when I was pressing pedal to the metal.
The Verona is about the same size as the Accord and Camry. So, as you'd expect, interior room is mostly comparable, especially to the Camry's. But the Verona's 13.4 cubic feet of trunk room is less than the Accord's, Camry's and Mazda6's.
All five riders in the Verona have adjustable head restraints that lock in place, and all have shoulder belts. I appreciated that all four wheels have brake discs. Some automakers put less-expensive, old-style drum brakes back there.
But some safety items that already are offered in competitors, such as tire pressure monitor, curtain airbags and side airbags that deploy from the edges of the front seats, aren't offered in the Verona. And the lack of side airbags, side-mounted or curtain, really showed in an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test of several midsize cars.
The Verona rated "poor" in the IIHS' side crash test where small-sized dummies representative of petite women and adolescents rode inside as a Verona was struck by a tall barrier that was designed to represent an SUV and a truck. The Accord and Camry with optional side-mounted airbags did the best and earned the top, "good" rating. As of this writing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had no test results.
The front-drive Verona keeps a lot of road bumps away from passengers, even as the ride doesn't feel overly soft or floaty.
Basically, I felt my body vibrate mildly on many road bumps while I was in the test car. Only severe potholes brought sharp jolts.
Front suspension is an independent, MacPherson strut, while the rear uses an independent multi-link design. The test car had 16-inch tires that imparted some road noise, but it was not intrusive.
I noticed some wind noise emanating from the sunroof area, but it was reduced when I kept the sun shade closed. There was a strange, intermittent, deep-seeded "bonk" sound, though, in the tester that came after I would stop at a traffic light or stop sign. It seemed to come from the rear, lower part of the car and resonate through the vehicle, but I was never able to pinpoint its cause.
A final matter: It's not easy tracing the Verona's heritage.
The car is built in South Korea where it was part of the product plans of Daewoo Motor Corp. before the South Korean automaker went bankrupt a few years ago. For anyone familiar with the Daewoo cars which were sold in the States, the Verona, which was styled in Italy, was slated to be the replacement for the Leganza. Instead, Suzuki got the car after Suzuki's partner, General Motors Corp. of Detroit, bought some Daewoo assets. GM owns 20 percent of Suzuki, and Suzuki wound up with a nearly 15 percent stake in the new GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.
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