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A CLASSY ITALIAN CROSSES THE ECONOMY THRESHOLD

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Apr 2, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

A CLASSY ITALIAN CROSSES THE ECONOMY THRESHOLD By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

Five-door vehicles are becoming increasingly popular with young buyers and other first time buyers on a budget. The core of the new Suzuki Reno's appeal is sophisticated styling that's unlike anything else on the market. The five-door Reno offers these buyers a truly fresh alternative, with smoothly sculpted, graceful and upscale styling - penned by the famed Italdesign studio. Like the European-influenced Suzuki Forenza that I previously tested, the Reno's sleek lines strive to be different, in an upscale and expressive way. To that end, the Reno uses a 102.4-inch wheelbase and a 58.3-inch track (front and rear) to provide a dramatic visual presence. The front fascia features a wide, oval shaped grille with Suzuki's signature S in the center. Projector beam headlamps behind clear lens light up the night. The lower bumper has a wide air-intake and a strong fog lamp at each side.

Reno's silhouette features a low- slung hood, swept-back windshield, aero-styled power-remote/heated, side mirrors, body-side moldings, for protection against dings, lower side sills and flared fenders. The exciting rear look is highlighted by wraparound tail, brake and backup lamps, a wide-opening hatchback door that is cut into the roof for easy access, a spoiler at the top of the rear glass, a wiper/washer, and a bold rear bumper with a single exhaust tip underneath. Big 15X6 aluminum alloy wheels are wrapped with 195/55R15 all-season radial tires. There's no mistaking the Suzuki Reno when it comes by.

Invariably, anyone who has ever driven a good five-door vehicle comes away impressed by the versatility and user-friendliness of the design. The Reno makes the most of the five-door layout, functioning like a four-door sedan when passenger capacity is needed. Then, turning into something akin to a small SUV with the rear seats folded down. The big rear hatch swings up and out of the way to accommodate easy loading and unloading of long, wide, or bulky cargo. The Reno has 45.4 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats folded. This makes the Reno as versatile as it is attractive, especially for cost-conscience buyers with active lifestyles-college students-for instance.

Suzuki's creative thinking extends all the way to (and through) the Reno interior. Inside are multiple power features, and an impressive array of extras designed to impress at first sight-and long after the relationship is established. Not only do these high-end features make the driving experience more pleasant, they also make the model selection process easier for the buyer. Even the base S model comes with the most desired items, such as air conditioning with micron air-filtration, power windows and door locks, speed-sensitive power rack & pinion steering, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. You'll love the great sounding eight-speaker audio system, with no less than four tweeters for precise high-end clarity. This system includes an AM-FM stereo radio, and an in-dash CD player that also plays MP3 files from homemade CDs. This high-end sound system is standard. All buttons, dials and levers are within easy reach. The unique instrument cluster is straight-ahead and easy to see, with a tachometer to the left, a centered speedometer with a brushed aluminum bezel, and smaller fuel/engine temperature gauges ringed within a larger circle.

The front bucket seats are surprisingly comfortable and supportive. Plus, the driver's seat has dual height and lumbar support adjustments, along with an adjustable headrest designed to suit a wide variety of body types. The standard tilt steering wheel further enhances your comfort. Personal accessories, such as sunglasses, CDs, maps and beverages all have dedicated storage areas. These include a center console with dual cupholders, and an armrest topped storage compartment. There are grab handles above each passenger door (the driver-side has a pop-open sunglass holder), map lamps with theater dimming, a generous forward storage compartment, a passenger underseat storage bin (LX/EX models), front and rear door compartments, driver's-side change tray, rear-center armrest with cup holders (EX model), and driver and passenger seatback pockets. The interior also uses special insulation to minimize engine and road noise, vibration and harshness.

For the safety of you and your passengers, the Reno comes standard with dual-stage, front airbags (the passenger-side unit is advanced to sensor the weight of the occupant), and front seat-mounted side airbags for both. The driver and front passenger seats feature three-point safety belts with pretensioners and shoulder-height adjustments. In back are three-point seatbelts and headrests for all three passengers, plus LATCH and child-safety rear door locks. Front and rear crumple zones and guard beams in all four doors further help to protect occupants during a collision.

Spirited performance is at hand behind the wheel of the all-new Reno. Weighing in at just 2,739 pounds, the 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve four-banger produces 126 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 131 pound feet of torque at 4,000 rpm - providing excellent low-speed muscle for accelerating and hill climbing, along with a good kick at higher revs. The front-wheel-drive Reno comes standard with a smooth shifting five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic with an adaptive control system for smooth shifts, as well as a sporty step-gate shifter. I liked the way it handles, coming standard with a fully independent suspension. Up front are MacPherson struts, coil springs, and a stabilizer bar. The rear setup includes dual-links, coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. With precise speed-sensitive rack & pinion steering, the inputs are actuated quickly and body roll during aggressive maneuvers are minimized. Standard 15X6 wheels and rubber enhance the sure-footed handling.

The Reno quickly slows down from speed thanks to power-assisted steel disc brakes at all four wheels. Up front are 9.8-inch rotors and the rear rotors measure 9.0 inches. Unfortunetely, ABS is optional, but when ordered, comes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution. My test Reno came with it and I recommend it. The option is listed for $500.00. Designed to appeal to young Generation Y buyers, as well as those that are active and need a versatile five-door vehicle in a compact size, the Reno is available in three appealing trim levels. The Reno S features all that is listed above as standard. Move up to the LX that I tested, and the equipment list includes power tilt/slide sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, aluminum alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, cruise control, front fog lamps, and a sporty rear spoiler. The top-of-the-line EX builds on this with a four-speed automatic transmission and leather-trimmed seats and door inserts. The price for the S starts at $13,000.00, the LX $16,394.00, and the ES $17,250.00.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Suzuki products, go to www.suzuki.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2005 Suzuki Reno LX Price of vehicle: $16,394.00 Engine type: 2.0-liter DOHC, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine with cast iron block/aluminum heads Horsepower: 126 hp at 5,600 rpm Torque: 131 lb.ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual/4-speed automatic optional Front suspension: Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent dual links, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 15X6 cast aluminum wheels/195/55R15 all-season radial tires Brakes: Front: 9.8-inch rotors Rear: 9.0-inch rotors ABS and Electronic Brake Force Distribution optional Overall length: 169.1 inches Overall width: 67.9 inches Overall height: 56.9 inches Curb weight: 2,739 pounds EPA estimates: 22mpg/city, 30mpg/highway

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