- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

Forget about small cars looking plain and boring.

Suzuki’s 2005 Reno, especially with new Suzuki Works Techno package added on, is arguably one of the most attractive-looking small cars on the market.

Maybe it’s the Reno’s upscale exterior that was crafted by Italdesign-Giugiaro, the Turin, Italy, design firm that has had a hand in such European marques as Fiat and Maserati.

Maybe it’s the additional Suzuki Works Techno styling package that gives the Reno a customized flair.

Perhaps it’s the well-groomed interior of this five-passenger hatchback.

Whatever it is, this newest small car from Suzuki sure doesn’t look like a vehicle whose starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $13,994. This is for a base S model with five-speed manual transmission and air conditioning. The optional SWT package adds $500 to this price.

The Reno, which is offered in S, LX and EX trim levels, shares its front-wheel-drive underpinnings with another new Suzuki, the Forenza station wagon.

But the smaller Reno, with its short, sporty rear end, is more appealing to the young, Gen Y buyers that Suzuki has targeted.

There’s a usable back seat for two that can accommodate three people sitting closely, if needed.

The Reno’s cargo area has a wide opening for easy loading, and there’s a practical, 45.4 cubic feet of space back there when the rear seats are folded down. With the rear seats up and in use, there’s 8.8 cubic feet of storage space in back.

Some amenities expected in higher-priced cars are included in the Reno as standard equipment.

These include front-seat, side-mounted air bags, air conditioning with air-filtration system, steering-wheel-mounted touch controls and an AM/FM stereo with CD player, eight speakers and MP3 playback capability.

With the SWT package, buyers also get a rear spoiler, carbon-fiberlike graphics and stainless-steel exhaust tip, among other things.

I liked the jazzy fabric that was on the seats of the test Reno LX SWT. It mixed gray, white and black in a pleasant pattern and was found not only in the middle of the seats but on all side doors and the outboard head restraints.

While there was no wood — real or faux — inside the test Reno LX, there was a tasteful amount of silver-colored plastic that was designed to look like metal accents.

Outside, the SWT model sported a Sunburst Orange paint color that was more copper-colored than bright orange.

But because this is such a rare color, especially on a small car, I never had a problem finding the Reno in a parking lot.

There’s only one engine for the Reno — a 126-horsepower, 2.0-liter, double overhead cam, inline four cylinder.

Peak torque is 131 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm, and the test Reno, with four-speed automatic transmission, took some time getting up to speed, even in city traffic.

The engine, which was heard about all the time during travel, had a buzzy sound when pressed.

For more sporty performance, buyers might want to try the manual transmission.

According to U.S. government fuel economy ratings, Renos with either transmission are rated the same 22 miles a gallon in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway.

As it was, the test Reno’s steering had a lazy feel, and bumps came through frequently via the Reno’s front MacPherson-strut suspension and rear dual-link suspension.

Tires are small, 15-inchers, and they could reach their limits quickly in aggressive maneuvers in the test vehicle. They also conveyed road noise to the car’s interior.

Antilock brakes were on the test Reno, but they’re a $500 option.

Base brakes are four-wheel discs, and there are head restraints and shoulder belts for all five passengers. There’s no traction control available.

The Reno had a lightweight feel and was buffeted at times by semis that passed by.

The Reno LX comes with a sunroof, which appeared to have a smaller opening than I expected.

The rear seat cushion is a flat bench, and the seatbacks split one-third and two-thirds and fold down, though not flat.

The mechanism to fold down the Reno’s rear seatbacks isn’t the most ergonomic as a rectangular button atop each seatback section must be depressed while you tug on the seatback to bring it forward.

Suzuki’s warranty is worth noting. It provides 100,000 miles/seven years of limited coverage on the powertrain.

The overall car warranty for the Reno is 36,000 miles/three years, whichever comes first.

A final note: The Reno is an international vehicle.

While its design came from an Italian firm, the Reno is built in South Korea and its engine comes from Australia.

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