Forenza Is Leading Wagon Renaissance
Byline: Russ Heaps, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A decade ago the station wagon was being eulogized in the automotive press. Only a handful of manufacturers continued to offer wagons. First minivans and then SUVs had gobbled up the wagon market share in prodigious bites. The wagon seemed at best redundant and at worst antiquated; however, if the past few decades have proven anything, it's the automobile business is cyclical.
Certain vehicle types fall out of favor for a while and then storm back onto the scene. The convertible for example had all but disappeared from American showrooms with the last gasp of the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado soft top. Chrysler, however, coaxed the convertible back to life with a drop-top version of its 1982 LeBaron. Today nearly every manufacturer has an open-air vehicle of some sort. The station wagon is enjoying a similar revival.
As buyers move to shed the family-ride image of minivans and the lackluster fuel economy of SUVs, the wagon is re-establishing itself as a viable alternative for those requiring additional cargo or people-hauling space. More and more manufacturers are offering their interpretation of the wagon.
For 2005, Suzuki has rolled out its take on the genre in the form of the Forenza Wagon. A wagon for the budget-minded, Forenza competes in the $15,000-to-$19,000 price range. It is offered in three trim levels: S, LX and EX (provided for this evaluation). There is very little noteworthy about this subcompact wagon. That is unless you think a base model standard equipment list including four-wheel disc brakes, power windows and door locks, height-adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel with redundant audio controls, and an eight-speaker audio system with CD changer is a lot of bang for the buck. Toss in standard front seat-mounted side air bags and one of the best warranties in the business, all for under 15 large, and the Forenza Wagon seems quite remarkable after all.
Suzuki not only wanted to deliver a value message with the Forenza, it also wanted to make a fashion statement. That's why it tapped Italian design studio Pininfarina to shape the exterior lines. Likewise the interior exudes somewhat more pizzazz than is typical of the segment. Although most cabin surfaces are plastic, the combination of colors and surfaces gives the interior a higher-end feel.
Regardless of trim level, only one engine is available to power the Forenza. It is a 126-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four that also produces 131 foot-pounds of peak torque. Granted, this sounds a tad on the light side; though in comparison with key competitors such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta, this four is a little stronger than their 2. …