Originally created 04/02/04

Suzuki Verona is eye catching



The 2004 Suzuki Verona doesn't look like the lowest-priced, six-cylinder, midsize sedan on the market. It doesn't look like a car that was plucked from a now-bankrupt company, either.

But the new Verona - Suzuki's first midsize sedan - has a $16,999 manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, that undercuts even six-cylinder, midsize sedans from South Korean automakers.

The Verona is built in South Korea, having been 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 that were sold in the States, the Verona, which was styled in Italy, was slated to be the replacement for the Daewoo Leganza.

Instead, Japan-based Suzuki Motor Corp. 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.

Despite all its global tendrils, it's nice to see the Verona has pleasing styling - something you might expect from Honda - and a comfortable, mainstream ride.

There's nothing overdone in the outside design. On the other hand, there's nothing that makes the car jump out as particularly memorable, either.

The interior treatment, however, is impressive.

The test car, a top-of-the-line Verona EX with a $20,499 price tag, had leather-trimmed seats with well-aligned stitching. There was upscale, textured ceiling fabric and soft-to-the-touch plastic dashboard and window ledge material. I liked how designers put a dark gray color at the top part of the dashboard - it helps reduce glare into the windshield.

Seats are comfortable, with even the middle person in the back seat having a soft resting spot. Rear-door windows provide good 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 sun visor couldn't always be positioned where I wanted it. It would flop down all the way or sit too close to the windshield, unable to stay in many positions in between.

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.

There is no four-cylinder version of Verona.

The performance numbers of the Verona's 2.5-liter, double overhead cam inline six - 155 horsepower and 177 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm - aren't competitive with V-6s in some other midsize sedans.

With a four-speed automatic transmission offered, this sedan is rated at only 20 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway.

Front suspension is an independent, MacPherson strut design, while the rear uses an independent multilink configuration. The test car had 16-inch tires that imparted some road noise, but it was not intrusive.

Suzuki also is selling a second car that came via Daewoo. The compact Suzuki Forenza debuted last fall as a 2004 model.