2004 Suzuki Verona GLX
Photos: Suzuki. Click image to enlarge


by Greg Wilson

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new mid-sized Suzuki Verona is that it’s not a Suzuki. Let me qualify that before I get a call from Suzuki’s PR department: it’s built by GM Daewoo Auto Technology in Korea, a company in which General Motors has a majority share and Suzuki has a minority share. The same company builds Suzuki’s new Swift +. In Canada, General Motors sells a near-identical version of the Verona called the Chevrolet Epica (see Epica Test-Drives by Grant Yoxon and Greg Wilson), and a version of the Swift + called the Aveo.

Sharing bodystyles is nothing new to Suzuki. The former Suzuki Swift and Vitara were built in a joint GM/Suzuki plant in Ingersoll, Ontario which also built the Chevrolet Metro and Tracker. However, those vehicles were designed mostly by Suzuki whereas the new Verona is more of an upgraded Daewoo Leganza.

Such is the nature of today’s automobile alliances that it’s difficult to tell where your car was built or who actually built it. In order to trim production costs, the world’s vehicle manufacturers are sharing platforms and bodystyles and selling the same cars with different badges in different countries around the world. For example, the Suzuki Verona/Chevrolet Epica is also known as the Magnus in Korea and the Evanda in Europe. (Who picks these names anyway?) See Paul Williams’ interesting article on this topic under ‘Feature Articles’.

With a base price of $22,995, the Suzuki Verona GL is about $1,700 cheaper than the base Chevrolet Epica, but the Epica includes a few extra standard features such as an 8-way power driver’s seat and front fog lights. When you average it all out, the cars are comparable in price. However, if you don’t really need those extra features, it’s cheaper to go with the Verona.

The base Verona is nicely equipped, starting with its 2.5 litre inline six cylinder engine and 4-speed automatic transmission. Most cars in this price range have a four cylinder engine, including the Kia Magentis ($22,250), Hyundai Sonata ($22,395), Chevrolet Malibu ($22,470), Honda Accord ($24,900), Toyota Camry ($24,800), Nissan Altima ($24,798) and Mazda6 ($25,595).

2004 Suzuki Verona
Click image to enlarge

Standard features on the base Verona include four wheel disc brakes, a fully independent suspension, 205/55R-15 inch tires, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/cassette with six speakers, woodgrain dash trim, remote keyless entry, power windows, power door locks, heated power mirrors, manual height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, block heater, and a full-size spare tire.

The Verona also has a standard 3 year/60,000 km warranty and a 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty – (so does the Epica).

Missing from the base Verona are anti-lock brakes and side and curtain airbags. The former is available on the Verona GLX, but the latter are not available.

2004 Suzuki Verona
Click image to enlarge

To the list of standard equipment above, the Verona GLX ($25,695) adds larger 205/55R-16 inch tires, anti-lock brakes and traction control, alloy wheels, automatic climate control, 8-way power driver’s seat, front fog lamps, and power glass moonroof. With Freight and A/C excise tax, my test car came to $26,790.

As equipped, the Verona GLX is less expensive than most of its comparable four cylinder and V6-engined competitors, with the notable exception of the Chevrolet Malibu LS V6.


Driving impressions

In my opinion, the best features of the Verona are its smooth engine and transmission, and comfortable ride. The 2.5 litre inline six (with four valves per cylinder and two overhead camshafts) produces 155 horsepower at 5,800 r.p.m. and 177 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 r.p.m. It has a smooth, even power delivery, and is relatively quiet.

2004 Suzuki Verona GLX

2004 Suzuki Verona GLX
Click image to enlarge

The Verona’s 0 to 100 km/h time of eleven and a half seconds is rather slow by six cylinder standards, but as I mentioned, many of the cars it competes with in this price range have four cylinder engines. On the freeway, the engine turns over 2300 at 100 km/h, and 2800 at 120 km/h in top gear.

Fuel consumption is below average though. Ratings of 11.9 L/100 km (24 mpg) in the city and and 7.9 L/100 km (36 mpg) on the highway are comparatively poor for a mid-size car with a six cylinder engine.

The four-speed automatic transmission glides from gear to gear, and although a tad reluctant to change down on kickdown, still performs very well. I liked the “Hold” button which allows you to take your foot off the brake on a steep hill without sliding backwards. As you accelerate, the Hold function disengages.

The power steering is easy without being sloppy, and the turning circle is satisfyingly tight. Outward visibility is generally very good, and though there are three rear height-adjustable head restraints, the centre one is lower so as not to impede rear visibility.

The Verona’s handling seems a bit stiffer than in the Epica, but overall there’s too much lean to describe this as a performance sedan. The Verona’s fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts/rear multi-link), low centre of gravity, and Hankook Optimo H420 205/55R-16 inch tires provide a comfortable, well-balanced, nicely-sprung highway and city ride.

My car had the optional four wheel disc brakes with ABS – these brakes performed very well in independent braking tests conducted by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. Average braking distance from 100 km/ to 0 in four tests was a short 134 feet.


Interior is ‘warm’

Though not flashy or contemporary, the Verona’s interior is nicely finished and even the fake walnut wood trim adds warmth to cabin. The Verona seats five, but the rear seat may not be wide enough for three adults. Headroom and legroom are generous in the front and rear, a bit surprising for a car that looks so low.

2004 Suzuki Verona GLX

2004 Suzuki Verona GLX
U.S. model with leather seating shown. Click image to enlarge

The driver faces three brightly lit round gauges, including a tachometer, and a digital gear selection indicator in the right pod allows the driver to know which gear they’re in without looking down at the floor shifter.

The seats are covered in a soft velour fabric, and offer good side support. The 8-way power driver’s seat in the GLX has height and tilt adjustment. A two-tone dash features a glare-free black upper portion and a lighter lower portion. The wood trim on the centre console and doors, and chrome on the shift gate and door handles add a luxury touch.

The centre console includes a digital clock at the top, and below that is a small illuminated screen for the automatic climate control which shows heating and ventilation functions in a bright green on black display that’s easy to see day or night. The heater includes a rotary dial to change the temperature setting, and a push button to change fan speed – a bit unusual, but easy to operate.

The standard AM/FM/CD player has large buttons and better than average sound quality – a much better radio than the one offered in the Chevrolet Epica.

Features I liked were an open storage area with a 12 volt powerpoint for charging accessories, two covered cupholders behind the shift lever, armrest with two levels, and a handy pull-out coin tray on the left dash. I also liked the ignition keyhole located on the dash rather than the steering column.

I didn’t really like the gated stickshift, but it can be shifted from ‘D’ to ‘3’ easily.

At the rear is a folding armrest/storage area, and 60/40 seatbacks, but the opening to the trunk is a bit narrow. The 13.4 cubic feet trunk is a decent size and is fully lined. It can be locked and unlocked with the remote.


Safety and reliability

In recent 40 mph frontal offset crash tests conducted by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Verona was rated ‘Acceptable’. (See www.hwysafety.org for details). As a new model, no reliability data is yet available.


Verdict

Despite its lack of power, the Suzuki Verona offers a smooth, quiet engine, a smooth transmission, a comfortable ride, and a high level of standard equipment. Fuel consumption is poor, and availability of Suzuki dealers in some parts of the country might be a problem.


Technical Data: 2004 Suzuki Verona GLX

Base price (GL) $22,995
Base price (GLX) $25,695
Freight $995
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $26,790
Type 4-door, 5 passenger mid-sized sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.5 litre in-line six cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 155 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque 177 lb ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission 4 speed automatic
Tires 205/55R-16
Curb weight
Wheelbase 2,700 mm (106.3 in)
Length 4,770 mm (187.8 in)
Width 1,815 mm (71.5 in)
Height 1,450 mm (57.1 in)
Trunk capacity 380 litres (13.4 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.9 L/100 km (24 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.9 L/100 km (36 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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