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Expert Reviews 1 of 9
By Joe Wiesenfelder
June 9, 2005
Car enthusiast magazines are quick to point out with now-it-can-be-told delight that the Reno, from Japanese Suzuki, is actually assembled in South Korea. Scandal! Further, it's a product of General Motors and Daewoo. Gasp! It even has a GM engine from Australia. Shazam!
OK, so the Reno is an international puzzle. That alone would be a bad reason to dislike a vehicle. Sad to say, for the Reno there are some very good ones.
Puzzler No. 1 is the Reno's fuel economy, an EPA-estimated 22/30 mpg in city/highway driving. The table compares fuel economy among the Reno and several other small four-door hatchbacks, aka five-doors.
EPA-Estimated Fuel Economy (city/highway, mpg)*
In order of efficiency, best to worst
Ford Focus ZX5
Kia Rio Cinco (tie)
Suzuki Aerio (tie)
*All vehicles are five-doors equipped with manual transmissions
Note that even Suzuki's own Aerio, a larger vehicle, has better fuel economy. Oftentimes when a car is less efficient than others in its class, the upside is faster acceleration. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. I evaluated a Reno with the standard five-speed-manual transmission, and its power was merely decent. The engine is smooth and the torque is well distributed across the engine's rev range. If only there were more of it. ...
The gearshift lever is longish in both height and throw, and a little rubbery. The ride quality is so-so. The car's steering is well executed and roadholding is rather good, though it exhibits a good deal of body roll. Standard four-wheel disc brakes are a bonus in this class. ABS is an option, kindly available a la carte for $500.
The interior isn't bad at all. The ubiquitous faux-aluminum trim is present and inoffensive. The driver's seat has standard cushion-height adjustments, which is good, but the visibility to the rear isn't great due to a chunky D-pillar and a high belt line.
The slope of the roof makes backseat ingress an exercise in caution for tall folks, but they'll be surprised at the room once inside. Headroom is good and legroom is decent, though I found my knees raised more than I'd like by the height of the floor. There's a center floor hump, but it's not very high by today's standards.
The shape of the Reno's rear end makes its cargo volume smaller than average behind the rear seats, but with the standard 60/40-split, folding backrests lowered, the maximum cargo capacity is more competitive. Just as important, the seats fold in one easy step, requiring no cushion flip or head restraint removal.
The Reno's best attributes are probably its list of standard features and its generous warranty: a 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty that is deductible-free and stays with the car if it's sold. The bumper-to-bumper coverage is for 3 years/36,000 miles. Also included is three-year roadside assistance coverage and a courtesy vehicle program.
Hatchbacks might not get the respect in this country that they get in Europe and Asia, but the number of models on the market suggests the tide is turning.
Or is it? Does an increase in the number of hatchbacks on the market suggest acceptance? Five-doors such as the Pontiac Vibe, Scion xA, Subaru Impreza and Toyota Matrix seem to appeal to younger buyers. Dodge plans to replace the Neon model exclusively with a five-door, and Chevrolet already sells a five-door version of its midsize Malibu, called the Malibu Maxx. Among affordable compact and subcompact cars, hatchback versions of the Chevrolet Aveo, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and Kia Rio and Spectra are holding their own. In this increasingly crowded field of what isn't exactly an enthusiastically embraced body style, the obvious question is, do we really need another one? More to the point, do we need the Reno?