New for 2004, the Suzuki Forenza is tagged as a compact sedan. For the price ($12,499 to $15,999 depending on which version, the S, LX, or EX), it's not a bad deal. And Suzuki loads the Forenza with plenty of amenities as standard equipment, making it that much more attractive.

Our test vehicle was the LX, with a price of $14,399. This included air conditioning; cruise control; an audio system with CD, cassette, and eight speakers; tilt steering wheel with stereo controls; alloy wheels; fog lamps; remote keyless entry; power locks, windows, and heated mirrors; and a sunroof. As a matter of fact, our test vehicle carried no options, and I really couldn't think of anything that was missing.

The Forenza is powered by a 2.0-liter, DOHC 16-valve engine producing 126 hp at 5,600 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The powerplant is a slightly doggy four banger. A five-speed manual transmission features fairly easy shifting, but is a little sticky at times and makes you hunt for the right gear. Also, the clutch makes an annoying clicking sound every time it engages.

The Forenza is easy to handle, thanks in part to speed-sensitive steering that makes whipping around corners actually pleasurable. A MacPherson-strut suspension up front, with a dual-link suspension in the rear, and gas-pressurized shocks at all four corners translates into a surprisingly smooth ride.

The Forenza claims to have more rear-seat legroom than a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla. I can't confirm or deny this because I couldn't figure out a way to drive the car from the back seat. However, I did sit in the back seat for a few minutes, and it appears fairly roomy for a compact sedan. The trunk is surprisingly large at 12.4 ft3. For example, the several bags of groceries and a briefcase I put in the trunk seemed almost lost.

If you're looking for a well-stocked compact sedan and don't want to shell out the big bucks, the Forenza might be worth taking a look at.