Edited by Stephen Mraz

Before you start thinking this little wagon is some kind of lemon — think again. The "unfortunate" label stems from a mishap that occurred on Day Two of our test drive. I was on my way to work when the Hyundai Elantra in front of me failed to maintain the necessary "assured clear distance." The result: a rush-hour fender bender and inestimable damage to my esteem. Even a new nickname has failed to completely restore my mojo.

Naturally, my reaction to the quickly decelerating vehicle in front was slamming on the brakes, which resulted in the Forenza's bumper sliding beneath the Elantra's bumper. But preservation of my bumper came with a price — about $3,600. It seems the Forenza's grille, headlamps, hood, and condenser assembly are no match for a Hyundai's bumper. (Damages included the Forenza's lightly dinged bumper.)

I was wearing my seat belt. And the Forenza's air bag did not deploy, possibly because the brunt of the impact was above the bumper. I was not injured (physically) and neither was the driver of the Hyundai, who apologized for having made such an abrupt stop.

This unfortunate incident aside, the Forenza was comfortable and sufficiently roomy, even in the back. The LX interior features air conditioning, cruise, AM/FM/cassette/CD audio system with eight speakers, tilt steering with remote stereo controls (except volume), leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, 60/40 split folding rear seats, power windows and locks, power tilt-slide moonroof and driver and passenger front air bags. The three-bulb, circular headlights in a chrome-bottomed glass case give the nose an expensive look.

The backseat sports three headrests and cupholders in the pull-down armrest. A storage compartment beneath the front-passenger seat is handy, but a lock would have made it even better.

A 2.0-liter double-overhead cam 16-valve I-4 engine produces 126 hp at 5,600 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the S and LX models, with a four-speed automatic optional. (The top of the line EX comes only with the automatic.) All three models have power-assisted steering and four-wheel disc brakes. Independent multilink suspension (rear) and independent struts in (front) offer a comfortable ride without being overly stiff. Standard rack-and-pinion steering with hydraulic power-assist feels assured and smooth.

Acceleration, though not exhilarating, is sufficient (unfortunately) for jumping on the freeway in rush hour. Braking — when applied in a timely manner — is firm and even. Our model is rated at between 17 and 23 mpg (city) and 23 and 33 mpg (highway). Suzuki offers a 36-month/36,000-mile bumpertobumper warranty and 84-month/ 100,000-mile on the powertrain. The sticker on our tester is a reasonable $17,994.

Surprisingly, neither headlamp broke. But replacement was necessary because the clips that hold the lamps in place were broken. In effect, those broken clips cost $229.24 (times two) to replace. It's hard to understand why such expensive lamps should be held in place by what are evidently weak clips.

— Patrick "Crash" Mahoney

audio system with eight speakers, tilt steering with remote stereo controls (except volume), leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, 60/40 split folding rear seats, power windows and locks, power tilt-slide moonroof and driver and passenger front air bags. The three-bulb, circular headlights in a chrome-bottomed glass case give the nose an expensive look. The backseat sports three headrests and cupholders in the pull-down armrest. A storage compartment beneath the front-passenger seat is handy, but a lock would have made it even better.

A 2.0-liter double-overhead cam 16-valve I-4 engine produces 126 hp at 5,600 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the S and LX models, with a four-speed automatic optional.

(The top of the line EX comes only with the automatic.) All three models have power-assisted steering and four-wheel disc brakes. Independent multilink suspension (rear) and independent struts in (front) offer a comfortable ride without being overly stiff. Standard rack-and-pinion steering with hydraulic power-assist feels assured and smooth.

Acceleration, though not exhilarating, is sufficient (unfortunately) for jumping on the freeway in rush hour. Braking — when applied in a timely manner — is firm and even. Our model is rated at between 17 and 23 mpg (city) and 23 and 33 mpg (highway). Suzuki offers a 36-month/36,000-mile bumpertobumper warranty and 84-month/ 100,000-mile on the powertrain. The sticker on our tester is a reasonable $17,994.

Surprisingly, neither headlamp broke. But replacement was necessary because the clips that hold the lamps in place were broken. In effect, those broken clips cost $229.24 (times two) to replace. It's hard to understand why such expensive lamps should be held in place by what are evidently weak clips.

— Patrick "Crash" Mahoney

If you have a horror story about an outrageous repair or exceedingly bad design, e-mail it to:mdeditor@penton.comor mail it to:
MACHINE DESIGN
1300 E. 9th St.
Cleveland, OH 44114-1503
Fax: (216) 621-8469
We'll publish the best responses.