The didn't turn any heads on our trip to the Indianapolis 500. But we were pleased with its ability to zip in and out of traffic in the Speed Capital of the World.
The four-door hatchback follows Suzuki's rollout of the Verona and Forenza, and is the company's attempt to reach a younger U.S. audience. Its competitors include the Ford Focus ZX5 SES, Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Spectra5, Mazda3 S, and Toyota Matrix XR. The all-new Reno was designed by Ital Design as a new breed of "compact crossover," blending European style with sedan sensibility.
We had plenty of time to test that sensibility on our 700-mile trip. The leather seats proved comfortable for long stretches of time, thanks to adjustable height and lumbar supports and headrest. The Reno's 102.4-in. wheelbase and a 58.3-in. track (front and rear) made the cabin roomy enough for both my 6-ft 2-in. passenger and me to relax with no arguments over elbow room. The backseat has just enough legroom when the front passengers sit forward, but is best left for the occasional passenger. Better yet, fold down the seats for a whopping 45.4-cu ft of storage space.
The car's interior is nicely thought out. The Reno EX comes standard with leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Storage equipment includes dual cupholders in the center console, under-driver's seat storage bin, front and rear-door compartments, driver and passenger seatback pockets, lighted glove box, sunglasses holder, and driver's-side change tray.
The 2.0 liter, dual-overhead cam 16-valve engine produces 126 hp at 5,600 rpm and 131 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. This makes acceleration adequate, but not exciting. I never worried about getting on the highway or passing, but the car won't win any races.
The car's size and nimbleness makes it quick and easy to get in and out of downtown parking spaces. It took a while to get comfortable with the gear shifter. I regularly drive a manual transmission but found this shifter loose and it had a long throw. In fact, more than once I inadvertently punched my passenger in the knee while shifting to fifth gear.
We had to ask ourselves what Suzuki was thinking when they neglected to include a door lock button. A quick glance at the owner's manual showed a button on some models, but apparently not ours. The only way to lock and unlock the doors was to manually reach around and press the locks. This meant that if my passenger unlocked his door manually and got out of the car, there was no way for me to lock his door unless I unlocked and locked the whole car. This was quite inconvenient, not to mention unsafe.
I usually associate small compacts with good gas mileage, but was disappointed with our average 28 mpg for mostly highway driving. The car is rated at 22 city and 30 highway.
The Reno EX comes standard with CD/MP3 player, side air bags, power windows, cruise control, heated mirrors, and speed-sensitive power steering. With optional antilock brakes, and $545 destination charge, the final price of our test car comes to $17,194. A good bet for college kids for getting around town or the occasional road trip.