So I was pleasantly surprised to find the 2005 Verona EX loaded with nifty amenities that catapult the sedan into the semiluxury midsize fray traditionally dominated by the likes of Camry, Accord, and Altima.

In the quest to unseat its competitors, Suzuki outfits the Verona with eyecatching European styling and the only in-line six-cylinder engine in its class, as well as superior passenger room, a hard-to-beat 100,000-mile fully transferable warranty, and a reasonable sticker price.

All three of the Verona's trim models, S, LX, and EX, come standard with a transverse-mounted, 2.5 liter, 24-valve in-line six. The orientation reduces vibration, making the ride surprisingly smooth. Designers also devised bidirectional hydraulic engine and transmission mounts to further subdue engine noise and vibration. The engine boasts 155 hp at 5,800 rpm. And a variable-induction system not only improves fuel efficiency, but also generates 177 lb-ft of torque at only 4,000 rpm. This gave ample power for merging and maneuvering around trucks while climbing some rolling hills during a weekend drive.

Another bonus that passengers can see and feel is a surprisingly roomy cabin. There's generous hip, shoulder, and legroom in front as well as for those in back. Some of this is due to the transverse-mounted engine that widens the sedan stance by about 4 in. Additionally, 60/40-split fold-down rear seatback gives access to the already ample 13.4 ft 3 trunk so that longer objects can be conveniently carried without having to prop the trunk open.

The cockpit and soft-glowing electroluminescent instrument panel were thoughtfully laid out for easy access with all the important gages and dials in sight. Climate controls feature some odd graphics and a handy digital temperature readout, while the wood-grain accents and leather trim give a decidedly upscale feel. On the downside, however, the steering wheel-mounted radio control was a bit too sensitive and easily disturbed by the brush of gloved hand. And the shifter for the four-speed automatic transmission was awkwardly gated and a little stiff.

The Verona S comes with power windows and door locks, heated mirrors, and cruise control. The LX adds ABS, alloy wheels, and climate control. Our EX tester, at $20,949, featured optional traction control and came with heated leather seats, an eight-way adjustable driver seat, electrochromatic inside rearview mirror, and a power sunroof (optional on the LX).

All models feature daytime running lights, three-point safety belts for all occupants, instrument panel-mounted tire pressure monitoring, and weight-sensing front passenger-side and front-seat mounted side airbags.

— Jean M. Hoffman