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Suzuki Tried to Make a Comeback in the Early 2000s With a Bunch of Rebadged Daewoos

Remember Daewoo? No, not the cheap TV you bought from a thrift store in 2004 — the Korean automaker that in the 1990s enlisted college students to try to sell its cars to buyers on a budget. Predictably, the idea failed, but the cars eventually went to live a new life as Suzukis in the early 2000s.

In 2000, Suzuki dealers had just one vehicle to sell: the Vitara SUV. Five years later, its lineup had grown to six models, most of which it could thank Daewoo — and its parent, General Motors Korea — for.

Suzuki had supplied the company that would become Daewoo Motors with small vans and pickups beginning in the early 1980s, though none of these were intended for general consumer use. GM owned a small slice of Suzuki, and the Detroit giant used the Japanese company, better known for its motorcycles, to supply its dealers with small cars and SUVs generally sold as Geos. To repay its Japanese friend, GM lobbed three Daewoos into Suzuki showrooms in the U.S. Ironically, they were sold as Chevrolets in some global markets. Yes, GM used to be really weird.

This is akin to borrowing Tupperware from your neighbor and reciprocating by allowing them to use your vacuum. You’d barely notice that your Hoover was on loan, just like most consumers didn’t notice that Suzuki now had compact and midsize sedans and a hatchback that were built in South Korea.

To jog your memory, here they are.

2005-2008 Suzuki Reno

2005-2008 Suzuki Reno

Named after the Biggest Little City in America (or maybe the French actor who co-starred in “Ronin”), the Reno was a 5-door hatchback that started at about $14,000. It made use of a 126-hp 2.0-liter inline 4 and could be had with a manual or an automatic transmission.

Its nearest competitors included the Hyundai Elantra GT and the Ford Focus hatchback. Base prices were in line with the new-for-2005 Elantra GT, which caused something of a stir when the Reno hit the road for $15,300 with standard leather seats. About $15,800 bought a Reno LX with a sunroof but cloth upholstery. Oh, the choices! Find a Suzuki Reno for sale

2004-2008 Suzuki Forenza

2004-2008 Suzuki Forenza

The companion to the Reno was the Forenza sedan and wagon, which shared the hatchback’s engine and front-end styling. The sedan’s three rear windows recalled the Audi A6, but only at the briefest of glances through the smudgiest of glasses.

The Forenza came in the same three trim levels — S, LX and EX — as the Reno, though the $18,000 EX wagon was the spendiest of the lot. Toward the end of the Forenza/Reno lineup’s run, the trim levels were shuffled to Base, Convenience and Popular, prices were lowered and formerly optional features, such as leather upholstery and alloy wheels, were dropped. Find a Suzuki Forenza for sale

2004-2006 Suzuki Verona

2004-2006 Suzuki Verona

Verona is a lovely city in Italy, a short train ride from Venice and chock-full of Roman edifices not sinking into the ocean. The Verona was also the most ambitious of the three Daewukis made, and its was the only price that would exceed $20,000 ($20,500 for the tony EX with optional traction control in 2004). Its bones are essentially the Daewoo Leganza, a car that was reportedly, allegedly, supposedly and unbelievably penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro. (See also: the Maserati Ghibli, the Iso Grifo, the Volkswagen Golf Mk1 and the DeLorean).

A 2.5-liter V6 rated at just 155 hp was underhood, and it was only teamed with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Performance and thirst were low and high, respectively. The Verona was scrapped after just three model years and is a rare sight today, though it was briefly sold as the Chevrolet Epica in Canada and is somewhat more common where the maple syrup flows. Find a Suzuki Verona for sale

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  1. I had one of those Verona’s….back in the day it had more standard features than the Mazda 6, the Camry, Accord, and Altima at a lower price point.  Nice offering from Suzuki but they couldn’t survive the competition.  Still offering motorcycles and marine engines…

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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