The Forgotten Suzuki Verona Was A Strange But Comfy Ex-Daewoo With An Unexpected Porsche Engine

Verona Topshot

If I asked you to picture a car with a Porsche-developed engine and styling penned by Italdesign, you’d probably think of some swoopy low-volume exotic. But what if I told you that a vehicle that fits this criteria can be found for cheap in just about every city in America? Say hello to the Suzuki Verona, a midsize sedan that’s far more interesting than it lets on.

Daewoo Leganza
Photo credit: Daewoo

In the beginning, there was the Daewoo Leganza. While it wasn’t exactly the paramount of elegance, the Leganza was a bold step by its Korean makers, one intent on penetrating the American midsize sedan segment, coming from behind to reach around and grab a nice small slice of market share. Not only did the Leganza grab styling influence from Giorgetto Giugiaro’s forward-looking Jaguar Kensington concept, its development process took just 30 months under the watchful eye of Dr. Ulrich Bez. You know, the father of the 993 Porsche 911 and nearly every gorgeous Aston Martin launched in the 2000s. Unfortunately, the Leganza entered the market right as things were beginning to turn for Daewoo.

Daewoo Leganza Interior
Photo credit: Daewoo

While Daewoo’s American sales process of bringing on college students as ambassadors and sticking them with 1099s for discounts on cars was bad, things were even worse in Korea. See, Daewoo was on an absolute spending spree in the 1990s, developing brand new cars and acquiring SsangYong Motor. All this spending cost Daewoo money it didn’t have, and racking up all that debt just in time for the Asian financial crisis was most certainly a bad idea. To make matters worse, Daewoo wasn’t just a car company, it was a chaebol, or large industrial conglomerate, and this debt-happy philosophy permeated every corner of its businesses. As a result, Daewoo collapsed in November 1999, with debts totaling billions of dollars. Through bankruptcy, things got parceled off, including a sale of the automotive division to General Motors, Suzuki, and SAIC. However, before such parceling off could take place, Daewoo Motors still had one last trick up its sleeve.

Suzuki Verona 5
Photo credit: Suzuki

See, GM didn’t buy Daewoo Motors until 2002, which gave the ailing Korean car company just enough time to pull together one more fully-finished midsize sedan that went by the name Magnus. Because Daewoo didn’t have a ton of money, the Magnus was built on stretched Leganza underpinnings, sort of like how Thanksgiving turkey gets chopped up and put into sandwiches. However, not only did Italdesign try its hardest on the Magnus’ sheetmetal, Daewoo knew that the Leganza’s GM Family II engine was older than dirt, so it hired Porsche at great expense to help engineer a brand new motor. This is where things get weird. If you’re given a clean sheet to design any engine for a transverse application, what are you going to draw? Probably some sort of twin-cam four-cylinder or maybe even a 60-degree V6, right? Nope. The Magnus packed a 2.5-liter inline-six sideways between the strut towers.

Daewoo XK6 engine
Photo credit: Suzuki

Alright, so how on earth do you fit a transversely-mounted inline-six in a car that isn’t 35-and-a-half feet wide and doesn’t have the turning circle of the International Space Station? If you’re Volvo, you turn the engine backwards and run all sorts of accessories on the transaxle side using a special drive assembly. If you’re Daewoo and Porsche, you just go with a small 77 mm bore and a big 89.2 mm stroke. That’s a bore two millimeters smaller than you’d find in a Ford Fiesta’s 1.6-liter four-banger and a stroke almost three millimeters longer than on a GM 3800 V6. [Editor’s Note: What the hell? This feels like the least-Porsche Porsche engine that ever Porsched a Porsche. Long stroke? Porsche was always about oversquare, short-stroke engines! Transverse inline six? Amazing.  –JT]

Of course, displacement adds up to a fairly small 2.5 liters, so power isn’t anything phenomenal. Figure 155 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, two fewer than a base-model 2002 Camry, and 20 fewer than a base-model 2002 Nissan Altima. Torque was decent but not groundbreaking, 177 lb-ft at a relatively peaky 4,000 rpm, and the whole thing was hitched to a four-speed ZF slushbox.

Suzuki Verona Interior
Photo credit: Suzuki

However, you know what an inline-six is really good at? Being smoother than custard and quieter than a slumbering kitten. Indeed, that powertrain smoothness was the Magnus’ USP, [Editor’s Note: I had to look that up. I thought it might be “Unusual Super Power” but alas, no. – JT] and Daewoo’s new owners must have seen something in the car because it was put into service in America as the Suzuki Verona. Looking at the Verona on paper, it’s a wonder how it wasn’t more appealing to American consumers. In 2004, you could get a Verona EX with automatic climate control, heated seats, more motorized gizmos than Inspector Gadget, a sunroof, and real leather seats for just $19,999. That’s a mere $124 more than a fairly basic 2004 Toyota Camry LE. It’s not like the top-trim Verona was made of particularly nasty stuff either. It had French-stitched leather door card inserts, genuine fake wood trim from the finest fake trees of the most exotic fake forests, and more soft-touch surfaces than a padded room.

Suzuki Verona Climate Control
Photo credit: Suzuki

Unsurprisingly, journalists lauded the Verona’s quality and appointments in period road tests. Frank Markus at Car and Driver noted tight assembly, writing “Uniform gaps surround the hood, the doors, and the trunk, and they’re noticeably narrower than those found on many domestic sedans.” Motor Trend said that “For a 20-grand vehicle, the interior materials are of amazing quality, with color, grain, and pattern matching that rivals luxury models.” I get that Mercedes was making some properly shit cars in 2004, but that’s still high praise. So, the Verona seems a well-built, well-equipped car. What are its downsides?

Suzuki Verona Black
Photo credit: Suzuki

Remember that four-speed automatic I mentioned earlier? Coupled with the engine’s middling output and a curb weight of more than 3,400 pounds, it created a combination that ensured the Verona’s naught to 60 mph dash took more than ten seconds to complete. In addition, ride quality was reportedly on the soft side, so apex hunters would want to look elsewhere. Still, Motor Trend clocked the Verona at 60.1 mph through its slalom test which has to count for something, right? In all seriousness, judging the Verona on its sportiness is like judging a private jet by how easy it is to guide through a McDonald’s drive-thru.

Where the Verona really excelled was comfort. Motor Trend found that “this new Suzuki is tuned for ride comfort, easily swallowing road imperfections without jarring its occupants.” Motoring writer Richard Russell concurred, also writing that “In addition to the silky-smooth drivetrain, very little wind or road noise can be discerned at normal speeds.” So, less budget BMW and more cut-price Lexus. I don’t mind the sound of that.

Suzuki Verona Rear
Photo credit: Suzuki

In the end, Daewoo’s Hail Mary never found much mainstream success. The Suzuki Verona only lasted through end of production in 2006, and Suzuki never elected to bring the Magnus’ successor to America. Then again, maybe the writing was on the wall. Suzuki itself bowed out of the American car market in 2012, forever depriving us of such nifty vehicles as the Swift Sport hatchback and current Jimny SUV. Still, as a last-ditch attempt for Daewoo, the Magnus was an astonishing vehicle. So, if you’re seeking something with Porsche-assisted pedigree on a Kia Sephia budget, hop onto your preferred online classified ad site and look for a Suzuki Verona. While it certainly won’t sing notes like a 911 GT3 or even handle like a Cayenne, this surprisingly quirky car still sings of a future that never was.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit

41 Responses

  1. My Suzuki dealer ordered 3 for his lot (the minimum). There was still one on the lot when Suzuki pulled out. One went to the service manager.

    It was not a real Suzuki.

    The Equator sold better, he was able to average 4 a year.

    The Grand Vitaras flew off the lot.

    He was also one of the largest dealers in Canada, so the low numbers are not due to being in the middle of nowhere.

    1. Grand Vitara’s were awesome. The one owned by a friend had a fantastic leather interior.
      Sadly it took a hit and while far from “total” level damage her insurance company did total it because new parts were no longer available.
      Damn shame.

    2. When my beloved Pontiac Vibe GT 6 speed manual was totaled, I did alot of soul searching (i.e. visited alot of car lots) and almost pulled the trigger on a Grand Vitara with a 5 speed manual. But a Honda Element with a 5 speed manual showed up at my local dealer which was irresistible and made me the car weirdo I am now.

      I guess was a real sliding doors moment, what is a “Grand Vitara” guy?

  2. As a previous owner of the Canadian version Chevy Epica, ask me anything, I guess?
    It was my grandpa’s car that was passed down to teenage me.
    If I remember right they didn’t sell well because Chevy also sold the Malibu right beside it for less money, with more HP and better fuel economy.

    1. I worked in the service department of a Chevy dealer about 15 years back (when the Epica and other Daewoo GM’s were still under warranty). Now, mid-2000’s GM’s weren’t exactly a bastion of reliability, but even by those standards, the Daewoo stuff (especially the more complex Epica) looked pretty bad.

      Mind you, in Canadian dealers, I expect the Venture/Uplander was the even bigger competitor.

  3. “But what if I told you that a vehicle that fits this criteria can be found for cheap in just about every city in America?”

    There are three total Verona’s listed on Autotrader at ANY distance. I don’t think “just about every city in America” is a valid statement.

    Sorry for my pedantry……

  4. I’m still sore about Suzuki leaving the market after my wife and I got a 2010 Kizashi and a 2011 Equator. They hooked us in with an SX4 and then promptly exited the US. As a result, we ended up with a 2013 Outback that burned oil like it was its job.

    Thanks, Suzuki, you assholes.

    1. Agree they made good little cars. I owned an SX4 from 2011-2013 and it was a decent little car. However, I will say the fuel mileage sucked for what it was. Unless you kept it under 60 mph it struggled to get 25 mpg on the highway. If I’m taking the small car penalty I better be rewarded with decent fuel economy.

      1. Yep: complete failure between brain & fingers. A >straight< 6 is what I like for smoothness & torque-and what I meant to type. This has the smoothness, but not the torque. I’d still at least look if a manual was available.
        I sorta want to lift the hood on one anyway just to see how bad working on it would be.

    1. Volvo made a ton of their version of a transverse inline 6 and even with good parts availability and a well practiced indie, it’s expensive to get it worked on. There’s simply no room for anything. Though it is smooooooooooooth.
      In other words, I’d rather not have the same serviceability issues with an anime that was unreliable when new and has next to no parts support. No thank you.

  5. This is a perfect example of where a Suzuki designed and engineered pedigree means a whole lot more than a Porsche pedigree. The very existence of the Kizashi showing up soon after proved it. Only, sadly, too late for Suzuki.

    Also sad to see that Italdesign had a clearance rack for junk they should never had taken credit for. Woof.

  6. I just love this weird little engine! I want to find one and shoehorn it into my Miata, not because it is a good idea but just because it’s so weird. A tiny, long-stroke, transverse straight 6? How many times has *that* been done? I’m guessing once, and that this was that one time.

    I have a thing for oddball engines, so thank you for introducing me to this one! A transverse I6 is actually not a terrible concept, if you can find a way to make it fit, and making the cylinders narrower sure seems like it would do it! In an alternate universe, everybody and their dog is driving crossovers powered by transverse straight-6 strokers, and they are smooth as buttered silk.

    1. 1972 Austin / Morris 2200 “Landcrab” had an inline 6 cylinder single OHC engine of 2227cc fitted transversely, driving the front wheels, so yes, it has been done at least once before. Bore and stroke was 76.2 mm x 81.3 mm.

      1. You’re missing the point. The point isn’t its performance and/or mileage, the point is it’s weird. Anyways, if we’re going play that game, the Miata in 2004 made negligibly less power with negligibly better mileage in a car that weighed 1000 pounds less.

    1. “But the successor of the 1st gen Magnus did make it to America in the form of the Chevy Epica.”

      No it didn’t. We got the Suzuki Kizashi, which is a wholly different animal than the Chevy Tosca/Epica the rest of the world got.

  7. I always thought these were good looking cars back when they were new. However, I distinctly remember riding in one a coworker owned. It couldn’t have been more than a few years old at that point and the interior was literally falling apart. The soft touch materials were peeling, door card material was falling off, electronics no longer worked, etc. I remembered thinking it was a shame because they did look good but the QC just wasn’t there. Suzuki must have realized that a flagship sedan that crumbled within 5 years was a bad idea and developed the Kizashi instead.

  8. Just because Porsche might helped to engineer this engine, this still does not make it a Porsche engine. So the titel to this article is simply wrong.

    Porsche always helped other companies with their engineering know how. Thats why there’s the company Porsche Engineering, which in fact doesn’t do anything else.
    They worked with so many different companies. One example is the Aurus Senat, Putins personal car brand. Guess who helped with getting the engine running…

  9. I drove one on a week-long rental in Seattle at the time. I think some wise guy Avis buyer picked up a bunch of them at fire sale pricing. I recall finding it remarkably competent, even thought about buying one. Then I popped the hood – doesn’t everyone check out the engine bay on rental cars? – and discovered it was really a Daewoo. Great rental, but would have been a bad purchase.

  10. A college friend had one of these. Other than the sluggish acceleration, the only thing I didn’t like about it was the athletic support garment shaped logo on the nose of the car.

    Seriously. Daewoo tried to use a jock strap as their corporate logo.

  11. We got the next gen in Australia and New Zealand as the Holden Epica – same weird I6 engine (plus a diesel). It replaced the kinda ok selling Vectra. The Epica did not sell well at all. A bit of an own goal considering we could have had the Insignia, which would have been a far stronger Camry/Mondeo/Mazda6 competitor

    1. In Europe we got this model as Daewoo Evanda first, and when Daewoo seized to exist, it was marketed as Chevrolet Evanda. Yep, I remember it was such a let down that an iconic American brand (come on, for us here in the EU Chevy means Murica – well, for at least for some of us) entered the European market selling rebadged Daewoos… BTW, Daewoo made some actually good cars like Lanos, Nubira and Leganza that are still rolling here in my neck of woods.

      1. We got the Lanos, Nubira and Leganza here in Canada. They are generally regarded as CRAP… with parts/service often being expensive and unobtainable.

        I personally wouldn’t buy one unless it was dirt cheap compared to anything else available for the given condition of the vehicle… meaning that I might only consider it if it was in mint condition with low mileage and cost half of any other comparable cars with double the mileage.

    1. One of my neighbors has an Epica!

      I don’t think they were very well supported by GM, guessing that buyers were gently nudged into Malibus – I rarely even saw them on the lots, while you’d see a reasonable number of Optras and more than advisable numbers of Aveos. They’re extremely rare on the roads around here and the one my neighbor drives has a somewhat significant amount of rust.

      1. One benefit of the Chevy Epica is that it made the Chevy Malibu look really good!

        Sidenote: Not saying the Malibu is a bad car and the last gen that was sold in North America was actually a very nice car that I wish sold better. And from 2015-2020, there even was a Malibu with the same hybrid powertrain as the Volt, but without the plug-in capability:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Malibu#Hybrid_version

        It’s a shame GM didn’t publicize it or make greater use of the Voltec powertrain in more vehicles.

Leave a Reply