Car reviews - Suzuki - Liana - range
Stand-out styling, economical motoring, easy to drive, great vision out
Room for improvement
Small engine for small-car class, better ride comfort is desirable
14 Sep 2004
By BRUCE NEWTON
A JAPANESE car at a Korean price comparison is particularly apt in the case of the Liana. Tape over the badges and you'd think you were driving something that came from South Korea, and not necessarily in the last year or so.
The concern here is a certain lightness and tinniness that expresses itself in the dissatisfying hollowness when closing doors and the amount of outside noise that penetrates the cabin from the engine and road, a reliable indicator of skimping on sound deadening material.
The Laser/323 twins, Pulsar, Corolla and Hyundai's latest Elantra are all a step ahead here in terms of solidity and quietness, while the excellent Holden Astra is another step ahead again.
On the road a performance gap is also noticeable, particularly with the optional auto mated to the engine. It's willing and smooth enough, but considering the Liana weighs in at 1140kg - about the same as its 1.8-litre competitors - it does feel somewhat breathless.
There's a lack of finesse to the ride over rougher surfaces like railway crossings and potholes too, but the handling side of the equation seems adequate and appropriate enough, with light steering that will make city and suburban manoeuvres simple.
Excellent visibility from a high seating position helps here, although the seats themselves seem too short and too lacking in side support to hold occupants in place when cornering.
The interior is pleasantly presented and with a sense of originality missing in many small-medium cars. The digital speedo, triangulated instrument pod, and use of brushed aluminium-look plastic on the steering wheel, air-conditioning controls and around the auto gear lever offset the inevitable swathes of plastics done in a variety of greys.
The downer here is the hardness of those plastics which in this age of "slush moulding" emphasises cheapness, and the stereo head unit which bears no relation to the rest of a homogenous dashboard design.
The split-fold seat design ensures a fair degree of flexibility, opening to reveal a fairly large boot and a hatch that swings open to a reachable height - an important point considering many buyers will be women.
Speaking of which - buyers that is - Suzuki Australia is keeping its sales estimates conservative for Liana, expecting just 2000 to find homes in Australia by the end of 2002.
Considering the price and equipment equation and its attractive styling there's no reason to expect Liana to fall short of that goal.
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