Junkyard Gem: 2008 Suzuki Reno

Next time you’re hosting a car-trivia night at your local junkyard/bar (hey, such places exist), you might try to stump your guests with a really tough one: What was the last US-market car to be designed entirely by Daewoo prior to the GM takeover? Sure, Americans could buy the Daewoo-badged Lanos, Nubira, and Leganza for a few years in the early 2000s, and the Verona was really just a slightly updated Leganza with Suzuki badges pasted on. The Chevy Aveo/Pontiac G3 was the descendant of the Lanos, but that special Daewoo sauce had been diluted by other GM flavors by the time it hit our shores. I say the answer is the Daewoo Lacetti — yes, that Lacetti — which was sold in the United States as the Suzuki Forenza (in sedan form) and Suzuki Reno (as a hatchback). Here’s an example of one of the very last Renos you could buy here, found in a car graveyard near Denver, Colorado.

The South Korea-built Reno never made much of an impression on the reviewers at this — or, I’m pretty sure, any — publication, despite having been styled by Giugiaro, though it was very reasonably priced during its 2005-2008 American sales run. My only experience driving the Reno comes from the time I rented one in South Carolina for just $9.98 a day. For that price, I thought it was a perfectly serviceable transportation appliance.

Suzuki had been building cars for GM since the first Cultus hit American showrooms as the 1985 Chevrolet Sprint, and ties between the two companies became stronger as the 20th century became the 21st. They joined forces to buy bankrupt Daewoo in 2004, with American Suzuki selling the hastily-rebadged Nubira starting the next year. After a bit of excitement over the promising Suzuki Kizashi, American Suzuki filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and ceased selling cars here the following year. Don’t feel too bad for Suzuki, though — in Japan, the company has had years of smash sales success with the Hustler, and of course Suzuki motorcycles and ATVs remain popular here.

How much was this little Daewoo when new? With the base five-speed manual transmission, the MSRP on the base ’08 Reno was $13,839, or about $19,425 in 2022 dollars.

However, this car has the automatic transmission, an $1,100 option ($1,545 now). 

You did get air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo in the base ’08 Reno. This car has the optional CD player with AUX input.

Honda had VTEC and Daewoo had D-TEC. This engine was rated at 126 horsepower, while the version in the factory-hot-rod Reno SWT (Suzuki Works Techno) made … 126 horsepower. Sadly, the SWT package (also available on the Aerio) was just alloy wheels and some decorations, in the same vein as the OZ Rally Mitsubishi Lancer.

This car made it to age 12, with the original owner’s manual still inside at the end. The body and interior look fairly clean, so we can assume that some costly mechanical problem forcibly retired this Daewoo Suzuki.

There was once a princess on board, in happier times.

The princess had a baby. I wonder what kind of car they’re in today.

You’ll be not very shocked to learn that the Reno didn’t get a great deal of US-market television advertising. Here’s a Lacetti hatchback commercial for the Netherlands.

Being a member in good standing of the GM Empire (which it remained until just a couple of years ago), Holden got a version of this car known as the Viva.

This Egypt-market ad for the Chevrolet-badged Lacetti tells such a dramatic story that I had to include it here, despite the fact that the starring car is a sedan rather than a hatchback.

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