The 2.0-liter engine has a 6,500 rpm redline, but there's no high-end rush of power, and the best times came from launching with some tire spin at 3,000 rpm and shifting around 6,000 rpm. The shifter itself feels a bit sloppy; the throws are too long and there's no tactile enjoyment as it goes into each gear. It's not bad for an economy car, but the Focus and Civic feel better when swapping gears. The engine is relatively smooth and refined, but again, not quite up to Honda standards.
Initial pedal feel is good but it stiffens up quickly under maximum braking more progressive action would make it easier to reduce stopping distances without locking the tires under maximum braking (no ABS on our test car). Still, 138 feet from a non-ABS-equipped vehicle is impressive, and there appeared to be no fade issues as our best number came on the third and final run. The Forenza stopped straight every run with typical front-end drive. It performed well for a $14,000 car.
The combination of a soft suspension and Hankook tires did little to inspire confidence in slalom testing, but the Forenza proved far more capable than expected. There's plenty of body roll, but the sedan behaved predictably and was easy to toss around. Steering feel was commendable and the engine had sufficient mid-range torque. As with the brakes, the car's at-the-limit handling impressed for $14,000.