SEE ALSO: Suzuki Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 16,699 Price As Tested $ 17,254 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 112 cid/1835 cc Horsepower 122 @ 6300 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 117 @ 3500 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 97.6"/66.5"/172.2" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 2688 pounds Fuel Capacity 12.7 gallons Tires (F/R) P195/55R15 radial Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/five-door Domestic Content 5 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 26/33/30 0-60 MPH 8.5 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 17.0 seconds @ 83.5 mph Top-speed 115 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
BOB - There seems to be a resurgence of interest in sedan-based station wagons, Matt, and econoboxes are right in the middle of it. We had a half-dozen of them when you kids were little and they ranged from the fragile but lovable British Hillmans of the '60s to the quick but rustable Japanese lightweights of the '80s. It was always a challenge getting all you guys strapped in and if you insisted on bringing the family dog with us to Grandma's house, stuff like toys and diaper bags had to be strapped on the roof rack.
MATT - Those trips were exercises in family closeness, Dad, but they got the job done. The British are out of the mini-wagon business now, but there's plenty of them available from domestic, European and Asian manufacturers. One of the least publicized of the bunch is the Suzuki Esteem wagons and one of the reasons may be the fact that the company is a bit light on its network of dealers. There's only 380 of them to be found in 48 states, so the brand is somewhat invisible except in major metropolitan areas. Suzuki has been a powerhouse in motorcycle racing of all kinds for a long time, but its auto line has only been here since 1980 and its only product sold here was the little Swift minicar that didn't offer much to the average American. But the Esteem line is more in keeping with what buyers here want.
BOB - Technically, the Esteem wagon is very similar to others in its class, although it's a bit narrower than most. The engine is a fairly normal 1.8-liter all-aluminum four-banger with twin overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Unlike other econoboxes, the Esteem motor uses a chain to drive its camshafts rather than a toothed belt and this drops long-term maintenance costs a bit. Like its competitors, it is front-wheel drive and comes in various degrees of trim. The base model is the GL and it is, indeed, pretty basic, although air conditioning is a standard feature. Next up is the fancier GLX and then the GLX Plus version which is the model we're evaluating. The two lower models can be had with a five-speed stickshift but the Plus model only comes with a four-speed automatic.
MATT - The chassis and suspension systems are pretty common too, with MacPherson struts on all corners and sway bars to control lean on the turns. The Plus also has anti-lock braking as standard equipment but as on all the other entry-level vehicles we've tried, the rear brakes are drum units. The 15-inch wheels are aluminum and carry medium- performance P195/55R tires. Suzuki doesn't offer a sports suspension package as an option. I guess the company figures that buyers of this type of vehicle has put sportiness aside and are now down to the practical aspects of life.
BOB - In that case, the designers of the Esteem station wagon should have talked it over with 30-something dads like you, Matt. But the Esteem Wagon GLX Plus has lots of standard amenities to make up for it. It comes with tilt steering, tinted glass, power door locks, power windows, power outside mirrors and a power sunroof. It also has a tachometer which is pretty useless on a vehicle with an automatic. The sound system is the usual too, although in the base model comes with a CD player. Apparently, the audio cassette is going the way of the eight-track and it's going to be a collector's item in the near future. The rear seat splits in a 50/50 configuration in case three occupants need more cargo space, and there's a standard roof rack on top but no protective slats to rest stuff on. That may be hard on the paint.
MATT - Those roof racks never see use in over 90-percent of the cars that have them anyway. And owners of watersports vehicles are out of luck because Suzuki recommends that they don't use the vehicle to pull a trailer of any kind. In all fairness, most Esteem buyers base their purchase on more utilitarian functions.
BOB - That would have curtailed its use for us in the '60s, Matt. If we wanted to go on any kind of an extended vacation, we had to tow most of our stuff on in a utility trailer that weighed almost as much as our little station wagon.