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Review -2003 SUZUKI AERIO & AERIO SX - Review

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SEE ALSO: Suzuki Buyer's Guide


By Marc J. Rauch, Exec. VP & Co-Publisher

CLICK4VIDEO Aerio Report From Detroit Auto Show

Suzuki’s continued status, as one of the other Japanese brands, is really quite regrettable, especially for consumers who need a sensible economical alternative and want something a little different. The perfect case-in-point is the Aerio. While so much attention is being given to Honda’s Element and Toyota’s new Scion line-up, the rarely heard-of Aerio SX is probably a better choice. Why? Well, it’s just as quirky looking, it’s even more affordable, and it drives great (considering the vehicle’s price, of course).

The Aerio sport sedans (S and GS models) are similar to Ford’s Focus and Toyota’s Echo. They’re basically compact cars with extra cargo room: just right for the younger, active buyer, who wants to schlep as much as possible, for the least amount of money, and wants to do it in a new, peer-accepted vehicle.

The Aerio SX is a sport crossover, featuring sedan, minivan and SUV characteristics. Both versions of the Aerio are easy-in and easy-out. They have fairly wide door openings and they ride high. There’s sort of an effortless quality about driving either car. You don’t have to bend low or squeeze in, or over-think the operational details needed to put the Aerio in motion. To some degree (and I say this only from the most positive of perspectives), they’re as much fun to drive as a golf cart.

The Aerio sedans and SX share other attributes as well, such as the same general appearance, molded side panels, oversized grille, halogen headlamps and prism taillights. Additional exterior features include five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, fog lamps, distinctive rear spoiler with brake light, and keyless remote entry. The Aerio SX's hatch has a gas pressure-assisted lift mechanism, extra large window with a washer/wiper, and one of the largest rear cargo entries in the small car class.

All Aerios are front-wheel drive and powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that delivers a respectable 141 hp and 135 lb.-ft. of torque (numbers that are close to the top of all vehicles in the small car class. And there’s terrific gas mileage, too. With the manual transmission in the base sedan model, you’ll get 26/33 city/highway. The optional 4-speed automatic in the sedans and SX is also very tasty at 26/31, city/highway. An all-wheel-drive model should be available by September, which will give credence to the car's "sport" claims.

The Aerio also features a zero-maintenance, self-adjusting, two-stage timing chain and distributorless direct ignition system (the only ignition system of its type in its class). Front disc brakes are standard, as are liquid-filled motor mounts, power steering and MacPherson Strut front and rear suspension.

Unfortunately, low prices do mean certain sacrifices. For example, the interiors are very simple, and very basic. Floor mats are optional equipment, even on the GS version, but because the younger market places so much emphasis on audio systems, the lack of floor mats is more than made up for with a Clarion AM/FM/CD stereo, which is standard in all Aerios. Air conditioning and power windows and mirrors are also standard. SX and GS models have power locks, cruise control and a center rear seat armrest with cupholder.

Prices for the Aerio begin below $14,000. That’s pretty darn good for a brand-new spunky performer.