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2005 Suzuki Aerio SX AWD Review

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MODEL:  Suzuki Aerio SX AWD
ENGINE:  2.3-liter DOHC 4 cylinder
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:  155 hp @ 5,400 rpm/152 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 97.6 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT:  166.5 x 67.7 x 61.0 in
CARGO CAPACITY:  63.7 cu. ft.
TIRES:  P195/55R15
ECONOMY:  24 mpg city/29 mpg highway
STICKER PRICE:  $17,794 (includes $545 destination and handling

When the Suzuki Aerio appeared in my driveway, I have to admit to a little trepidation. The week before I had been driving a luxurious $74,000 sedan. This week was to be the Aerio, a $17,794 "small station wagon." It's classified as a wagon, but in reality it's a five-door hatchback, but who am I to argue with the EPA?

Anyway, there was this little blue vehicle in my driveway, and I knew immediately that I was going to need some brainwashing to forget about the luxury sedan and learn about the Aerio. The learning curve wasn't that long or steep. True, the Aerio is small, with a 97.6-inch wheelbase and 166.5 inches of overall length. But that just makes it easier to maneuver and park.

And the Aerio is economical. It has an EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Our test week took us over some interesting back-country roads, with hills and curves, but we had few Interstate roads to jack up the mileage. So our numbers were in the low 20s, still okay, but not earth-shaking. Interestingly, with the automatic the economy is the same as with the manual, when AWD isn't included. It's the AWD that drops economy from 25/31 mpg.

We had a little snow and ice during the Aerio's week, so we had a chance to enjoy the comfort of AWD. This isn't a vehicle that you'd want to take off-road at any time, but the AWD gives a little more security when the roads turn unfriendly. And as with Audi's philosophy, AWD improves handling.

Suzuki had maintained a reputation for producing economical cars. Some might call them cheap. So even though the Aerio is not as well equipped with sound deadening materials, it's reasonably quiet. There is some engine noise on hard acceleration and the doors don't have a nice sound when they're closed. The sound is actually tinnier than I'd prefer. There isn't a lot of wind noise at highway speeds, which is a tribute to the aerodynamic styling.

Up front the seats offer good comfort. I felt there was excellent legroom, and when the driver's seat is pushed to the level I enjoy, the rear seat legroom is decent as well for a small car. The hatchback styling offers better rear seat headroom than in the sedan.

The Aerio is powered by a 2.3-liter double overhead cam four cylinder engine that develops 155 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 152 lb.-ft. of torque. As I said earlier, it's buzzy on hard acceleration, but under normal driving conditions it's relatively quiet. Even though it was a small four with an automatic transmission, I felt that performance was decent. After all, the Aerio only weighs 2,700 lbs. (it goes up a bit when I'm behind the wheel), so there's enough power to go around.

The four-speed automatic transmission was fine. It dropped down to an acceleration gear when I wanted it to, and there were no instances when I would have wished for a manual mode (or manual gearbox). I'm sure there are instances when a manual might be better, but over the roads I traveled and at the speeds I traveled, none was necessary. I've always felt that the automatic/manual combinations best serve smaller cars, but manufacturers always seem to put them in larger cars with enough power. Go figure.

I was impressed by the cargo volume. It's listed as 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, which turns the Aerio wagon/hatchback into a hefty hauler. With the rear seat up, of course, cargo volume is reduced. But you probably aren't going to need four seats when you're carrying a lot of cargo, so you can fold the seat with no loss. The rear seat is split so you can carry one passenger back there as well as longer cargo, like skis. We used the Aerio for a ski trip and skis and snowboard fit well.

Among the standard items in the Aerio were fog lamps, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, and power and heated mirrors.

The Suzuki Aerio is a good value. It offers a lot of amenities and well as utility. Throw in the AWD and you have a vehicle that can handle most rotten weather conditions.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate