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Suzuki Esteem wagon GLX

SEE ALSO: Suzuki Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  Suzuki Esteem wagon GLX
ENGINE:  1.8-liter 16-valve four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:  122 hp @ 6300 rpm/117 lb-ft @ 3500  rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 97.6 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 172.2 x 66.5 x 55.9 in.
CURB WEIGHT: 2,436 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY: 12.7 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 24.0/61.0 cu. ft. (seats up/down)
TIRES:  P195/55R15
INSTRUMENTS:  Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:  Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control, 
air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with in-dash cassette player, 
anti-lock four-brakes, dual front air bags.

With styling that's amazingly like the Subaru Outback, the Suzuki Esteem wagon has a lot going for it. It's a small wagon, and people don't seem to be making station wagons any more. The station wagon was replaced first by the minivan and later by the sport utility, but it's still the only car-based utility vehicle floating around.

With the wagon, you have storage in the back (and we made use of the storage capability in the Esteem when we had it), and when the back seat is folded up, you have a car, rather than a truck, as you do with the SUVs and even the minivans to a certain degree.

Esteem is a small vehicle. Even with the addition of the wagon at the back the size is not enormous, like our family's 1971 Ford LTD that we used during the early years of having children. So you don't get large-car driving comfort. Still, the driving comfort of the Esteem is better than it would be if you were driving a truck.

Esteem is powered by a 122 horsepower 1.8-liter four that drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. This was a good combination for this car. There was enough power so that we weren't constantly downshifting. The engine isn't particularly noisy, although Suzuki engines have a reputation for being buzzy. Most four-cylinder engines suffer the same malady.

Suzuki, is, let's face it, an inexpensive and a light car. But with the combination of the wagon and the slightly longer Esteem chassis (longer, for example, than the Sprint), it is a nice package.

Front passengers sat in individual buckets with a herringbone pattern on the upholstery. It wasn't an obnoxious pattern. In fact, it was decent-looking and dressed up the Esteem. Rear passengers sat on a bench seat that would hold three passengers. There was adequate legroom in the rear as well. For example, we took two passengers on a good two-hour trip (four hours round trip) and the Esteem did well, as did the rear passengers. We were able to weave in and out of the traffic around Yankee Stadium safely.

One of our challenges was returning through New York City. We had to negotiate about 70-100blo9cks of NYC traffic. I would have appreciated a stick shift because the response of the automatic in "urban guerilla" New York driving simply wasn't fast enough. Under normal driving conditions you can deal with the delays. However, when you're arguing with a big taxi for a small space, you'd like quicker gearbox response.

Getting back to the rear seat, we folded it down and put some pretty good-sized and weighted cargo. I was happy with the way the rear tailgate lifted up. I appreciated it as did the people who were loading the patio benches into the Esteem.

The Suzuki Esteem wagon is a solid vehicle. It is a good size for a small Japanese car. Economy is good and the engine does the job. In one particular instance we would have preferred a stick shift, but the automatic worked fine with the vehicle.