Few vehicles have drawn as many negative opinions as the Pontiac Aztek. The automaker calls it a sport recreation vehicle that blends the attributes of a sport utility vehicle with those of a minivan, sedan and wagon.
Designed to provide all-purpose transportation and targeted at younger buyers, the Aztek was introduced in the 2001 model year. Based on the platform used for General Motors' front-wheel-drive minivans, the Aztek was the corporation's first SUV/minivan "crossover" vehicle. The Buick Rendezvous uses similar construction.
Many media and industry observers branded the Aztek as ugly and unappealing. Not everyone agreed that the new model was an unforgivable error for Pontiac, but some appearance alterations did occur.
The Aztek can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. Azteks equipped with GM's OnStar communication system gain upgraded hands-free capability for 2005. A CD/MP3 player became available in 2004 models. A Rally Edition option group features a lowered front suspension, chromed 17-inch aluminum wheels and a body-colored grille.
Pontiac's signature twin-port grille is fairly familiar, but the rest of the body is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The bumpers and lower bodysides are clad in gray plastic, and a large flip-up glass rear window gives the back end a steep slope. A tailgate below the rear glass folds down and contains built-in seats and cupholders.
Fitted with four conventional side doors, the Aztek stands 66.9 inches tall, rides a 108.3-inch wheelbase and measures 182.2 inches long overall. A rear spoiler is standard. Standard tires are 16 inches in diameter, but 17-inch tires are available.
Pontiac promotes the five-passenger Aztek's versatile interior, which features two front bucket seats and a three-place rear bench. The Aztek's cargo capacity expands from 45.4 cubic feet to 95.1 cubic feet when the rear seats are removed; the vehicle can accommodate a 4-by-8-foot plywood sheet.
Two cargo storage systems are available: a pull-out cargo tray that holds up to 400 pounds, and a cargo net that has floor-mounted anchors. A removable insulated cooler/console latches between the front seats.
An optional head-up display projects driving information onto the windshield. A camping option group includes a tent that fits over the back half of the vehicle. XM Satellite Radio and DVD backseat entertainment are available.
Under the Hood
A 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Aztek can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive.
All-wheel-drive Azteks have side-impact airbags and antilock brakes, which are optional on front-drive models.
Styling opinions differ, but the Aztek has been quite an attention-getter. This SUV is surprisingly quiet and solid on the road. It steers with a light touch, maneuvers nicely around town and is stable on the highway.
The Aztek's eager performance might not set any records, but its response is more than satisfying. Handling is about on par for a vehicle of this caliber, but the SUV's biggest bonus is its flexible interior space.