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Expert Reviews 1 of 3
By Jim Flammang
May 7, 2003
Vehicle Overview Suzuki introduced a new four-door, front-wheel-drive sport sedan named the Aerio and a related hatchback dubbed SX in March 2002. Both cars display a unique appearance that places them in a unique spot in the marketplace. Performance and economy are also part of the new Aerios attraction. A 2.0-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine produces 141 horsepower and drives either a manual or an automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive becomes available for the 2003 model year.
Introduced at Detroits 2002 North American International Auto Show, the Aerio sedan comes in S and GS trim levels. Suzuki expects that quite a few younger buyers will be inclined to customize their Aerios. Prices start at $13,999 for the S sedan and $14,999 for the GS (both prices include the destination charge).
Rather than follow the lead of other automakers and produce a clone of their small sedans, Suzuki elected to give the Aerio a distinctive appearance. The SX concept vehicle that appeared at the 2001 New York International Auto Show inspired the styling. The four-door Aerio sport sedan is more upright in stature than most small cars, and it looks like a blend of traditional import and a modern automobile.
Design features such as pronounced wheel flares and multireflector headlights enhance the Aerios sporty image. A stubby, ground-hugging snout incorporates a body-colored bumper. Tiny triangular glass panes below the windshield corners evoke memories of several long-nosed vehicles from the 1990s, including GMs minivans. Prism-style taillights bring up the rear. The Aerio name is intended to suggest aerodynamics and smooth shapes.
Both body styles ride a 97.6-inch wheelbase. At 171.3 inches long overall, the sedan is nearly 5 inches longer than the SX hatchback, which measures 166.5 inches long overall. The sedan is 60.8 inches tall, and the hatchback stands 61 inches high. Large doors are intended to ease entry and exit. The GS and SX models have 15-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels, fog lights and a rear spoiler; the S sedan rides on 14-inch tires.
The Aerio SXs large doors are intended to ease entry and exit. It comes equipped with 15-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels and a gas pressure-assisted lift mechanism.
The Aerio sedans and hatchbacks seat five occupants on front buckets and a split, folding rear seat. The interior is upholstered in a two-tone velour/mesh fabric. A vertical profile and tall roofline translate to a high seating position, and the driver faces an all-digital instrument panel. The Aerios trunk capacity is 14.6 cubic feet. The Aerio SX includes a cargo cover. It holds as much as 63.7 cubic feet of cargo.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, a six-speaker Clarion stereo with a CD player, a tachometer, a tilt steering wheel and intermittent wipers. The GS sedan adds power door locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a height-adjustable drivers seat and other features. Floormats are the only factory option.
Under the Hood
Suzukis 2.0-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine generates 141 hp and 135 pounds-feet of torque; it mates with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The manual-shift Aerio S earns an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. The automatic versions highway figure is 32 mpg.
Antilock brakes cost an additional $500. Daytime running lights and child-safety seat tether anchors are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available.
In construction quality, performance and handling, the Aerio sedan and Aerio SX hatchback take a big step beyond the Japanese automakers Esteem. Both are more fun to drive than most small cars. Acceleration is satisfying, and the automatic transmission functions capably. Engine noise is more than noticeable, yet the buzzing sound isnt really bothersome.
The Aerio SX is easy to steer and control, and it breezes through corners and moderate curves. Its tall stance tends to restrain the driver from attempting any questionable moves. A light feel on the highway yields acceptable stability. Ride quality is impressive even on patched urban pavement, but some imperfect surfaces can produce harsh reactions.
Visibility is very good in all directions. The triangular panes ahead of each front-door window dont limit visibility, but they serve no useful purpose either. The sliver-shaped instrument panel is one of the smallest in any car.
All of the Aerio SXs seats are comfortable, adequately cushioned and snugly side bolstered. Space is abundant up front. Rear headroom and legroom are impressive, and theres plenty of foot room.