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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
November 5, 2003
Vehicle Overview In March 2002, Suzuki introduced a new, four-door, front-wheel-drive sport sedan named the Aerio and a related crossover SX hatchback. Both cars display an unconventional appearance that places them in a unique spot in the marketplace.
Rick Suzuki, president of American Suzuki, noted that small cars are a segment where driving enjoyment is in short supply. All-wheel drive became available for the 2003 model year.
For 2004, a new 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine develops 155 horsepower, and a CD player is newly standard. The sedan models come in S and LX trim levels.
Rather than produce a clone of other small sedans, Suzuki gave the Aerio a distinctive appearance that was inspired by its SX concept vehicle. The four-door Aerio sedan is more upright in stature than most small cars, and it resembles a blend of traditional import and modern automobile.
Such design features as pronounced wheel flares and multireflector headlights enhance the sporty image. A stubby, ground-hugging snout incorporates a body-colored bumper. Tiny triangular glass panes sit below the windshield corners.
Both body styles ride a 97.6-inch wheelbase, but at 171.3 inches long overall, the sedan is almost 5 inches longer than the SX hatchback. Large doors are intended to ease entry and exit. The LX sedan has 15-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps and a rear spoiler; the S sedan rides on 14-inch tires.
The Aerio seats five people 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 trunk holds 14.6 cubic feet of cargo with front-wheel drive and 11.5 cubic feet of luggage with all-wheel drive.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, a tachometer, a tilt steering wheel and intermittent wipers. The LX sedan adds power locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control and a height-adjustable drivers seat.
Under the Hood
Suzukis new 2.3-liter dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine generates 155 hp and mates with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. With either transmission, the Aerio earns an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
Antilock brakes are offered as an option. Daytime running lights and child-safety seat tether anchors are standard, but side-impact airbags are not available.
Aerio SX Hatchback
Billed as a sport crossover model, the youth-oriented Aerio SX straddles two worlds: hatchback and wagon. Measuring 166.5 inches long overall, the SX hatchbacks are equipped with 15-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels and a gas pressure-assisted lift mechanism.
The Aerio SX includes a cargo cover and holds as much as 63.7 cubic feet of cargo. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a six-CD changer, a tachometer, a tilt steering wheel, intermittent wipers, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a height-adjustable drivers seat, and power windows, locks and mirrors. In nearly all respects, the driving experience in the SX is identical to that of the sedan.
In construction quality, performance and handling, the Aerio took a big step beyond Suzukis old Esteem. It is more fun to drive than most small cars, and the Aerio whips around town with a surprising amount of passion. Acceleration is satisfying, and the automatic transmission functions without harshness or undue delay. Engine noise is noticeable while accelerating, but the buzz isnt especially bothersome.
The Aerio is easy to steer and control, and it breezes through corners and moderate curves. A light feel on the highway yields acceptable stability, but the Aerio doesnt feel quite as secure as some other compacts. Its ride quality is impressive even on patched urban pavement, but imperfect surfaces can produce harsh reactions.
Visibility in the Aerio is very good. The sliver-shaped instrument panel is one of the smallest on any car; it contains an easy-to-see digital speedometer and a bar-type tachometer. All of the seats are comfortable and snugly bolstered. Space in the front and rear seats is abundant.