1997 Suzuki Sidekick

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1997 Suzuki Sidekick

Key specs

Base trim shown


6 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1997 Suzuki Sidekick trim comparison will help you decide.

1997 Suzuki Sidekick review: Our expert's take


The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

When Suzuki brought out a mini-sport-utility vehicle in the mid-’80s calledSamurai, people took glee in the fact a cute, though miniaturized, vehicle wason the scene.

It wasn’t long, however, before the media pointed out that Samurai wassoooo small that the only other vehicle you could run into without losinglife, limb or at least your front teeth was a 10-speed Schwinn. The lifeexpectancy in a Samurai, the jesters said, was about 35 months shy of makingyour final payment.

Then Suzuki added Sidekick, a Samurai on steroids. Bigger, roomier, morepowerful and even cuter than Samurai, which was discontinued. Sidekick livedon, aided when Chevrolet had the Japanese automaker clone a version for Chevyto sell as the Geo Tracker. Couldn’t be all that bad if Chevy opted for one.

Chevy’s presence helped a little, but consumer interest was turning tosports sedans, pickup trucks and especially larger compact versions of thosetoy Sidekicks and Trackers such as the larger Ford Explorer, Chevy Blazer orJeep Grand Cherokee.

But while very fashionable, some negatives surfaced about those biggerSUVs, such as their tendency to ride and handle like a truck, consume gasolinerather quickly and force your eyes to pop from the sockets when viewing thewindow stickers.

Just as some folks felt that perhaps a smaller, higher-mileage, far lessexpensive SUV might not be so bad, especially now that those tiny machinessported dual air bags, anti-lock brakes and four-wheel-drive, along came theToyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Neither Toyota nor Honda can build its machinesfast enough.

But Suzuki was in that segment long before RAV4 or CR-V, so we revisitedSuzuki to see how it’s coping with competition.

Two words: Not well.

We tested two Suzukis, the four-door Sidekick in 4WD Sport JLX trim, andthe two-door X-90 that also offers 4WD but seats only two.

Sidekick first.

Best way to sum up the Sidekick is to note that it’s 9 years old. Sidekickis boxy and slab-sided. Travel the open road when it’s windy and learn whatadventure means.

The top-of-the-line JLX comes with 16-inch tires to improve ride andhandling and bring added stability. But even with 4WD that helps on slipperypavement, when the crosswinds appear, you’ll find Sidekick’s nose pointingnorth but its rear end doing the Macarena in a westerly direction.

And the 1.8-liter, 120-h.p., 4-cylinder is sadly underpowered. The 4-speedautomatic didn’t help Sidekick with spriteliness.

Having recently driven the RAV4 and CR-V, we found both larger, roomier,more comfortable, far more stable and vastly less tinny when it comes toslamming a door, hatch lid or hood.

The Sidekick JLX comes with dual air bags and ABS as standard and headroomanyone taller than 6 feet can only dream about.

But Sidekick is in sore need of a remake, which is coming, but not untilthe 1999 model year, at which time the companion Chevy Tracker gets a redesignas well.

Sidekick needs a little more width so the cabin is less cramped as well aswider tracking for improved road holding and more sure-footed handling. Itcould use a slightly longer wheelbase and more overall length to distanceoccupants farther from the axles and the point of impact with the pavement forsmoother ride.

It could use a little more weight or at least a lot more insulation so itdoesn’t sound so tinny.

And it needs an engine with more punch. It doesn’t need to be a screamer,but if you want to haul four people, two will have to get out and push whenyou come to a steep hill or incline.

Base price: $20,199 with automatic, $1,000 less if you settle for 5-speedmanual. For 1997, Suzuki added a slightly less equipped model called the JSSport starting at $16,699. JS has become the Sidekick in highest demand–andshortest supply.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 3.8
  • Interior design 3.8
  • Performance 3.5
  • Value for the money 4.3
  • Exterior styling 4.0
  • Reliability 4.8

Most recent consumer reviews


Runs and drives excellent!!!

This vehicle have many uses: Tow behind motorhome/RV with all 4 wheels on the ground – no trailer needed; use for your off-road adventures or just for your day to day drive to work and fun. Great gas saver!!!


The perfect car for us.

We towed or drove our 4x4 1.6L 16-valve automatic '95 Kick 170,000 miles from the North West Territories to the southern tip if Mexico, from California to Labrador and everywhere in between for 17 years. Light weight, yet comfortable and reliable, it served us well on the open road as well as in snow, sand, mud and rocky trails. When it began to suffer cosmetically, and hinted of some mechanical problems, we looked for and found a '97 1.8L DOHC JLX automatic Sport with 101,000 miles, cruise control, air bags, automatic headlights and the works. It looks and runs as if it were 2 years old rather than 17. Having learned some maintenance tricks with the '95, I expect to get another 100,000 out of the Sport. When they were built, the Kicks were the only automatic 4x4 that could be towed on four wheels and our experience towing the '95 is the major reason why we replaced it with the '97. With the resale value of the '95, the cost of moving up from an aging no frills transportation car to a deluxe model in cherry condition was $2850. The major draw back to the Kick (and most Suzukis) is the high price of replacement parts which will get worse since the factory went out of business. But the reliability and ease of service partially makes up for that.


5 Star SUV

I drove my 97 SK Sport into the ground. I showed no mercy and gave no quarter. It never faltered, until I blew out the 4WD, high up in the Colo Rockies at the end of Winter one year. The Rky Mountain Rescue Team had to come in and get me on Snowmobiles !!! I went places that Hummers couldn't squeeze through. After 10 years of misuse and abuse, the 4wd switcher had nothing left to give. For 10 years I ran it with over sized tires thru all the Mud and Snow I could find 3 feet of snow was not a problem. I wish I would have just serviced it more than once in 175K miles. It still gave me 50k miles after that. She is sitting in front of my house, waiting for me to figure out what to do. I just can't bring myself to get rid of my dear old friend that helped my raise my kids on camping trips and the WILDEST 4WD romps you can imagine. If I can find another 5 spd, I will fight you to the figurative death for it. Long live the old sidekicks. I now own a 2003 (automatic) Tracker.... ugh!!!

See all 4 consumer reviews


New car program benefits
36 months/36,000 miles
36 months/unlimited distance
36 months/36,000 miles

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See all 1997 Suzuki Sidekick articles