Suzuki Aerio Review


Suzuki Aerio ReviewThe 2005 Suzuki Aerio SX goes through rigorous road testing as Automotive.com's staff gets behind the wheel and pushes this compact car to its limits. This next article will give you a crystal clear idea of what it's like to drive a 2005 Suzuki Aerio SX and what to look for if you happen to go hunting for one at the Suzuki dealership.

Here's something you might not know: Suzuki sells cars in this country. They've never had more than one or two at a time and only the luckiest dealers sell that many per day, but the 20th anniversary of Suzuki's car selling days is nonetheless around the corner. Using the vaguely familiar aliases of Swift, Esteem, (Chevrolet) Sprint, and (Geo) Metro, Suzuki has so far been content aiming for the bottom of the market. Not that it matters much; most of Suzuki's riches come from its line of much-respected sport bikes and from foreign nations with high demand for super economical cars (that would be all of them).

New millennium, new attitude. Suzuki now seems to be stepping away from the Toyota Echo and moving into the crowded compact car mainstream populated by the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, and others.

Road TestSuzuki Aerio Review
It's got the hardware to prove it. Since its 2002 introduction, Suzuki has been quietly making improvements to the Aerio. It began life with a perfectly fine twin-cam, 16-valve, 2.0-liter aluminum engine; 2004 saw that engine grow to 2.3 liters. Suzuki likes to compare its engine to the ones in the Civic and Corolla - an act that borders on bullying. Aim a little higher, guys; this is the equal of the motor in the Mazda 3 s or Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. In other words, the Aerio competes at the fast end of the class.

The Aerio's engine is as good as the others in tonal quality just as it is on paper. It revs easily and makes sporting sounds - maybe too sporting at low speeds - and the transmission is smarter than any slushbox built by Honda. It's fairly eager to downshift, but since it's always there in the moment with you, those downshifts happen instantly and willingly, like a butler who fetches your coffee at the thought of thirst. This is one of the better engine-transmission pairings.

The Aerio's all-strut suspension ranks at least average now that so many brand-name players are cheaping out with beam axles or torsion bars. Ride quality is composed enough whether traveling 8 MPH or 80. While the sharpest bumps pound through, the Aerio almost always feels planted. Handling is predictable but hardly inspired. The size 195/55R15 tires (once considered extreme, just average today) give adequate stick in normal driving while the light steering, while not sporty, is quick enough to not be annoying. The dual stabilizer bars found on all Aerios help limit body roll, but the roll that remains gets amplified somewhat by the high, upright seating position.

Braking is the Aerio's weak point. Press on the pedal a tad and not much happens; cross a certain point and you almost kiss the steering wheel. It's easy to get used to, but in emergencies, the Aerio really puts the "panic" in "panic stop." If Suzuki had spent as much money on the brakes as it did on the rest of the driveline, we'd have discs in back instead of drums. Tire choice is another area suspect of cost-cutting: the Yokohama Geolanders on our test car get a mere "B" for traction and a lowly treadwear rating of 200. A Corvette might have an excuse for such fleeting footwear, but a Corvette can, to put it modestly, do a few things that a Suzuki Aerio cannot. This issue brings to mind a recent consumer survey finding general dissatisfaction with the tires mounted on non-luxury Japanese cars.

Inside & OutSuzuki Aerio Review
Suzuki may be a little company making little cars, but the Aerio seems tailored for larger-than-life drivers. If the Aerio were any taller, it could dunk. The Aerio towers over all competitors, measuring in at an intimidating five-foot-one - a good half-foot up on most. Shaquille O'Neal might still need a sunroof (not available), but our six-foot-four, 250-pound CEO managed to cram his frame into the driver's seat with all blood still circulating at day's end.

On the other hand, the Aerio's height seems to have liposuctioned from its length, which, at 171 (sedan) or 166 (wagon) inches, is stubbier than most compacts. Rear-seat riders pay the penalty in the form of the nearly 90-degree backrest necessary for adequate legroom. Also, tall roof means tall windshield, which lets the sun blind you earlier in the afternoon than usual. The height adjuster is a nice touch (as if drivers weren't high enough already), as are the adjustable cupholders and the radio controls on the leather steering wheel (which can't scroll through radio presets). The driver's armrest is a sturdy, clever design that reflects more effort than the simple stuffed center console covers found on some other cars; too bad the Aerio has no center console to speak of. Overall, though, the (front) seats are a nice place to pass the time.

Cargo room, as you might expect from a wagon, is cavernous: 63.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down (59.5 for AWD Aerios). That beats the 51.9 in the Jetta wagon, the 54 in the Matrix/Vibe twins, and the 61.6 in the Impreza wagon, trailing only the Focus ZXW's 71.7. (No one seems to have measured the Kia Spectra 5 or Suzuki Forenza wagon's cargo specs.) It would be even more useful if the seats folded completely flat and if that permanently-attached fifth seatbelt didn't get in the way, but such is the price of safety. Speaking of safety, the Aerio just got a pair of standard side air bags.

Casual observers who previously dismissed the Aerio on aesthetic grounds should take a second look. When it came to design and styling, Suzuki was obviously more concerned with doing it different than doing it right. The 2002-2004 Aerio's interior was cluttered with a triangular strip of digital displays, a protruding radio hanging out the front of the dashboard, graceless transitions between dashboard panels, and no place to put anything. This year, an enlightened team of designers fixed all that was wrong. Simple analog gauges that turn a racy red at night adorn the driver, the dashboard looks proper, the materials and shapes have more flair, and there's a big glovebox, CD holder, and cubby spaces all around. Similar revisions to the Aerio's outer shell have replaced crass with class.

One change that deserves its own paragraph is the new stereo. Researchers have been yapping for years that young consumers crave powerful audio, and it's a relief that someone was listening. The Aerio now houses a double-DIN stereo with a 6-disc CD changer in the unit (not in the glovebox, or trunk, or anywhere else it doesn't belong). Attached to it is a set of seven speakers: the usual four plus two front tweeters and a booming subwoofer in back. The sound quality is above average, but there's a certain muffledness that makes it fall short of outstanding, and where's the MP3 playback capability? Still, the basic setup deserves credit.

Other ThoughtsSuzuki Aerio Review
With Hyundai and Kia's grasp on the low-end, Suzuki went for bang for the buck this time instead of the buck itself. Not that the Aerio isn't affordable. The S sedan starts at an inviting $13,994, which already includes the fancy stereo (minus the CD changer), steering wheel controls, power windows, locks, and mirrors, automatic climate control, and all the same safety equipment found on other models. The LX sedan upgrades with fog lights, keyless entry, heated mirrors, 15-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, cruise control, driver's height adjustment, and various richer styling cues. The SX wagon is equivalent to the LX sedan but replaces the in-window antenna with a roof-mounted one.

Thanks to the trim lines and options structure, the Aerio is easy to buy in more ways than one. The LX sedan costs $1,700 more than the S; the SX wagon another $300 from there. An automatic transmission costs $800 and the sole option of antilock brakes, $500 (which is available on any model, unlike with some competitors). Done and done. Our ABS-equipped SX wagon ran $17,294; most others climb into the $19,000 range when comparably equipped, except for the Kia.

The Aerio's bargain status improves further when accounting for the Aerio's optional all-wheel-drive, an option on wagons and LX sedans. Its $1,000 price is the lowest anyone charges for the system and lets the Aerio undercut its only competitors, the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe twins and Subaru Impreza. It's a passive AWD system and available only on automatic Aerios, so put to rest any thoughts of racing Evos or WRXs. Still, it's four driven wheels for a thousand bucks.

The worst aspect of the Aerio has nothing to do with the car. Suzuki claims to have "America's #1 Warranty" in spite of Hyundai's widely-known leadership in that department. The rationale found on Suzuki's website is this: Hyundai's powertrain warranty lasts 100,000 miles or ten years, while Suzuki's lasts 100,000 miles or seven years, meaning Suzuki's warranty has the advantage in "mileage per year." Genius. Why stop there? Why not make it 100,000 miles or one year, so that the "average" balloons to a jaw-dropping 100,000 miles a year? That'll show em! At least Suzuki's warranty transfers over to future owners intact, whereas secondhand Hyundai owners suffer reduced coverage of 5 years/60,000 miles.

That's just the powertrain warranty; it gets worse. What Suzuki doesn't advertise is the length of the more-important basic warranty, which, at 3 years or 36,000 miles, is the industry's stingiest. To call this America's #1 warranty is not the truth, not a partial truth, and not even a Clintonesque creative variation on the truth. Suzuki lied. [source : automotive.com]


 

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