This year, the number one automotive buzzword is crossover, and every car company wants to have one. But not every automaker is approaching the crossover vehicle segment in the same way. Some lean more towards SUVs, while others favor a more sporty compact flavor. So how has Suzuki approached the expanding crossover class with its new Aerio SX? Well, let’s take a drive and find out.
Well, according to Suzuki, their designers focused on the winning points of minivans, SUVs, and sports sedans when they drew up their new crossover vehicle, the 2002 Suzuki Aerio SX. And after spending several weeks with the new Aerio SX , the SX stands for Sports Crossover , we think they’ve been largely successful in stuffing all those attributes into a slick and very compact 5-door package.
But first, some basic facts. Powering the Aerio SX is a larger version of the Esteem’s 4- cylinder. This all-aluminum 2.0 liter, DOHC, 16-valve I4 produces 141 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque. At the track, our Aerio SX with the 5-speed manual, a 4-speed automatic is optional, hit 60 in a respectable 8.3 seconds, with the quarter mile passing in 16.5 seconds at 84 MPH. Power from launch, while never overwhelming, builds evenly all the way to the redline. Shifts from the 5-speed engage precisely, although the throws are rather long. The clutch has a rather soft on/off feel, much like a BMW’s.
Gathering the SX in is done with a front disc/rear drum braking system with ABS optional. Our tester came with the ABS package and we averaged stops from 60 in a bit longish 128 feet. Our drivers noted the ABS produced a fair amount of noise and the pulsation tended to make the car feel like it was rocking slightly from front to rear. But after 8 runs, there was minimal fade and very good stability.
The Aerio’s high degree of stability was also noted when navigating our tight low speed slalom. We did find a touch of understeer on turn in, but with plenty of grip from the 15 inch tires, the SX hooks right up and zips through the gates. MacPherson struts front and rear handle transitions smoothly, making this a fun little critter to toss through the corners with predictable results. The steering pump, however, had a tough time keeping up with the rapid wheel reversals, a typical Asian design flaw.
Out on the highway, the suspension delivers a surprisingly soft and compliant ride. Uneven surfaces on secondary roads can induce some bounciness, but it’s not enough to upset you or whoever happens to be riding with you in the Aerio’s tall and roomy cabin. Where you’ll find comfortable manually adjusted front bucket seats that offer an elevated view of the road with height adjustment for the driver. There’s a tilt steering wheel, and squinty digital gauges that received mostly mixed reviews. The low profile show-car dash, however, allows for great visibility to the front and sides, and looks cool to boot. It also houses the standard Clarion audio system with CD player and 6 speakers, and the simple and easy to use rotary climate controls.
In the rear, the Aerio SX offers plenty of head and leg room with reclining seat backs. Fold the rear seat backs for a total of 63.7 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s more room than the competition. But with thin carpet, and no folding front passenger seat, the SX space is not as versatile as the Vibe and Matrix. However, there are clever storage spaces under the cargo floor.
And a clever pricing structure that keeps the well equipped Aerio SX below most of its competiton. Base price is just $15,499. That’s up to $1,500 cheaper than comparably equipped rivals. For those on an even tighter budget, there’s an Aerio sedan with a base price of just $13,999. But the good news doesn’t stop there. In September, all-wheel drive versions of both the sedan and the 5-door will hit the streets, just in time for winter.
It’s been less than 20 years since Suzuki started U.S. car and SUV sales. And, in that time, they have built a reputation for producing affordable, dependable vehicles that are always just a little quirky and off-centered. But the new 2002 Suzuki Aerio SX hits the bull’s-eye of the new compact crossover trend. And, when you add in the Aerio sedan, they make quite a pair from a little car builder that has not only gotten good at running the race, but now knows how to set the pace as well!
Engine: 2.0 Liter, Dohc, 16-valve I4
Torque: 135 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.3 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 84 MPH
60-0 MPH: 128 Feet
EPA Mileage: 26 MPG City 32 MPG Highway