By on May 30, 2007

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The Aerio was supposed to be Suzuki’s Corolla-beater. Born in ’01, refreshed in ’04, the Aerio is one of the few cars that can make a Corolla look sexy. While Suzuki’s website assures us “one thing is for sure about the Aerio: it really stands out in a crowd,” one thing’s for sure: it really doesn’t. The Aerio’s sheetmetal is so deeply and completely plain that Top Gear used it as a beast of burden for its ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ segment. And now it's a lame duck waddling into the history books. How should we remember this entry level captive import?

Obviously, not as a rice rocket. Even in Premium trim, complete with body skirt, fog lights and some steelies, the Aerio's about as exciting as the Consumer Reports description of same. At best this straight-from-the-factory makeover is classier than a cladding-infested Pontiac of the 2001-era, and a lot less aesthetically-challenged than an Aztek. At worst, it's a Toyota Echo.

aerio_interior_003.jpgThe Aerio’s Spartan interior is a generation behind its fitter, more versatile competition. That said, if you don't mind an endless ride on "It's A Gray World (After All)," or touching materials designed for train stations, the cheap-and-not-so-cheerful Aerio is a feature creep double feature. It comes complete with climate control, power windows, door locks and mirrors; six-speaker MP3/WMA audio, wheel-mounted audio control and… map lights.

Although the Aerio offers plenty of head room, the car still seems optimized for people 5’8” or shorter. Anyone taller than Carmen Electa will discover that the back seat doesn’t slide back far enough to fully accommodate their extremities (keep it clean folks). What’s more, the Aerio’s rear-view mirror is planted at ear level, obscuring most of the windshield’s top-right quadrant. So, if you’re a height challenged claustrophobe with a long torso and three kids, the Aerio’s cabin is ideal. 

japanesehandbag.jpgThe little sedan’s engine bay is filled with a 2.3-liter four-banger producing 155hp and 152 ft-lbs. of torque. The overhead cam, 16-valve, direct ignition mini mill makes the Aerio more brisk than it looks, or numbers would indicate (zero to 60mph in about 10 seconds). There’s enough shove on tap to ensure [merely] adequate progress in both town and country.

A five-speed manual may help boost mileage above mission critical 30mpg highway, but the Aerio’s powertrain is as coarse as kosher salt. Autobox shifts are slam, bam, thank you M'am and the engine noise is endlessly, relentlessly intrusive. The thrashy engine that [just about] could may have made the grade in ’01, back when Cavaliers were wheezing about, but today's small car market offers plenty of smoother-running alternatives.

side1.jpgIf you protect your ears by surrendering to the gods of sloth, the Aerio’s not a bad little city car. Its turning circle rivals the big cog in a Spirograph, and independent front and rear suspension soaks-up bumps well enough– even if never fails to share its tactile triumphs through an endless series of booming thumps.

The Aerio’s high roofline delivers a definite dynamic downside; the vehicle's high center of gravity makes it lean in the bends like a hurricane battered palm tree. The resulting cornering experience can best be described as “disconcerting,” especially when exiting a freeway onto a curvaceous off-ramp. When pushed (or even gently nudged), the Aerio’s chassis serves up copious amounts of understeer. All things considered, that's no bad thing.

aerio_exterior_007.jpgThe Aerio’s optional QuadGrip System is the car’s unique selling point. So equipped, the Aerio is America’s lowest-priced all wheel-drive sedan. Our Premium tester (with heated side mirrors no less) was a front driver. But given this model's demure demeanor, it’s hard to imagine the Aerio's core clientele would need more “security” than its standard front-wheel drive and some good snow tires would provide. But we get it; and there's a grand's difference between need and want.

With a fully-transferable 100k mile/seven-year powertrain warranty with roadside assistance and loaner cars (for three years/36k miles), owning an Aerio isn’t an onerous experience. One caveat: if something does go wrong, the Aerio is not what you’d call a common model. Parts are not plentiful.

aerio_exterior_012.jpgClearly, the Suzuki Aerio failed to meet its mass market ambitions. Which is too bad. The Aerio is a lot of car for the money with one of the most powerful engines in its class and cheap all wheel-drive. But aside from its ironic fame as Top Gear resident beater, the dull-but-worthy Aerio never appeared on econobox shoppers’ radar.

And now the Aerio passes the torch to the SX4, a vehicle that’s better in every way and only marginally more expensive (before end-of-run discounts) than its rapidly ageing sibling. The Aerio will not be missed, but it was a not entirely horrible placeholder for Suzuki's newer, better model. How great is that?

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48 Comments on “Suzuki Aerio Review...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    How can such a small car with 155 horsepower be so slow?

  • avatar
    shaker

    At 2700 lbs, those 0-60 times better be with the auto and AWD and 2 passengers — the SX4 gets it done better @ 2900 lbs with a 2 liter 140 HP!

  • avatar

    I’d forgotten they were still selling these. Though “selling” is probably too strong of a word.

    If you somehow like everything but the boring interior, find one built before the refresh…

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    People always ask why the Big 2 don’t just kill off Buick, Mercury and Pontiac. No one ever asks why Suzuki and Isuzu are still around. The Aerio doesn’t make a strong case.

    • 0 avatar
      john9441

      zero maintainance timing chain on a ‘non-interference’ type engine

      very very good choice for a long commute from exurbia to the city

      37,500 miles with only periodic oil changes, then added 1/2oz brake fluid

      changed plugs at 60,000 …. good to go

  • avatar

    Isuzu’s still around? How can you tell?

    I Suzuki’s defense, many of their products are solid efforts, and they have about a 40% market share in India, well ahead of everyone else there. They’re small in the U.S., but not worldwide.

  • avatar
    ctothep

    You should consider yourselves blessed – over here in the UK we get the Liana 1.6 (the Liana was the Top Gear tester before it was usurped by the Chevy Lacetti in the following season), which pumps (or rather, dribbles) out a paltry 107ps.

    We do get the Suzuki Swift though, which has gone from zero to hero, and is seen as a worthy contender to the Mini by some commentators.

    Also, Suzuki are still around as a corporation because they’re extremely successful as an ATV, bike and marine engine manufacturer.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I looked at the 1st Gen Aerio SX4 (wagon version). It was an ok vehicle on paper and kinda ugly but ugly like an Element or WRX way (forgiveable). I think even Suzuki portrayed it as a sporty compact. That’s until I got inside of it and took it for a test drive. This car had the 2.0 in it at that time and only the awd models came in auto which was a nice 80′s version of what an auto should be. I was very set back that this supposed sporty run about by Suzuki (maker of some great sports bikes) could make such a weak and slow witted small car. It was like they decided to make a car the same almost the same size as a CRX but gave it the fun to drive ratio of a caravan.

  • avatar
    NN

    I have always liked how you guys review these obscure cars every now and then. I think you do a good job covering the overall auto market; not just “new models” (although admittedly, those are the most important reviews). Foreign-market only cars, cars nobody buys (Aerio), and new models, etc.

    Along those lines; I just returned from a week in Croatia with a rented Skoda Fabia 1.2 L 4-door hatchback (gasoline model). I believe it only had 54 hp (it was an 06 model). But honestly, that didn’t matter much. On the windy Croatian highways, it did fine keeping up with speed, due to the solid handling. The roads are too windy for lots of speed and I don’t think I ever topped 120 kph (about 70mph), and I doubt it would be powerful enough for the American freeways. But for the local commute, this thing would suit me perfectly. I spent some time on the tail of a fast-moving A6 and kept up without a problem. Great handling car, decent enough interior materials. At the end of the trip, I did the math and averaged 37 mpg. I was impressed. I believe this is basically just a Czech-made Volkswagen Polo. I am 6’4″ and had no problem fitting comfortably, without using all the seat travel. I kept wondering why Volkswagen doesn’t try and sell this as their cheap-o entry model (this Skoda is built cheaply in all sorts of 3rd world countries). Anyways, just some thoughts on another decent small car we can’t get.

  • avatar
    Axel

    If Suzuki can get some modern powertrains from their Korean/GMerican corporate big-brothers, they will be the next… Hyundai. Good grief, a 2.3 that takes 10 seconds to propel a car that small to highway speed, burning gas faster than a Camcordia? What a crapfest.

    I’d give a Forenza wagon a serious look if its fuel economy weren’t utterly abysmal. A real, honest-to-goodness wagon for fifteen large is so tantalizing. Oh well, there’s always the Focus. Until next year…

  • avatar
    NickR

    I test drove an Aerio with a friend a year or so ago. I have to agree that the interior dimensions are a strange combo of too much and too little, and found the drivetrain to be both unrefined and sluggish. I’ve had a look at the SX4 and am optimistic that it will be a much superior vehicle. Incidentally, in Canada Chevrolet flogs the Epica (yes, of course some people pronounce that ‘A piece of…’) a badge engineered Suzuki. Haven’t heard a thing about it.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Suzuki exists because of the laws of physics which dictate that there must be an anti-Toyota.

    Now if I could just figure out which American brand is the great one that offsets the others….

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    What happened to the digi-gauges of the original design? They actually worked in a car that funky looking. (cough, Civic)

  • avatar
    omnivore

    NickR: The Chevy Epica (Canada) and Suzuki Forenza (US) are both badge-engineered Daewoos, I believe. I don’t think Suzuki has anything to do with actually designing or making them. Same with the Reno. Poor Suzuki.

    Sajeev: I totally agree about the whacked-out interior of the original. I actually really liked the look, and it certainly stood out. I also really liked the looks of the original wagon. It has a certain space-pod thing going on that’s appealing. Yet another company that cancels its interesting 5-door small car offering just as 5-doors are making a resurgence in the market (I’m looking at you too, Ford).

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Omnivore: did you just label the Focus as interesting?

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    hey the focus was interesting…. back in 2000. why is it that there is no decent 2 litre compact availible. can anyone name one?

  • avatar
    AKILEZ

    Suzuki is a great Brand for Cars and Motorcycles

    Their cars are not so popular because they are too small for an average American and and they don’t make a lot of cars for the USA.

    Suzuki is very popular all over the world.

  • avatar

    Suzuki had some pretty cool concept vehicles at this year’s auto show. I hope they’ll build a few of them. I especially liked the Dune Grand Vitara concept. It was a very good looking off roader. It could have a shot at stealing buyers from the FJ Cruiser and Xterra.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    HEATHROI:
    “why is it that there is no decent 2 litre compact availible. can anyone name one?”

    Mazda 3, Impreza, maybe VW

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Isuzu’s still around? How can you tell?

    I have an ’01 Trooper that I adore – perfectly sized, hugely reliable, tremendously comfortable, and goes anywhere. My only disappointment is the 16 mpg.

    When I shopped around in ’00, my local Isuzu dealer (also a Lincoln-Mercury dealer – talk about a sales trifecta of suck) had hundreds of L-Ms on the lot, and dozens and dozens of Troopers, Axioms, Rodeos and even a few of that freaky space thing, the Vehicross. From all indications, business was VERY good.

    Starting around ’04, the back dealer lot got thinner and thinner concerning inventory. By ’06, there was no need for use of the back lot…..dozens of L-M’s were parked out front, and a handful of Isuzu Ascender and i370 models were available.

    I was in for service a few days ago – they had 3 Ascenders (one and ’06 model) and 2 i370s…..and maybe 120 or so L-Ms. The back lot was packed to the hilt again….the Toyota dealer down the street was leasing the space for his additional inventory. Truthfully, I’m surprised the dealer still handles Isuzu, although there always is a smattering of older Troopers and Rodeos around for service.

    Isuzu blew it big time when they went to rebadged GMs for their product. The Trooper should have been updated – owners are generally rabid when it comes to loyalty. A turbodiesel or hybrid crossover would be a welcomed addition, as well as a reliable (non-GM clone) small pickup.

    Alas, though, I’d be surprised if Isuzu retail sees 2008.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Wow. My ‘teg was the same weight, less horsepower, better gas mileage, and went 0-60 in 7 seconds. How can they make it so slow, indeed. But I’m not surprised — my sister’s Verona is such a sluggish beast I thought it was a 4-banger… my jaw hit the dash when sis told me it was a V6. That Verona is the biggest piece of junk car ever… 1100 miles isn’t far enough away from that atrocity. But my sister was right about one thing. From the outside, it is cute.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Doesn’t the Verona have an inline 6?

  • avatar
    omnivore

    SherbornSean: Well, put it this way, the 5-door Focus hatchback is pretty much the only Ford I’d consider owning at this point. And that was even more true back in 2002 when it was new. I thought it was a pretty nice ride … handsome, space efficient, good handling, etc. The 2.3L engine also got some nice reviews.

    But actually, that’s not point (and it would probably be a pretty thankless job to be the Focus’s defender on this site). My point is that both Suzuki and Ford seem to be really misreading the way the market is moving. American drivers have been rediscovering the hatchback since about 2001. When you think about the small cars that have produced the most buzz in the past 4 or 5 years, they’ve pretty much all been hatches … Matrix/Vibe, Protege5/Mazda[speed]3, xA, xB, Fit, Rabbit/GTI, A3, etc. Even Dodge is in the game, even if the Caliber’s a piece of junk. Americans seem to be realizing that sedans just don’t make much sense (from a space-efficiency standpoint) on the small-car scale. It seems weird that this is the moment that Suzuki and Ford choose to discontinue their small hatches. At least Suzuki is replacing the dead Aerio hatch with the SX4 hatch (which is by all accounts a much better car). Which leads us once again to the conclusion that Dearborn is one of the world headquarters of Lights-On-But-Nobody-Home.

  • avatar
    mat51

    I bought a 1 year old Aerio for 7,000 US dollars for my daughter. Was loaded with every option. The car has been 100% reliable – maybe that is why Suzuki is still around. Seats are correctly shaped and comfortable, something GM can never figure out. After several years the bright red paint still looks almost new. I have no complaints with this car, except its relatively short wheelbase does not provide the same stability on highways that a Civic would. But it is not a bad commuter car, and they are a complete bargain compared to a comparable used Civic.

  • avatar
    mat51

    Verona was a rebadged Daewoo, with a 150 hp small straight 6.

  • avatar
    maxrent

    I read recently that Suzuki is the most popular auto make in Japan(in terms of sales) – particularly passenger cars. Anyone know if that statement is still current, or even true? While in Europe I found the Suzuki Swift is really being portrayed as a “poor-man’s Mini” in terms of styling. Never drove one, though.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Suzuki’s a major player in the Japanese kei-car market (600cc minicars, usually boxy, that are cheaper to register). They’re also strong in the slight-bigger-than-minicar segment. That covers much of the current Japanese market, sadly enough.

  • avatar

    Suzuki is number two in Japan.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Picture of the original Aerio funky dash:

    http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/hl/images/02aerio_dash.jpg

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Oh yeah, that’s the stuff: Star Trek spizzarkle without the cyclops tach and monster dash of the Civic.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Hello! It never ceases to amaze me that Suzuki, a maker of exciting sportbikes and co-designer of the Mazda 2.5 KL V6 DOHC rev-happy engine, can bring such boring forgettable cars to the US market.
    Contrast them with Honda, who perfected their motorcycles and applied the same methods to their automobiles.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    I love this review. I love it because I don’t think I ever saw the Aerio reviewed anywhere–even when it was new. It’s reviews like this that make TTAC such an awesome site, I really do enjoy how you guys review cars that most people don’t, or aren’t brand new, or slip under the radar. Cars like this Aerio, the Lincoln LS, etc, cars that you aren’t seeing on the news stands this very moment. Good stuff guys

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    100% agree with other readers’ comments – I too greatly enjoy reading the cars we can’t get in the US and also the “they are still around?” cars like this could have had a chance Suzuki. It is entertaining to jog the memory on what we crammed ourselves into while getting hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere Europe!

    I still think Suzuki had zero to no chance to recover after the Samurai disaster. Remember Audi in 1984 or so? Weren’t their sales several years later under 10,000 or so? I wonder at that time if their backing with VW (and I’m guessing they were under the VW family by the early 1990s but don’t know for certain) was the only thing that kept them alive in the US.
    I remember Suzuki replaced the tippy-mobile with that two-seater SXsomething that had no cargo room, no power, and a hardtop that came off. Add to that the Swift thingy that became less than interesting when they dumped the lightweight body, rice-rocket engine model, the Verona with a whopping 150 hp from a 6, and a few and far between dealer network. Yup – Isuzu and Suzuki cars can’t make it much longer. I can see Isuzu still selling their heavy duty equipment and Suzuki selling their crotch rockets that we drool over.
    At least the Sidekick (2-door) was a decent off-roader as shown in a rather challenging and exciting mud and snow series of trails in the Cascades by Mount Saint Helens. A little too much body flex though – I had to explain the crack in the windshield…and thankfully the coverage picked up the tab!

  • avatar
    wsn

    Robert Farago:
    May 30th, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Suzuki is number two in Japan.

    What metric do you use, Robert?

    In terms of units sold, Toyota/Honda/Nissan are the top 3, in that order. I have HMC in my stock portfolio, so Google always put related news items to my attention—that’s how I learned it.

  • avatar

    Sometimes it’s not such a bad idea to dispense with the Dennis Miller-like similes.. “…is about as…”, “…is classier than…”

    They sometimes detract from your overall point, and aren’t humorous in a ha-ha, laugh out loud sort of way.

  • avatar

    mat 51:

    You’re spot on. The pre-refresh (2003-2001) Aerio, particularly in the SX / Premium trim offers outstanding value as a used car.

    A 2001 Aerio isn’t much worse than a 2001 Civic.

    A 2006 Aerio and a 2006 Civic though is not a fair comparison.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    When I visited a dealer auction in Concord, MA, there were literally a thousand used Aerios in the lot.

    The Aerio was the ultimate un-sellable car. No one knew the car, no one knew the dealers, and there was nothing about it that was distinguishable in a good way.

    The first gen had these digital gauges that looked straight out of the 1980′s. The dashboards were even more idiosyncratic than the ones in a Subaru XT.

    The Aerio was a weird bird… and now it’s a dodo bird.

  • avatar
    CJ

    Honestly, this car is a joke. When was the last time you saw one…-crickets-. Exactly.

  • avatar
    GeoKrpan

    Suzuki is so competent at motorcycles. Sooner or later it will show in their cars. It sounds like they lead the Kei car segment in Japan. I think it would be great to have Kei cars here.

  • avatar
    Dream 50

    In terms of non-kei (sub 660 cc) cars, Toyota has always had between 35-40% of Japanese Domestic Market share in the recent past. Honda and Nissan always duke it out for the number two spot. With a little research, I might be able to find exact recent numbers.

    Once you include kei cars, JDM numbers are a little more complicated to figure out since Toyota sells no kei cars, but Daihatsu, a Toyota subsidiary sells a number of models.

    With regard to the people who think Suzuki has always made crap cars, I nominate the original Swift GTi as one of the greatest street-legal gokarts of all time.

    Keith

  • avatar
    subuclayton

    I can’t let that reviewer badmouth Aerio. I love my ’05, bought new, even though I’ll get nothing for it used. Very zippy, if not whisper quiet, engine.(I like a little rumble). Excellent headroom (I am 5’11″)Easily accesible knobs and buttons on instrument panel, loaded to the gills with options and the l5″ tires might not look too sporty but you can damned near make a U turn in a bathtub with this car. There is no car on the market easier to enter or exit than Aerio, with the high seats, which also give good road vision.
    I have received many compliments on the styling of my SX. If Suzuki had ever spent a dime advertising the thing it might have sold. But they spent their budget on a lame compaign featuring a couple hot broads going to exercise in a Forester, which can’t hold a candle to Aerio. I made damned sure I didn’t buy one of the Korean Suzukis (Forester, Verona, et. al.)Aerio is made in Japan and I make certain minimum assumpions about Japanese quality. For $14k, I have no complaints. Put that in your pipe, Mr. Syed.

  • avatar
    minotaur770615

    First of all. Suzuki Aerio looks OK. It looks great for me. As for power, it is one of the top HP and Torque in its class. As for acceralation, it is much faster then 10 sec on 0-60. I’m not sure where the figures are from, but it isn’t the truth and definitely, incorrect.

  • avatar
    stever00

    I have one of these cars. I bought it to commute 100 a day in. No, it’s not a BMW nor was it made to be one. It is less expensive than Honda or Toyota simililar cars. It has 77000 miles and no problems. The motor has plenty of power. The handling can be improved by adding tower strut bars and stronger sway bar which I did. The price was 14,000. You get heated mirrors, auto climate contol, 6 disc changer (Mp3) capable, cruise, tilt and 5 year 100000 mile warranty. It gets 30MPG and 100% Japanese made. I really don’t know what you can buy for that price that is better.

  • avatar
    OmarCCXR

    I got my licence with this car, and I absolutely hated it. Everything about it was horrible.

  • avatar
    GinoLimo

    In 2005 I bought a new Aerio SX AWD and besides the original tires that went bold after 20,000 Kms, this car NEVER broke down.
    It is now 8 years old and has 171,000 kms driven in Canada’s harsh climate, and the only thing I had to replace was the brake pads at 165,000 kms.
    I just made its first transmition oil change yesterday.
    The car has been completely reliable and it’s very comfortable to drive.
    I also own a 2011 Mercedes B200 Turbo and its seats are not as comfortable as my Aerio.
    The original post saying that nobody’s “going to venture out there” with the Aerio, fails to understand that AWD is mostly used to drive in snow and ice as we do here in Canada and northern USA, not to go off roading.
    The Aerio has served me very well, 171,000 kms and nothing has broken down so far.
    Except for brake pads, oil changes, this car has never seen a mechanic.

  • avatar
    aeroboy

    The reason Suzuki doesn’t sell well here, is that the consumer demand is totally different than in places like Japan and India.

    I have an ’00 Esteem wagon, which is the same platform and smaller version of the same engine as the early Aerio. I will hold on to this car tightly, not because it is great looking or that it is exciting to drive, but that it is so darn reliable and durable. It’s not hard to like a car that is so dependable over the years, especially when your life is too busy to deal with car problems. If all cars were engineered like this, auto repair businesses would be lesser in number.

    These cars are very well put together, and not where you can necessarily see and feel it up front. Although the interior is dull and cheap looking, the original liftgate struts still work perfectly even after 13 years, the car is still very quiet with the original exhaust. The car runs and shifts like new with 240,000 kms. It seems barely broken in mechanically, and I’ve heard of these (Esteems and Aerios) going on for many hundreds of thousands of miles with hardly anything replaced other than brake pads and batteries, which have a finite life span in any vehicle.

    Perhaps this is why Suzuki does better overseas. Practicality.

  • avatar
    RR

    i got this suzi, first time i sow it, i thought it got worst design i ever have seen, but after a few days i find out that this is the best car i ever have owned after MB E-class, BMW 5 -ser, Lexus iS, its the best economic, most practical, you will be exited after you sit in this car. it got huge space in it, looking from outside it do not shows you to be a car with a big space. i got JDM version, it got 1.5 VVT engine, and it ROCKS! believe me! it owns civics with 1,3 and 1,5 EGs. and not only them :D the plus this car is cheaper. its excellent car with every day drive!

  • avatar
    Agrijag

    Obviously whoever wrote this article is more versed in the art of teacup making than cars. With a 4 cyl 2.3 liter, I get 27 MPG out of my blue aerio. The suspension was completely undersold in this article too, they’ve obviously never even driven one. 0-60 in ten seconds? try more like 7 or less. My Aerio roars too, It’s louder than a friends 01 v6 impala. I have the automatic AWD version, as I live in Alaska.


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