Suzuki Aerio Despite spending an impressive six years on the market -- and enjoying advantages like a roomy cabin and available all-wheel drive -- the compact Suzuki Aerio remained nearly invisible to most consumers. If you ask us, it probably had something to do with the Aerio's average-at-best overall report card. To use a football analogy, it was like a second- or third-string specialty player that Suzuki forced to suit up against several heavy-hitting, all-purpose first-stringers. This wasn't a game the Aerio was likely to win -- yet it was a better car than its sales numbers and anonymity would suggest.
Most Recent Suzuki Aerio
The compact Suzuki Aerio debuted in 2002 as a sedan and four-door hatchback wagon. Initially, there were S and GS (later called LS) trim levels for the sedan; the hatchback came in SX trim only. Later Aerios were offered in either base or Premium trims. Versatility was always a strong point for the hatchback -- with the rear seats folded down, it could carry an impressive 64 cubic feet of cargo.
Aerios were initially powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine; displacement was later bumped to 2.3 liters, with a commensurate increase in power. A five-speed manual transmission was standard on entry-level cars, while a four-speed automatic was optional on those models and standard on higher trim levels. The Aerio was available in either front-wheel or, beginning in 2003, all-wheel drive.
With either transmission, the Suzuki Aerio was sufficiently responsive for running errands around town or commuting. However, although the Aerio provided a soft, smooth ride on the highway, we found there was a penalty to be paid: excessive body roll around corners, which was exacerbated by the car's relatively tall, tippy stance. Opting for AWD settled things down a bit, and of course it improved the Aerio's traction in wet weather as well. Indeed, that optional all-weather capability was one of the few compelling features the Aerio had to offer.
Thanks to its high roof line, the Suzuki Aerio boasted a surprising amount of interior room for its size, and we found ingress and egress to be an all-around cinch. The Aerio offered a generous 14.6 cubic feet of trunk space, too. Unfortunately, interior plastics quality, execution and overall refinement were below average compared to the economy class leaders.
Some notable changes occurred after the Aerio's debut. In 2003, it received a slight power boost to 145 horsepower (from the initial 141 hp) and minor interior trim refinements; uplevel GS and SX models got a six-disc CD player and could be had with all-wheel-drive traction. The 2.0-liter engine was replaced by a 2.3-liter unit in 2004, and horsepower rose to a rather impressive 155. Suzuki added more standard features in 2005 and redesigned the instrument panel, which we had previously criticized as having hard-to-read gauges and a lack of storage compartments. The wagon was dropped for 2007, leaving the sedan to finish out the Aerio's production run by itself.
As a used car, the Suzuki Aerio does have a few things going for it. Its attractive price when new looks even better now that depreciation has taken its toll, and its peppy engine and optional all-wheel drive were pleasant qualities. But the Aerio was never particularly enjoyable to drive and generally came up short in terms of refinement and features.

Suzuki Esteem
Suzuki Samurai
Suzuki Sidekick
Suzuki Swift Originally designed as a city car for Japanese and European markets, the subcompact Suzuki Swift occupied the bargain end of the economy car class during its 13-year run in the U.S. Although Suzuki sold a sedan version for a few years, most consumers will remember the more popular Swift hatchback offered continuously from 1989-2001.
With a price tag well under $10,000 and fuel economy ratings around 40 mpg, the Suzuki Swift was a brutally practical option for buyers needing basic transportation. Its very small size and 16-foot turning radius made it a cinch to maneuver in tight spaces. And to its credit, the Swift provided adequate acceleration, at least when equipped with a manual transmission.
In most other respects, though, the Swift wasn't well suited to American driving habits. A noisy highway ride, low handling limits and a total lack of amenities, including power steering, were its main faults. And with a curb weight under 1 ton, the odds were rarely in the Suzuki's favor in the event of a collision. Mechanical reliability proved to be a strong point, but the Swift's low-end interior bits and body panels weren't especially durable.
Due to high depreciation, Suzuki Swifts can be extremely inexpensive to buy on the used market. Unless you're in dire need of an urban runabout at a rock-bottom price, though, you'd be wise to look at a larger, more refined, better-equipped car from one of the major Japanese or Korean automakers.
Most Recent Suzuki Swift
Suzuki sold the Swift subcompact in two generations, the more recent of these stretching from 1995-2001. This Swift was offered only as a hatchback, motivated by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 70 horsepower and 74 pound-feet of torque. In 1998, Suzuki swapped in a 16-valve version of this engine, resulting in 9 extra hp (for 79 total) and a smidge more torque.
A standard five-speed manual transmission drove the front wheels, and a three-speed automatic was available as an option. The latter was best avoided, as it compromised the small hatchback's stamina and significantly reduced gas mileage.
For most of the model cycle, the Suzuki Swift came in a single base trim level. Standard equipment included skinny 13-inch tires, daytime running lights, dual front airbags, cloth upholstery and three-point seatbelts for all outboard occupants (with a lap belt only in the rear center position).
ABS was the lone factory option, but Suzuki discontinued it after the '98 model year. Air-conditioning and a stereo could be added as dealer accessories. In 2000 and 2001, Suzuki created GA and GL trim levels. The GA was equipped like the base Swift of previous years, while the GL had the A/C and cassette deck as standard.
Past Suzuki Swift Models
The earlier generation of the Suzuki Swift was sold from 1989-'94. Equipment was similar to that of later Swifts, but in addition to offering a sedan body style from 1990-'94, Suzuki created a junior econosport called the Swift GT (GTi in '89 only).
The GT hatchback had a higher-compression, twincam version of the 1.3-liter engine that made 100 hp, along with larger 14-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, a rear spoiler and sport seats. It was still more of a warm hatch than a hot hatch, but compared to other Swifts, which had the 70-hp engine and wimpy 13s, the GT was reasonably fun to drive. A five-speed manual gearbox was the only transmission available on the Swift GT; other models could be equipped with an optional three-speed automatic.
For most of this generation, the Swift lineup consisted of a base GA hatchback and sedan, a better-equipped GS sedan and the sporty GT hatch. During the 1989 and '90 model years, Suzuki also offered midrange GL versions of both the hatchback and sedan, along with a GLX hatch that had some of the GT's cosmetic add-ons but not its upgraded engine and running gear.
In standard GA guise, the Swift offered very few features -- cloth upholstery was the only amenity of note. The GL models added tinted glass, power mirrors, intermittent wipers and a rear defroster. On top of those items, the GS sedan had an AM/FM stereo with a cassette deck. Air-conditioning was available as an accessory.
Following a mild refresh in 1992, the Swift GS added a center console, a tachometer and a clock. Curiously, GS sedans and GT hatchbacks from '92 and later also had power steering -- a convenience that didn't carry over to the subsequent generation.
One thing to keep in mind if you run across a Suzuki Swift from this era is the minimal safety content. There were no front airbags, and ABS was not an option.

Suzuki Verona Quentin Crisp once said, "If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style." It's a message Suzuki wisely took to heart in its expeditious handling of the short-lived Verona.
Sold as the Daewoo Magnus internationally, the Suzuki Verona was launched on U.S. shores in model-year 2004, a reflection of Suzuki's desire to carve its niche in the lucrative midsize sedan segment. The Verona came armed with one of the lowest price tags in the segment, along with a decent interior and pleasant ride quality. Still, it became immediately apparent that the sedan's modest charms weren't enough to lure buyers in this highly competitive segment.
Suzuki's sales goals were by no means overly ambitious -- the manufacturer hoped to sell a meager 25,000 Veronas per year. Sales fell short of even these humble expectations as consumers were turned off by the car's lack of key safety features and unimpressive handling and performance. Suzuki quickly called it a day, killing the Verona in 2006. However, the manufacturer hasn't let go of its dream of conquering the midsize sedan segment. Suzuki has announced plans to re-enter the category in the near future with an all-new vehicle.
Most Recent Suzuki Verona
Available in a single generation spanning 2004-'06, the Suzuki Verona midsize sedan was the largest car in Suzuki's roster at this time. With one of the lowest price tags in its segment, this Suzuki was designed to appeal to buyers wanting an inexpensive way into the midsize sedan category.
Verona buyers got a car with handsome though nondescript looks, and a wheelbase roughly equal to that of a Honda Accord. The most inexpensive Verona was the S trim, which came with keyless entry, 15-inch wheels, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories and a CD player. Next up was the LX, which added climate control, 16-inch alloys and auxiliary remote steering wheel controls. Those who chose the Verona EX benefited from additional features like an electrochromatic rearview mirror, heated seats and a power moonroof. Traction control was the only option, available solely on the EX.
This family sedan was more notable for what it didn't offer than for what it did. Convenience features like a tilt and telescoping steering wheel and one-touch up/down windows weren't available, even though they were commonly found elsewhere in the midsize segment. Also absent was an in-dash CD changer. Its safety features list also came up short, as the Verona initially failed to offer side and head curtain airbags. (Side airbags were eventually added, however.)
Inside its cabin, the Suzuki Verona drew favorable comparisons to the Honda Accord and Volkswagen Passat. Gauges were pleasant to look at and some materials did a nice job of conveying an air of quality. Materials weren't universally up to snuff, though. The Verona's leather was coarse to the touch, and plastics on the dash felt cheap. Control stalks were flimsy relative to those of other cars in its class.
The car's engine, a 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder producing 155 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, struggled laboriously to help the Verona accomplish even the most basic passing maneuvers and distinguished itself as one of the weakest in its class -- even relative to competing sedans' inline four-cylinder engines. On the plus side, the car's four-speed transmission made the best of the situation with well-timed shifts.
Suzuki took steps to make the Verona more palatable. In 2005, the car got long-overdue side airbags, along with a standard tire-pressure monitoring system and a trunk-mounted tool case. LX models benefited from a standard sunroof. Antilock brakes became standard in 2006; the trim lineup was also condensed into two trims, the Base (which was similar to the former S) and the Luxury (similar to the ES).
In editorial reviews, the Suzuki Verona's driving experience proved to be a disappointment. Acceleration was lackluster and the car was wobbly around turns; steering, too, came up short, feeling disconnected from the road. In its favor, the Verona offered capable brakes and a comfortable ride.
In the end, though, even Clarence Darrow would be hard-pressed to win a case for the Verona. Although inoffensive, it simply didn't measure up to its rivals; in an Edmunds.com comparison test of 10 midsize sedans, the Suzuki Verona was the last-place finisher. Used-car buyers seeking dirt-cheap prices in this segment would be better served by choices like the Hyundai Sonata or Chevrolet Malibu instead.

Suzuki Vitara By the late 1990s, the major Japanese automakers had established a new design direction for compact SUVs by introducing models with car-based platforms for enhanced comfort and efficiency. However, Suzuki had been in the cute-ute business longer than almost anyone, and when the time came to replace its long-running Sidekick, Suzuki stuck to its traditions for the then-new Vitara.
Essentially, the Suzuki Vitara was born with the roots of a truck. Instead of adapting new, lighter unibody construction, the Suzuki maintained a rugged body-on-frame design. Every Vitara rode on a solid-rear-axle suspension and came with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. Thanks to 8 inches of ground clearance, 4WD models possessed better-than-average off-road ability. An available two-door convertible body style also made it possible to equip a Vitara as a fun-in-the-sun runabout, and responsive steering made it enjoyable on any surface.
Still, the Suzuki Vitara had too many detriments weighing it down in real-world driving. Slow acceleration was a problem with either of the small four-cylinder engines, and a hard-to-shift manual transmission didn't help. The low-tech suspension could never absorb bumps very well, the rear seat was cramped (space was identical in both body styles) and cargo capacity was a modest 45 cubic feet even on the four-door. Finally, the interior looked dated even when new, and some of its controls weren't user-friendly.
Suzuki raised the Vitara's standards in power and features over time, but at both the beginning and end, we'd still say Honda, Toyota and Subaru had better SUVs for the street, while Nissan and Jeep had better off-roaders.
Most Recent Suzuki Vitara
While the upscale Grand Vitara lived to see another generation, the regular Suzuki Vitara led one lifetime spanning from 1999-2004. Body styles included a four-door hardtop and a two-door convertible soft top that was shorter than the four-door by 11 inches in both length and wheelbase. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 97 horsepower was the base engine on two-doors; a 2.0-liter version with 127 hp was optional on the two-door and standard with the four-door. Both engines came with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, with shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive optional with any combination.
The Vitara's initial trim lines were JS (2WD) and JX (4WD), though by its second year that expanded with the JLS and JLX, which became the only models with power windows, power locks, air-conditioning, and on the four-door, cruise control. Among two-door Vitaras, the JLS and JLX were also significant for having the more tolerable 2.0-liter engine.
Many details changed over the years. Along with the trim line changes for 2000, the two-door Vitara earned standard air-conditioning. For model-year 2001 came a new grille, seat fabric and an easier-to-use stereo. In 2002, the JS and JX got dropped completely and took their 1.6-liter engine with them, trimming the Vitara line down to JLS 2WD and JLX 4WD models. All trim lines vanished for 2003, and only the four-door model made it to the Vitara's final year in 2004, when a 165-hp 2.5-liter V6 became the new engine.
If you feel compelled to buy a Suzuki Vitara, later is better: The improved content and ergonomics of more recent models make for a more appealing SUV. Regardless of year, try sticking to models with at least the 2.0-liter engine, whose 127 hp is just enough.

Suzuki X-90

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