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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.