1996 Suzuki Esteem Review

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List Price Estimate:$539 - $1,273
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Suzuki Esteem model years
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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Sometime during the 1995 model year, the Suzuki Esteem debuted. We say sometime because we have yet to see one in our neck of the woods, and have no idea when it drove off the auto show stands and into showrooms. What is it? It's a cute little sedan that suffers from too little power and too much MSRP, competing in a field of cars that offer superior value for the dollar. We don't dislike the Esteem. It's a cute, well-equipped little car. The problem is that the window sticker makes us think Dodge Neon, while the car itself makes us think Kia Sephia. Get the drift?

All Esteems are powered by a 98-horsepower, 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder engine connected to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Dual airbags are standard, and the Esteem meets 1997 side impact standards. A four-wheel independent suspension damps irregularities in the pavement. This year, daytime running lights are standard.

Two trim levels are available, base GL and uplevel GLX. Air conditioning is standard on the GL, as well as power steering, rear window defogger, remote fuel door and trunk releases, dual mirrors and a fold-down rear seat. New for 1996 on the GL are body color bumpers. GLX models add power windows, locks and mirrors; as well as a newly upgraded cassette stereo, split-folding rear seat, tachometer and larger tires. An ABS option package is available for the GLX, and it includes cruise control.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the Esteem isn't very big inside or out. It offers about as much value as a Toyota Tercel DX sedan, which is to say, not much. The Japanese yen is simply too strong for Suzuki, or Toyota for that matter, to price their subcompact cars at a reasonable level. Domestic and South Korean nameplates offer far better value in this segment, especially when you consider the rather skimpy warranty Suzuki provides for the Esteem.

Like we said, we don't dislike this car. At another time, in another era, we'd wholeheartedly recommend it. In the Nineties, however, we feel that there are other small sedans that offer far better value.

1996 Highlights

New for 1996 are daytime running lights, standard air conditioning and body-color bumpers on the GL.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1996 Suzuki Esteem.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
Very Reliable little car
GLX 4dr Sedan
I purchased this Esteem in 2001 for $5000 with 40,000 miles on it. I expected it to be a throw away car that would be discarded after 100,000 miles if I was lucky. 9 years later it now has 200,000 miles on it and is still going strong. I can't believe how well this little car runs. It always starts even at 30 degrees below zero. I have never had to change a sensor or had any major maintenance required other than CV boots at about 60,000 and a bearing in the transmission went out at around 100,000 miles. I consistantly get 40 mpg, mostly highway. I installed a cruise control to complete the package. The GLX comes with power door locks ,windows and mirrors definately a plus' for this car.
3.75 out of 5 stars
GL 4dr Sedan
I bought this car new in 1996 to replace a six month old Dodge Neon that was a total lemon. While it is a plan little car the Esteem has lasted with out a single problem for years and years. In most areas I would say Suzuki is just as good as other Japanese auto makers. I love the styling and the fact that you do not see yourself coming down the street every other car.
4.38 out of 5 stars
a smile-worthy econobox
suzuiki fan,05/13/2003
GL 4dr Sedan
A suzukie esteem was on the lot when i was looking to replace my huge van, and i didnt even bo ther looking at it becuase it was so gastly ugly. well, whadda know, i drove it, and i fell in love. the car feels fast (even though it isnt, i mean, 98 horses, what do you expect?), corners well, and gets outstanding fuel economy. if yoru worried about buying one of thses machines, just take it for a test dive, ad dont worry aboutwhats in head of you, because this is a reliable car.


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1996 Suzuki Esteem

Used 1996 Suzuki Esteem Overview

The Used 1996 Suzuki Esteem is offered in the following submodels: Esteem Sedan. Available styles include GLX 4dr Sedan, and GL 4dr Sedan. The Used 1996 Suzuki Esteem comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed manual.

What's a good price on a Used 1996 Suzuki Esteem?

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Which used 1996 Suzuki Esteems are available in my area?

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Can't find a used 1996 Suzuki Esteems you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Suzuki Esteem for sale - 7 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $11,093.

Find a used Suzuki for sale - 10 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $17,548.

Find a used certified pre-owned Suzuki Esteem for sale - 3 great deals out of 5 listings starting at $19,217.

Find a used certified pre-owned Suzuki for sale - 4 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $17,773.

Should I lease or buy a 1996 Suzuki Esteem?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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