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2002 Suzuki Aerio GS: Back in Contention

(July 29, 2002) - The car world that we live and drive in is nothing short of contradictory. Car buyers everywhere are lining up two at a time to buy the biggest and baddest gas-guzzling SUVs around. They're replacing the standard 16 and 17-inch rims to put on a set of custom 22's and lift kits. Meanwhile, cars like the Honda Civic Si and MINI Cooper are increasingly zipping up and down streets and highways, saving both gas and road space.

Left: The Suzuki Aerio GS

We can't tell you what kind of car to look for, but we can promise to report about what's fast, slow, big, small, ugly, or anything else manufacturers can manage to bolt onto a set of tires. Adding to the list of econo-sized cars is the 2002 Suzuki Aerio. Recently, the test team spent a week motoring around in a black onyx Aerio GS, checking it inside and out to find what Suzuki has done to drive its way back towards being regarded as a true competitor in the small car market.

First off, crammed under the GS's hood are 141 horses, which add up to 26 more than the MINI Cooper, Honda Civic LX, and Volkswagen Golf GL. The inline 4-cylinder engine also produces more torque than the three competitors as well. An MSRP around the $15,000 line slips it into the price range competitively as well, though many of its statistics exceed the standards set by the rest of the cars in this price range.

Along with the torque and horsepower, the Aerio GS packs some other noteworthy features as well. The 2.0-liter Suzuki tested either better than or competitively with its three aforementioned class-sharing cars in all of the following categories: front headroom, rear headroom, front legroom, rear legroom, and maximum luggage capacity.

Visually, the Aerio GS provides both highs and lows. From a head on view it looks fast, due to a sporty front fascia that is highlighted by its sharp headlights and a new-age grill. After that the body flows back into a somewhat bulky rear, quickly. It isn't ugly, but it is very unique. We credit Suzuki for building a car that not only performs well, but also has its own originality as well.

Left: The front two tone seats

Inside, front two-tone bucket seats welcome a driver and passenger into a spacious cockpit. The interior is noticeably spacious, to the point where every single person who sat in the passenger seat managed to make a comment about how spacious it looked. The dash seems a little oversized, though if it was any smaller the car might appear to be too spacious, if at all possible. Instead of a cluster of racing dials, Suzuki installed a digital display to view speed, RPM, gas, and the trip monitor. Yes, you did read that right, digital. We came to a split decision about the display, as some thought it offered a fun alternative to the white and silver dials that have become just about standard in similar cars, while others thought it looked circa 1980's and would be out of place for a car trying to push the design standards of 2002. The amount of space for the front two seats seems to have directly affected the amount of leg room in the back, which really isn't as spacious as the front. Consolation can be taken in the fact that the Aerio still has about the same amount of leg room as other leading cars in its class. The backseats in turn open up space for the trunk, which we thought was the best kept secret about the Aerio. The trunk proved to be not just deep, but very deep as well; perfect packing up all your toys, or a huge stereo system. For even more room, the backseats fold down to maximize space.

On the roads, the Aerio has enough pop to keep up with traffic. All 141 horses are ready to go, and a stomp on the gas will quickly make you aware of them. At higher RPM, the Aerio isn't real quiet, but for all of the drivers who are going to bolt some performance exhaust on, that won't be a problem anyway. Residential and highway driving are both plenty of fun, and the ride doesn't leave too much to be desired. We'd prefer better tires though, as tire slip on the standard P195/55R15 all seasons during turning was evident. On more than one occasion, we could hear some tire noise during turns, which was a little surprising. A set of thicker tires would probably help.

Left: A rearview of the Aerio GS

Much like the hot-hatches and small cars coming out right now, Aerios will probably receive some post-production work from their owners. It really doesn't need much, but by bolting down some add-on performance, it'll provide a great ride. While we're giving out free advice, definitely go for the 4-speed manual instead of the automatic tranny too.

As for safety, the Aerio employs unibody structure with four cross members, which aid side impact safety. The front seat belts use pretensioners that activate when the second generation front airbags are deployed. Also, child safety features include LATCH child seat tether anchors and rear door safety locks.

Overall, the Suzuki Aerio GS lines up as well, if not better than much of its competition. It has a quality that many cars haven't been able to achieve, in the fact that it will appeal to many different age groups. Some of its key features like the head lights, interior, and grill will attract today's young NIRA-loving fans, but the subtleties of the body and its easy drivability expand this car's target publics into a very broad and diverse range. At purchase, you'll drive a fun Aerio off the lot, but customize it a little more and you'll find yourself in a very fun, very exciting little Suzuki.


Suzuki Aerio GS Specs
Engine: 2.0 liter, DOHC, inline-4 cylinder, 4 valves per cylinder
Net Power: 141 horsepower @ 5700 rpm
Net Torque: 135 lb-ft. @ 3000 rpm
Trans: 4-speed manual or automatic
Wheels: 15-inch alloys
Tires: P195/55R15 all seasons
Brakes: Front: Ventilated disc, Rear: drums
Acceleration: 10 seconds
Length: 171.3 inches
Width: 67.7 inches
Height: 60.8 inches
Weight: 2604 lbs
EPA: 26 mpg/31 mpg (city/highway)
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    Anthony Galasso is a staff writer for

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