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'06 Suzuki Aerio SX review

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DARNESTOWN, Md. (MarketWatch) -- Suzuki has a little bit to crow about with the release of recent sales figures that show some tidy gains. In September, the Japanese automaker sold 7,131 vehicles in the U.S., up 41% over the previous year.

While those figures won't keep the big guys awake nights (Honda, for one, sold 104,529 vehicles here during the same period), these are significant numbers for one of the smaller automakers. Yet here in the U.S., it's Suzuki's two-wheelers that are better known.

We tested the Aerio wagon, one of its better-selling cars. (See slide show.)

Suzuki calls it a sports crossover, but to anyone on the street, it's a wagon. Suzuki's engineers tried mightily to make this into a small sport utility, with a big greenhouse and seats that sit up on pedestals that give the driver a commanding view of the road ahead and no view at all of the sheet metal ahead of the bottom of the windshield.

The interior's made of appropriate materials for its price class and seemed put together well. Controls were easy to reach, but the instrument panel and the high-mounted clock and outside temperature readings all too frequently washed out in the sunshine.

The driving position was probably designed for someone about 5'6" but no taller. While there was plenty of headroom for someone taller, the relationship of the pedals to the steering wheel and the seat was poor. The seat didn't move back far enough, the bottom cushion was too short, and all that meant that a six-footer could never really get comfortable in the driver's seat. There was very little room for our left foot, and the seat pedestals chewed up valuable floor space. In our case, we found the rear seats more comfy.

Under the hood was a 2.3-liter, 155-horsepower four. The 2,698-pound wagon needs more if teamed with the four-speed automatic transmission (as our test model was). We spent a lot of time with our foot to the floor, not conducive for good gas mileage. The little wagon is EPA-rated at 24-29 miles per gallon -- hardly, in our opinion, outstanding for this type of vehicle.  We got 22 mph.

On the plus side, the top-of-the-line Aerio comes with lots of standard kit, as the Brits would say -- all-wheel drive, automatic climate control, cruise control, alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, and fog lamps. The warranty's a generous 100,000 miles or seven years on the drivetrain, and there's a three-year, 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty to boot.

We'd guess that you could make a good deal with the local Suzi dealer as well. The bottom line on our test car, with optional anti-lock brakes and a six-disc CD changer, came to $16,999. 

Even with a long powertrain warranty and a nice list of standard equipment, there was little here that would keep us out of the Honda, Toyota, or Scion garage. All three are more fun to drive and come with a long-proven record of reliability.


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Why doesn't Suzuki capitalize on its motorcycle pedigree then? "The new Aerio, inspired by our PQRSTT-400 sports bike." AWD on the Aerio (and 155 horsepower; same as their 6-cyl Verona) is quite impressive, though... I didn't even realize they offered it. They should market that.

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the front wheel drive manual transmission Aerio is quite fast. its a bit noisy, but it handles very well and the interior is quite pleasant aside from the not easily accomodating taller folks. its starting to get dated though. fun car.

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