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The Aerio S Fastback was a finalist in Economy Car category of the 2003 Canadian Car of the Year competition.

2003 Suzuki Aerio S Fastback Road Test
Space Demon

By Bill Roebuck

Space is the Suzuki Aerio's key characteristic. The four-door hatchback has lots of cargo capacity -- 364 L, a large hatch opening, and rear seats that fold flat. There's great headroom and legroom in both front and rear seats as well. Suzuki says there's more front headroom and legroom than in a Lincoln Navigator. Three adults can squeeze into the rear seat, although it's a tight fit.

The Aerio's a little odd-looking -- particularly at the back end. It's a love-it or hate-it design, I find. It's most like a tall station wagon with a cut-through-the-wind look. But any dislike for its quirky look can be forgiven by those who appreciate interior volume, of which the Aerio has plenty.

It's design also proves to increase safety, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the United States has awarded the Aerio with its highest crash-test rating for its 40-mph (64 km/h) offset frontal crash test of compact cars. The Aerio design received the highest rating for safety, along with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The Aerio also received the "best pick" designation for the highest crash-test rating. (The Suzuki XL-7, along with BMW, Mercedes and Lexus, have received high IIHS rating as well.)

The Aerio has the most powerful engine in the economy car group tested at TestFest -- a 2.0-L four cylinder with 145 hp. Mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, it gets decent fuel economy -- about the middle of the pack for this group.

Enhancements for 2003 are small -- there is four more horsepower to the engine and that's about it. The Aerio arrived earlier this year as a 2002 model. This year, a four-wheel drive version is available for about $3,000 extra, making it the least expensive model of this type you can buy.

Standard features include a CD-equipped stereo, 60/40 split folding rear seats, rear centre shoulder belt, power windows and tilt steering wheel. The instrument panel has a small, angular display with a digital speedometer and tachometer.

The Aerio is easy to drive and handles crisply. Bumps in the road are felt through the cabin, though, and the engine is buzzy on hard acceleration. Despite the class-leading horsepower rating, its 0-100 km/h rating is the same as the Hyundai Accent, likely due to the Aerio's extra weight.

* Price as tested: $17,195.

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.