Continuing on with the Suzuki Weekend, where we celebrate the end of the Suzuki Branded cars here in the States. Suzuki produced some very interesting cars and only exported a few of them for the North American Market. Some were memorable (Like the Swift GTi), while others were regrettable (The Re-Badged Daewoos), but the ones between those bookends are somewhat forgettable, and were lost within the market place because of indifferent advertising, or better offerings from other manufacturers. So let’s take a look at the Suzuki Esteem, and the Aerio, a couple of cars that are yawn inducing at best.
The Esteem was an attempt to compete with larger compacts for a Company known for its diminutive offerings thus far. The Esteem was roughly Honda Civic sized, and was offered here in North America as either a 4-door Sedan, or a 5-Door Wagon, a market that was all but vacated by the mainstream Japanese brands by this time. Known in its home market as the Cultus Crescent, it was introduced in the global market in the first half of 1995 as Suzuki’s first attempt in the compact segment. As a North American replacement for the Suzuki Swift sedan, it was built on a slightly stretched Cultus platform for improved cabin room, but otherwise sharing most of internal components with the smaller model.
The Cultus Crescent was initially available as a three-door hatchback and four-door sedan. The North American Esteem was offered with the 1.6L SOHC 4-cylinder, basically the same engine as found in the Suzuki Escudo (Sidekick), with power raised to about 95HP in federalized form. The Esteem Wagon debuted later, after a 1998 facelift, featuring a 1.8L J18A chain-driven DOHC engine. This was Suzuki’s first station wagon (excluding kei cars). Both were discontinued after 2001.
The replacement to the Esteem/Cultus Crescent was the smaller Aerio for North America, which was called the Liana in the rest of the world. Models in North America got a larger and more powerful 2.0 L engine with 145 hp. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard with a 4-speed automatic optional. All-wheel-drive was available, but only with the automatic. American Aerios came in two trim levels: the S and GS (2002–2004), S and LX (2005), and Base and Premium (2006–2007). Key changes over the years included an upgrade to a new 2.3-liter 155 hp engine in 2004, a major styling and interior refresh in 2005 (replacing the digital instruments with conventional analog ones), and the standardization of antilock brakes in 2006. Only the Aerio sedan remained for 2007, as the hatchback had been shelved to make room for the new 2007 SX4 hatchback. Throughout its run, the Aerio was distinct for being the most affordable car in America to offer all-wheel-drive.
Fans of Top Gear UK will recognize the Suzuki Liana as one of the cars selected for the segment “Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car”. What is truly bizarre is the fact that the Chevrolet Lacetti (Marketed as the Suzuki Forenza in the US) was the Lianas replacement. The US version selected the Suzuki SX/4. Anyway, what does this have to do with these regrettably forgettable Suzukis? Why nothing at all, so why don’t you tell me what you think of these particular Suzuki Cars…