Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $2,600*

1997 Suzuki Esteem GL7 4-door sedan

1996 Suzuki Esteem 4-door sedan

1996 Suzuki Esteem interior

1999 Suzuki Esteem 4-door wagon

1998 Suzuki Esteem 4-door sedan

  • Cargo room (wagon)
  • Fuel economy
  • Maneuverability
  • Noise
  • Rear visibility
  • Ride

Unimpressive in most areas, except for fuel economy, the Esteem does not deliver acceptable value. For not too many extra dollars, several good alternatives can be found, including a Honda Civic, Geo Prizm, Chevrolet Cavalier, or Dodge/Plymouth Neon.


Suzuki introduced its subcompact Esteem 4-door sedan in spring 1995, as a larger companion to the Swift hatchback. Stylists claimed the shape was European-inspired. The front-drive sedan rode a 97.6-inch wheelbase (4.5 inches longer than the Swift) and, at 165.2 inches, measured nearly 16 inches longer overall. Three versions went on sale: base GL, midrange GLX, and top-line GLX with antilock brakes and cruise control. Only the top GLX had standard air conditioning.

A 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, rated at 98 horsepower, drove either a 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic. Power steering was standard on all models. GLX editions added a cassette stereo, as well as power windows and door locks.

Yearly Updates

1996 Esteem
Air conditioning became standard in all versions, in the Esteem’s first full season. Antilock braking remained standard on the top GLX, but unavailable on other models. The GL adopted body-color bumpers instead of black units.
1997 Esteem
Only the automatic transmission was available this year for the top-line GLX model, with its standard antilock braking. Automatic remained an option for other models.
1998 Esteem
A station wagon joined the sedan for 1998, with roof rails that could accommodate 100 pounds of cargo. Rear seats in the wagon folded to increase cargo space to 61 cubic feet. Esteem was offered in a choice of trim levels: GL, GLX, and GLX with option package (including ABS), along with a GLX SE version of the station wagon.
1999 Esteem
Not much was new for the 1999 Esteem sedan and wagon. Suzuki now called its top GLX model the GLX Plus.
2000 Esteem
For 2000, Suzuki added a new GLX Sport sedan with fog lamps and a rear spoiler. Buyers could now choose either the original 1.6-liter engine or a new dual-overhead-cam 4-cylinder, rated at 122 horsepower.
2001 Esteem
Esteem got a restyled grille, a standard in-dash CD player, floormats, and new seat fabric for 2001.
2002 Esteem
Suzuki dropped the entry-level Swift hatchback for 2002 and continued its Esteem sedan and wagon with few changes. All got an in-trunk emergency release and revised upholstery. And GLX and GLX-Plus now had 14-inch alloy wheels in place of 15s. Suzuki’s Aerio replaced Esteem for the 2003 model year.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Suzuki’s 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine initially produced 98 horsepower, which dropped to 95 by 1998. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard and 4-speed automatic optional; but starting in 1997, top-line GLX models came only with automatic. By 2000, Esteem could be equipped with a 1.8-liter dual-overhead-cam four, producing 122 horsepower, instead of the original 1.6-liter four.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/109
Engine HP 122
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 117
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.6/97
Engine HP 95-98
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 94-99
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

Best considered as an around-town runabout, Esteem lacks the power to keep up with fast-moving traffic. Ride quality also leaves a lot to be desired. Its short wheelbase makes the car pitch fore and aft on concrete expressways. The suspension does not absorb bumps well, so rough pavement translates to a harsh experience. There’s also noticeable bouncing on wavy surfaces.

On the plus side, the sedan feels nimble and maneuverable. Brakes perform adequately, but rear-wheel lockup is evident on non-ABS models.

Although the Esteem is more substantial than the smaller Swift hatchback, its body panels feel tinny. Noise levels are lower, but you can still expect plenty of road noise and tire thumping. Also annoying is a loud, coarse growl from the engine.

A GLX with automatic accelerates adequately, but the transmission on a new test model vibrated when it changed gears, and downshifted harshly. We averaged 24.2 mpg with that model, in mostly urban rush-hour commuting.

Head room is ample up front and adequate for two comparatively short people in back, though the rear-seat padding is hard and the narrow back doors are difficult to enter. A small opening limits trunk utility, but cargo space is surprisingly large, with a flat floor that reaches well forward.

Controls are easy to see and reach. Visibility to the rear is impaired by wide roof pillars. A narrow rear window cuts off the driver’s view of the trunk.


Model Tested: 1999 Suzuki Esteem

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 2
Fuel Economy - 8
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 4
Room/Comfort Front - 3
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 3

Total: 35


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.6 165.2 65.7 53.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.0 13.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.1 37.2 42.3 34.1
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.6 171.1 66.5 55.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
24.0 13.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.8 38.0 42.3 36.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Esteem 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 166
Injury 240
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Brake wear
Description: The bushings in the front brake calipers may be too small, allowing the brake pads to wear unevenly. Countermeasure bushings are available to fix this. (1995-96)
Engine noise
Description: Lifters drain down (collapse) after cold soak causing ticking noise from 2.0L engine briefly after startup and, if running the engine for 20 minutes at 2,000 rpm does not clear up the problem, lifters must be replaced. (1999-02)
Fuel gauge
Description: The fuel gauge is inaccurate, requiring replacement of the sending unit and fuel breather pipe. (1995)
Keyless entry
Description: Faulty diode in the keyless entry transmitter (with red and white lettering) could shorten battery life. A replacement transmitter is available. (1998-2001)
Rough idle
Description: The spark-plug wires on 16-valve, 1.6L engines deteriorate causing poor idle, stumbling, reduced fuel economy, etc. and should be replaced with improved wires. (1995)

Recall History

Description: Windshield may not be properly secured to the vehicle. Dealer will inspect and replace affected windshields.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.