Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,900 – $5,800*

2002 Suzuki Aerio SX 4-door wagon

2002 Suzuki Aerio 4-door sedan

2002 Suzuki Aerio SX interior

2002 Suzuki Aerio SX 4-door wagon

2004 Suzuki Aerio 4-door sedan

  • Available all-wheel drive
  • Entry/exit
  • Maneuverability
  • Visibility
  • Noise
  • Brake-pedal feel

Quirky and a bit sluggish, Aerio sedans can be efficient, low-cost commuter cars. Except for their tall build, though, they don’t really stand out among subcompact cars. Wagons are roomier and more versatile than most subcompacts. Both are deftly designed, relatively entertaining to drive, and were very competitively priced when new. Noise levels detract, but few subcompacts match the superior foul-weather traction of an AWD Aerio. Weak resale value against the top import brands could make the Aerio an appealing secondhand buy.


Aerio was a new entry-level subcompact, introduced during the 2002 model year in four-door sedan and wagon body styles with front-wheel drive. Among the smallest cars available in America, the Aerio was about the same size as Suzuki’s subcompact Esteem sedan and wagon, which were discontinued after the Aerios debuted.

Suzuki’s Aerio sedans came in S and uplevel GS trim, while the wagon came only in a single SX level. All Aerios used a 141-horsepower four-cylinder engine, which was among the most-powerful standard engines in the subcompact class. Both a manual transmission and an extra-cost automatic were available.

Antilock braking was optional, but standard equipment included air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, a tilt steering wheel, CD player, split-folding rear seats, and a tachometer. The GS sedan and SX wagon rode on 15-inch alloy wheels, which were optional for the S in place of 14-inch steel rims.

Competitors included the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, and Mazda Protege.

Yearly Updates

2003 Aerio
All-wheel-drive versions of the Aerio sedan and wagon debuted in fall of 2002. Suzuki claimed that these were the least-expensive AWD models on the market.
2004 Aerio
Aerios gained power for 2004, exchanging the original 2.0-liter engine for a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that generated 155 horsepower. This year, the uplevel sedan was called LX rather than GS. QuadGrip all-wheel drive was available for the LX and SX with an automatic transmission.
2005 Aerio
Aerio gains revised styling this year, including clear-lense tail lamps, new front bumper and grille, a new dashboard with analog gauges, and the steering wheel gets audio controls. Also, front side airbags were made standard this year.
2006 Aerio
Antilock brakes are standard instead of optional for 2006.
2007 Aerio
Suzuki’s smallest car drops its hatchback body style in 2007, leaving a 4-dr sedan in base and Premium trims.


transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

In 2002-03, each Aerio held a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that drove a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Initially, only front-wheel drive was available, but all-wheel drive became available for 2003. A larger, more potent engine went into 2004 models, producing 155 horsepower.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 141-145
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 135-136
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/140
Engine HP 155
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 152
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

With the 2.0-liter engine and an automatic transmission, acceleration is somewhat tepid from a stop, but improves nicely once underway. A two-wheel-drive SX with automatic reached 60 mph in 10.7 seconds. The engine has little surplus of power in the 40-65 mph range, but the transmission downshifts quickly for passing. Acceleration improves with the manual transmission, which has very smooth clutch and shifter action.

Despite the larger engine in 2004 models, takeoffs remain on the sleepy side. However, AWD models don’t feel slower than Aerios with front-drive.

Fuel economy varies. A test manual-shift GS front-drive sedan averaged a satisfying 31.5 mpg in predominantly highway driving. But SX wagons with automatic and front-drive averaged 22.3 mpg to 25.9 mpg in a city/highway mix. With all-wheel drive, the figure dipped to 20.1 mpg–not great for a subcompact.

The Aerio’s ride is reassuringly stable at highway speeds, and tar strips and smaller bumps are absorbed surprisingly well. Some larger bumps pound through and set the body to jiggling or bounding. Gusty crosswinds can result in mild wander, too.

Quick steering and moderately well-controlled body lean combine for an almost sporty feel, but small tires lose their grip early in aggressive cornering. Short overall length and a tight turning circle help maneuverability in close quarters. The brake pedal suffers long, mushy travel, particularly in simulated panic stops.

Wind, road, and engine noise intrude at highway speeds. Both engines sound coarse and loud under full throttle. Larger bumps and rough surfaces tend to induce tinny body drumming.

Digital gauges are readable in all light conditions. Big, bright speedometer digits are especially easy to see, but the fuel-level bar-graph and some other indicators are undersized. Radio and climate controls are just out of easy reach. Hard plastic surfaces are abundant, but varied textures, colors, and shapes keep the interior from looking cheap.

A tall build, height-adjustable driver’s seat (except for S sedan), and a very low cowl combine for a commanding view of the road. However, thick rear pillars detract from over-the-shoulder visibility in both the sedan and wagon.

Front occupants get plenty of head and leg room, though tall drivers may prefer more seat travel. Firm, supportive seats are mounted high for simple, step-in-and-out entry/exit.

Rear space is quite good in view of this car’s exterior size. The roomy wagon’s tall roof affords ample head room. Sedans have a lower roof that cramps passengers taller than 5-feet-9.

Knee room is slightly better in the sedan than the wagon, but neither feels tight unless front seats are pushed far back. Entry/exit is eased by high seats and large doors.

The sedan’s tall trunk is large for the class, but does not reach far forward. The wagon’s bumper-height cargo area is easy to load, and removing its floor panel reveals several handy compartments.

Small-item storage is rather limited, though there is a pull-out drawer under the front passenger’s seat. All Aerios have split rear seatbacks that fold easily and lay flat, once seat bottoms are flipped forward.


Model Tested: 2003 Aerio SX 2WD wagon w/automatic

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 - 7
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 2


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 4

Total: 38


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.6 171.3 67.7 60.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.6 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.7 37.6 41.4 36.0
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
97.6 166.5 67.7 61.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
39.1 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.6 39.0 41.4 35.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(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 N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Brake noise
Description: Clicking from the front brakes, most noticeable when changing directions, requires the installation of revised caliper springs. (2002-03)
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. (2002-03)
Engine noise
Description: Ticking noise when engine is started may be due to hydraulic lifter bleed-down and may require replacement lifters. (1999-2003)
Keyless entry
Description: The keyless entry system may quit working. On 2002 models, the transmitter and receiver may need to be replaced. On 2003 models, the system may be reprogrammed without replacing parts. (2002-03)
Tire wear
Description: Rear tires may wear in the inside shoulders due to incorrect toe setting, but may also be due to problem with viscous clutch. (2004-06)
Windshield washer
Description: Windshield washers dribble fluid, due to a lack of check valves in the hoses. Countermeasure hoses are available. (2002-03)

Recall History

2002-06 Aerio w/5-speed manual transmission
Description: Due to the improper shape of the clip, the retaining clip that keeps the gear shift cable attached to the gear shift lever can contact the gear shift lever housing and break the clip. Dealers will replace the gearshift cable retaining clip with a clip that has a different shape.

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.