2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Auto scribes tend to get excited about cars with big horsepower, fantastic handling, sleek styling and sumptuous luxury. But for most of us, these ‘cost-no-option’ thrills don’t represent reality. Yes, the real world – where your paycheque is devoured by taxes, rent or mortgage payments, the day-to-day costs of raising a family, retirement savings plans, and life’s endless expenses – with some left over for car payments.

All this is assuming, of course, that you are getting a regular paycheque.

For the majority of us, the most exciting new car on the market is one that we can actually afford. Which is why a rather ordinary little car like the Suzuki Aerio can be such a turn-on when you realize what you’re getting for the money.

This is a comfortable, fun-to-drive, four-door small car with a surprisingly roomy interior, plenty of power and a good warranty that comes very well-equipped for under $19,000.

Getting excited yet?

Chances are you’ve never even seen an Aerio sedan on the road – the Aerio Fastback (wagon) is a lot more popular, but even it is not a best-seller. The Aerio sedan has some advantages over the wagon: it is less expensive, more conventional in its appearance, and includes the needed improvements Suzuki made for 2005.

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

First among these changes is a new instrument cluster and centre stack. The unusual digital speedometer in the 2004 model has been replaced with two sensible round dials, and the centre control panel has been restyled for improved appearance and ease of use.

The seats have been redesigned too (for the better) and the seat fabric has been upgraded to a higher quality. Also new are standard side airbags and anti-lock brakes, two must-haves on any new car in my opinion.

There have also been some minor exterior styling changes including a new grille and headlamp design, new taillights and a standard body kit.

For 2005, the Aerio sedan is no longer available with all-wheel-drive, but AWD is still offered on the Aerio Fastback. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a big loss. Front-wheel-drive is adequate for most city and highway driving situations.

Standard equipment

For 2005, the Suzuki Aerio sedan comes in one fully-equipped trim level for its base price of $18,995.

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

Other small cars, like the Toyota Echo, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent, have lower base prices, but load them up with all the standard features on the Aerio sedan (if they’re available) and you’ll find the Aerio is a competitive value.

Standard equipment on the Aerio sedan includes automatic climate control, a surprisingly good AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and steering wheel-mounted controls, power windows, power door locks with keyless entry and panic button, power heated mirrors, tachometer, cruise control, height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, digital clock, and three cupholders. For an improved exterior appearance, the Aerio includes body coloured bumpers, mirrors and door handles.

The 2005 Suzuki Aerio also includes little extras like a folding armrest for the driver’s seat, a driver’s footrest, outside temperature display, 12 volt powerpoint, sunglasses holder, engine block heater, front map lights, and front seatback pocket.

The only option is a four-speed automatic transmission for $1200, and a dealer installed six-disc CD changer. A sunroof is not available.

Safety features

Standard safety features include two front and two side airbags, 3-point seatbelts for all five seating positions, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake differential for smoother panic stops, five height-adjustable head restraints, rear door child locks, and rear tether anchors for child seats. However, curtain airbags, traction control, and stability control are not offered.

I should also mention that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2004 Aerio with their highest crash test rating possible, a ‘Best Pick’, in the 40 mph frontal offset crash test.

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

To reduce the repair cost of low-speed parking lot accidents, the Aerio features removeable bumper protectors at the front and rear, and side body protectors to prevent door dings.

Interior impressions

The Aerio sedan’s cabin is surprisingly roomy. Four big doors make it easy to get in and out of, and the seating positions are high providing good outward visibility. There’s tons of headroom and decent legroom front and rear for four adults.

I was very impressed with the comfort, support and appearance of the front seats. The black seats in my test car featured prominent side bolstering, durable cloth and ribbed cloth seat inserts, and the driver’s seat has a manual height-adjustable lever on the left side of the seat cushion.

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

The new dash layout looks way better than the old one, and the quality of the dash materials, the faux metal trim, and seat material have all been improved. The driver now faces a large tachometer and speedometer and two smaller gauges for fuel and coolant. A new three-spoke steering wheel has a thick rim made of a slightly spongy rubber-like material for a firm grip. Who needs leather? Radio and cruise control buttons are located on the steering wheel hub.

The centre stack includes a pod on top of the dash than contains a red backlit digital clock and outside temperature gauge. The stereo is located at the top of the centre stack and with six speakers, the sound is surprisingly good for an economy car. The three large control dials for the heater and ventilation system are very easy to use, and you can set the fan and ventilation control to ‘automatic’. It was only a few years ago that these features were only found in luxury cars!

The lower centre console has an open storage area for CDs, PDAs, cameras, phones, etc. Just in front of it are two cupholders with adjustable grips for different sized cups, and beside the driver is a 12 volt powerpoint and a cell phone holder.

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

My only complaint with the new instrument panel is that the lettering on the stereo is a bit too small to be read easily.

The Aerio’s 14.6 cubic feet trunk is huge for a small car. For comparison, it’s bigger than the trunk of a Honda Accord! Split folding seatbacks add versatility, but they are not lockable.


Driving impressions

Small and manoeuvrable, the Aerio is a fun car to drive in the city and a comfortable car on the freeway. The driver and passengers sit fairly tall on raised seats, but the Aerio’s tall roof leaves plenty of headroom for even the tallest of adults, front and rear. Outward visibility is excellent but the trunklid is tall, so like most sedans these days, you can’t see the bumper of the car behind you when backing into a parking space.

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

One unique feature of the Aerio is the small triangular windows ahead of the front side windows which provide additional visibility when cornering.

Equipped with a standard 155 horsepower 2.3 litre DOHC, 16 valve four cylinder engine (the most powerful engine in the subcompact class) the 1232 kg Aerio sedan has plenty of power for urban duties. When the light turns green, it just leaps off the line, surprising sporty cars and their drivers.

The engine is a bit noisy under hard acceleration, but I would say it’s quieter than a Toyota Echo under similar circumstances. Around town and on the highway, it’s not obtrusive. On the freeway, the engine turns over 2400 rpm at 100 km/h and 2900 rpm at 120 km/h. Engine noise is minimal, but there is some road noise and wind noise, depending on the road surface and the direction of the wind.

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan

2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan
Click image to enlarge

The Aerio is weakest when passing on the highway, but even here it’s plenty adequate for a small car.

Fuel consumption is reasonable for a small car with a 2.3 litre 4 cylinder engine (City: 9.3 L/100 km (30 mpg); Hwy: 7.0 L/100 km (40 mpg)) but it’s nowhere near as good as the Toyota Echo sedan which has a 1.5 litre engine and weighs about 600 pounds less.

The Aerio’s optional 4-speed automatic transmission in my test car proved very smooth and responsive to kickdown, and it has an on/off overdrive switch on the floor shifter.

The Aerio has a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts/rear struts and coil springs) which gives it a surprisingly comfortable ride for a car with a 97.6 inch wheelbase. The standard Bridgestone Potenza 185/65R-14 all-season tires are not small, but they look small on this tall sedan. Handling is good, but there is some body lean. 15 inch tires are available in the U.S., but not in Canada.


The Aerio is difficult to classify: it’s bigger than the Suzuki Swift + hatchback, the Toyota Echo sedan and Chevrolet Aveo sedan, but smaller than the Toyota Corolla and Chevrolet Optra sedan. Competitors may also include the Kia Rio sedan and Hyundai Accent sedan.

One thing’s for sure, the Suzuki Aerio sedan is a good value for around $20,000 (plus Freight and taxes). And that was enough to get me excited.

Technical Data: 2005 Suzuki Aerio sedan

Base price $18,995
Options $1,200 (4-speed automatic transmission)
Freight $995
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $21,290
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout Front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.3-litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 155 @ 5400 rpm
Torque 152 @ 3000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual/4-speed automatic (opt.)
Tires 185/65R-14
Curb weight 1232 kg (2716 lb.)
Wheelbase 2480 mm (97.6 in.)
Length 4350 mm (171.3 in.)
Width 1690 mm (66.5 in.)
Height 1545 mm (60.8 in.)
Cargo capacity 413 litres (14.6 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 9.3 L/100 km (30 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.0 L/100 km (40 mpg)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/ 60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Assembly location Hammamatsu, Japan

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