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Suzuki Aerio

Aerio has a pronounced design theme that incorporates the headlights, taillights, no-draft windows and even the centre of the steering wheel. These elements all adopt a triangular shape. It's almost a throwback to the pyramid power days of old. Whether Suzuki is superstitious or simply adopted the triangular approach for its aesthetic value is a question destined to remain unanswered. That aside, the new car is handsome and a good fit for the young urban professionals Suzuki is seeking.

Power comes from a punched out version of the Esteem's 1.8 litre motor. Now rated at 2.0 litres this willing little mill pumps out 141 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 135 lb-ft of torque at a user-friendly 3,000 rpm. Along with the displacement increase, a better intake manifold and air cleaner as well as reduced backpressure in the exhaust system accounts for the bolstered numbers. This engine is also designed to be less labour intensive, bringing hydraulic lifters and a timing chain rather than the old belt. Both are moves for the better, as routine maintenance costs will drop. On road, the engine revs freely bringing a good turn of speed, especially when married to the five speed manual box. It features a clean gate, light clutch and a set of ratios that supports the engine in its endeavours. It is a pleasing and balanced package, and a far cry from some of the wheezy powertrains Suzuki was famous for in the past.

The Aerio rides on MacPherson struts and a smallish set of 195/55R15 Yokohama tires. Generally, the handling characteristics are good with understeer and body roll staying at a reasonable distance, even in the less than ideal conditions encountered during the test. The steering also brings a direct, connected feel that helps things enormously. That said, not only would a larger set of boots improve the dynamic aspects, it would not hurt the look. Sadly, Suzuki is adamant. The customer will have to plus size the wheels and tires on their own, and without the company's input. It is an edict that has to do with preserving the Aerios excellent 9.1 and 6.7 L/100 km fuel economy rating. As they say, pity.

On the safety front, the Aerio brings dual front bags as well as pyrotechnic pretensioners for the front seatbelts. If the bags deploy, the pretensioners pull the front seat occupants back into the seat and, hopefully, out of harm's way. Perhaps of more significance is the fact that Aerio will be offered with all-wheel drive this fall. Now that will really upset the proverbial apple cart, especially if it is priced as competitively as the rest of the range.

Price as tested: $18,985

Tire Tally
Performance: 3
Ride/handling: 3
Interior: 3
Touchy/feely/cargo: 4
Safety: 3
Bang for buck: 4

Immediate Competition
Mazda Protege5, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Matrix, Focus ZX5, Kia Rio RX-V Sport

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