In January, 2004, the automotive industry arrived at another unique plateau. For the first time, the average price of a new car in the United States surpassed $30,000. Ironically, it was also only a few years ago, the same amount designated the minimum amount of a luxury car.
It’s also likely a safe assumption that many car buyers still can’t afford a $30,000 vehicle. Suppose, for example, a new car buyer has only $15,000 to spend. What’s available? And what’s a prudent purchase in the price range?
One good choice is the 2006 Suzuki Aerio SX. The 4-door economy wagon has a lot to offer. With every available option, the vehicle’s price is only slightly more than half the national average of a new vehicle.
My test drive for the week was the four-cylinder, 155-horsepower Aerio with a five-speed manual transmission. The vehicle’s standard features alone warrant a long look for economy shoppers: air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM/6-CD changer and split folding rear seats. For the first time in 2006, Antilock brakes (ABS) are standard throughout the line.
But the Aerio offers a lot more — surprisingly quick acceleration to superior cargo room, substantial head room to an estimated than 30 mph hour on the freeway.
The Aerio is available in three models and with more than a dozen configurations, the base sedan ($13,999) to the SX with All-Wheel-Drive and a premium option package ($16,999).
My vehicle featured the nice exterior color of Tech Blue Metallic, complemented by a black cloth interior with a silver-toned instrument console. The car zipped around town, shifted smoothly and had a little “attitude” despite its lowly status an entry level wagon.
The SX model has 15-inch alloy wheels as a standard feature, but the larger wheels are an option for the standard 14-inch wheels on other models. The Aerio has a spacious rear cargo area and a surprisingly roomy cabin. The car’s wheelbase is only 99.6 inches, among the shortest in the compact vehicle glass. Yet the rear cargo area measures 63.7 cubic feet. That’s third largest to the Ford Focus Wagon (73.0) and Chrysler PT Cruiser Wagon (64.2). All Aerois have split rear seatbacks. They lay flat when the headrests are removed and with seat bottoms flipped forward.
The Aerio also has above average steering and handling, a particularly tight turning circle, and its instrumentation console features clearly marked gauges and easy-to-use controls. The automatic climate controls are standard, an unexpected feature for the price range.
The Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Toyota Matrix are chief rivals and all have good legacies and good value in resale markets.
But the Aerio should not be overlooked as an option. With Suzuki’s 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty, the little car with the unique name has more going for it than the half-car status its price indicates.
Safety Features — Dual front and side impact airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 25 mpg (city), 31 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 7 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 3 years/unlimited mileage; Road side assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.
Base Price — $15,199.00