2001 Suzuki Esteem Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D GLX

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2001 Suzuki Esteem
John Matras

Introduction
Suzuki's Esteem combines a moderate price, lots of standard features, and good fuel economy. We were surprised to discover it even throws in a sporty driving experience.

Bigger than the Swift, the Esteem is Suzuki's largest non-SUV offering, yet it's still a subcompact package. Basic four-cylinder power and front-wheel drive are the motivators here. No all-wheel drive, no slick V6 engines, and no upscale pretension. The Esteem is all about the basics, and it fulfills this mission well.

Changes for the 2001 model year are limited to redesigned sound systems with standard CD players and larger controls, as well as a restyled front grill and standard floor mats.

The Esteem continues in both sedan and wagon body styles. Prices start at just a tick over $13,000. Model Lineup
The base sedan and wagon are designated GL. The mid-level versions are called GLX, and the top of the range go by GLX+. A 122 hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine powers all models. The GL sedan starts at $13,199 and includes an independent suspension, intermittent windshield wipers, daytime running lights and air conditioning.

The GLX comes with larger tires and alloy wheels, a tachometer, passenger vanity mirror, front seatback pockets and a host of power features. The GLX sedan lists at $13,999. The wagon adds a roof-mounted rear spoiler to help keep the rear glass clear of rain and snow, and lists at $14,499. A sport package, including a rear spoiler, fog lamps and a chrome-tipped exhaust tip, is available on the GLX sedan.

Esteem GLX+ adds four-wheel ABS, cruise control and an automatic transmission at $15,799 for the sedan. On top of all that, the GLX+ wagon includes a sunroof and retails at $16,499.

GL and GLX models are available with the 4-speed automatic (instead of the standard 5-speed manual) for an additional $1000. Walkaround
From its clear-lens headlamps to its large taillights, the Suzuki Esteem presents itself well. The black honeycomb grille looks sharp and the car, especially the wagon, is well proportioned.

The wagon doesn't look as if its longer roof was tacked on as an afterthought for the utilitarian minded. Indeed, with the two-tone paint option, the wagon is arguably the snazziest Esteem of the lot, and there is no appearance penalty for the extra utility. We even got some admiring looks from teenagers, no doubt prompted by Speedline five-spoke alloy wheels and low-profile Yokohama tires.

A remote fuel door release is standard, and the wagon's liftgate is locked and unlocked by the central locking system. A handle under the license-plate light unlatches the gate, which lifts to 45 degrees above horizontal. The gate opening and low roofline guarantee that anyone taller than 5'8'' will have to duck while loading cargo, but liftover height is only 22 inches. The load floor is flat and the strut towers intrude only minimally on cargo space. There are storage bins under the carpet and room in the right quarter panel to add a CD changer or store a first aid kit. A cargo cover, often an option, is standard on all Esteem wagons. Interior
Slip into the driver's seat and you'll notice that the Esteem GLX+ seats are full-size, with full thigh support and excellent lateral support in the seatback. Driver and front passenger have generous leg- and elbowroom, though the sunroof steals a few precious inches overhead. That's more critical in the back seat, where space is tighter all around. Technically, the rear seat has capacity for three abreast, but children will be happier in the back than the average adult male, who is left with little wiggle room.

The instrument panel is well designed and legible and the ventilation system is easy to operate. Thankfully, the Clarion radio has much larger buttons this year and is much easier to use. While the steering wheel is soft to grip, its covering is slippery. There are several small bins in the dash and map pockets in the doors.

The only interior color is a light gray. The seat upholstery receives a new design for 2001. Driving Impressions
Under the hood, the 1.8-liter twin-cam four makes 122 horsepower at 6300 rpm. Maximum torque is 117 foot-pounds at 3500 rpm; the relatively low torque peak promises less downshifting and thrashing of the engine to get around town. This engine uses a timing chain instead of the more common belt.

The Esteem's 1.8-liter idles with a vibration typical of four-cylinder engines, adding a slight but noticeable shake to the steering wheel. It smoothes out under acceleration and in normal driving. Around town, the 1.8 is a willing servant and provides ample, worry-free power. The automatic transmission delivers the same no-worries operation.

Open the throttle fast, however, and the engine announces its presence with a roar, propelling the wagon forward at a brisk clip. The transmission shifts at about 5000 rpm, well below the power peak, if left to its own devices. But hold the automatic in gear by hand (the console-mounted shifter has Drive, 2 and 1 on the quadrant, with an overdrive cutout button on the shift lever) to reach the 6700 rpm redline, and the transmission shifts so slowly that the engine hits the rev limiter. It also seems that the automatic absorbs some of the Esteem's steam. The standard transmission, available in the still-quite-nice GLX, would not only save $1000 in purchase price but also eke out another EPA-estimated 1 mpg in city or highway driving. It will also take full advantage of the engine's power band.

In highway driving, the engine emits a constant hum that's noticeable, if not objectionable, and the windshield pillars and roof rack generate a constant rustle of wind noise. The cargo area amplifies this sound, though it isn't so loud as to annoy or impede conversation.

A quick steering ratio and short wheelbase make the Esteem responsive to steering input. Although there's a bias toward comfortable understeer, the Esteem will zip down a twisting road almost as quickly as the motor will pull it. The suspension is generally supple, soaking up bumps and ripples, though longer pavement waves, such as those on older concrete slabs, can induce a rocking-horse motion. Unlike many vehicles, the Esteem wagon uses the same suspension offered in the sedan, with fully independent MacPherson struts at each corner. Typically, this provides a better ride than the beam-type rear axle on many front-drive wagons.

The low-profile tires add to the responsiveness of the chassis, and their extra grip imparts confidence on cloverleaf ramps and curves. The tires are an excellent choice of rubber for an inexpensive car. The brake system uses discs in front and drums in the rear. Four-wheel antilock brakes are offered only on the GLX+. Summary
With the Esteem GLX+ wagon, Suzuki has clearly put a lot of effort into civilizing the small car. There's nothing particularly revolutionary in the resulting automobile, but it does more than what's expected of it in an economical and relatively sporting fashion.

For someone who needs to haul things on a budget, whether commercial deliveries or laundry from college, the Esteem wagon fills the bill. The GLX with a 5-speed is the best choice for economy, performance and a touch of luxury features. We only wish Suzuki offered ABS on models other than the GLX+. That said, the loaded GLX+ is quite a package at $17,179.

Model as tested
Esteem Wagon GLX+ ($16,499)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Hamamatsu, Japan
Destination charge
480
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
13199
Price as tested
17179
Options as tested
two-tone paint ($200)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Esteem sedans: GL ($13,199); GLX ($13,999); GLX+ ($15,799)<br>Esteem wagons: GL ($13,699); GLX ($14,499); GLX+ ($16,499)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, door guard beams, rear-door child-safety locks, height-adjustable front 3-point seatbelts, 3-point rear outboard and 2-point center seatbelts standard; ABS standard on GLX+
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
1.8-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4
Transmissions
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning, automatic transmission, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes with ABS, roof rails, roof end spoiler, power sunroof, alloy wheels, AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette players, intermittent windshield wipers, remote keyless entry, power mirrors, power windows, power locks, cruise control, cargo light

Engine & Transmission
Engine
1.8-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4
Drivetrain type
front engine, front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
122 @ 6300
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
26/33
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/drum with ABS
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P195/55R15
Suspension, rear
Independent

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
37.7/50.8/42.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
36.6/48.2/34.1

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
24.0
Wheelbase
97.6
Length/width/height
172.2/66.5/55.9
Turning circle
32.2
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
56.7/56.5
Ground clearance
5.5
Curb weight
2480


J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

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