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1996 Suzuki Esteem REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

What’s New: New for 1996 are daytime running lights, standard air conditioning and body-color bumpers on the GL.

Review: Sometime during the 1995 model year, the Suzuki Esteem debuted. We say sometime because we have yet to see one in our neck of the woods, and have no idea when it drove off the auto show stands and into showrooms. What is it? It's a cute little sedan that suffers from too little power and too much MSRP, competing in a field of cars that offer superior value for the dollar. We don't dislike the Esteem. It's a cute, well-equipped little car. The problem is that the window sticker makes us think Dodge Neon, while the car itself makes us think Kia Sephia. Get the drift?

All Esteems are powered by a 98-horsepower, 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder engine connected to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Dual airbags are standard, and the Esteem meets 1997 side impact standards. A four-wheel independent suspension damps irregularities in the pavement. This year, daytime running lights are standard.

Two trim levels are available, base GL and uplevel GLX. Air conditioning is standard on the GL, as well as power steering, rear window defogger, remote fuel door and trunk releases, dual mirrors and a fold-down rear seat. New for 1996 on the GL are body color bumpers. GLX models add power windows, locks and mirrors; as well as a newly upgraded cassette stereo, split-folding rear seat, tachometer and larger tires. An ABS option package is available for the GLX, and it includes cruise control.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the Esteem isn't very big inside or out. It offers about as much value as a Toyota Tercel DX sedan, which is to say, not much. The Japanese yen is simply too strong for Suzuki, or Toyota for that matter, to price their subcompact cars at a reasonable level. Domestic and South Korean nameplates offer far better value in this segment, especially when you consider the rather skimpy warranty Suzuki provides for the Esteem.

Like we said, we don't dislike this car. At another time, in another era, we'd wholeheartedly recommend it. In the Nineties, however, we feel that there are other small sedans that offer far better value.


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