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1998 Suzuki Sidekick REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/5/2017

Con: Underpowered engines make the Sidekick breathe hard when climbing hills.

Pro: Cute, cuddly, and surprisingly capable mini-ute is great for around-town cruising or a jaunt to the lake.

What’s New: A couple of new colors debut.

Review: Even folks who find it easy to fault small sport-utes run the risk of falling for a Sidekick--especially the convertible model. Neither a true truck nor a car, this mini SUV has created a niche that other manufacturers are rushing to capitalize on. The Chevrolet Tracker is basically identical, and the Kia Sportage and Subaru Forester are new competitors. Toyota introduced the RAV4 to do battle with the Sidekick, and Honda brought their CR-V over from Japan to do the same. Suzuki aims the Sidekick squarely at teens and 20-somethings, but older adventurers are likely to find it irresistible, too.

The Sidekick is available in two body styles and two series totaling three trim levels. Basic Sidekicks come with a frisky 16-valve, 95-horsepower engine in JS or JX trim. The JS is a two-wheel drive runabout; the JX is a four-wheel drive mountain goat. Convertible and four-door Hardtop models are available. Or you can opt for the Sport model, which is offered only with the four-door body style in JX, JS and JLX trim. Hallmarks of the Sport include a larger, more powerful twin-cam engine good for 120 horsepower, and a track that has been increased by two inches for increased stability and response. Sixteen-inch tires and wheels and a shiny grille set the Sport model even further apart from garden-variety Sidekicks.

Four-wheel antilock brakes are optional on Sidekick; standard on Sidekick Sport. Exclusive to the Sport is a 100-watt Alpine stereo system, cruise control (on the JLX only), security alarm system, power windows and locks, split-fold rear seat, remote fuel door release, cloth door trim, power remote mirrors, rear window wiper/washer and overhead map lights. The Sport also gets unique paint colors from which to select.

Frankly, we think that the plain-Jane base Sidekick is the best-looking vehicle. The two-tone paint and chrome-ringed grille make the Sidekick look like a little freckle-faced kid wearing an Armani suit. The monochromatic look of the base model, combined with the Sport's engine and track width, would be a hot setup -- too bad Suzuki doesn't see it that way.

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