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2002 Suzuki Esteem REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

Con: Engine gets noisy at high revs, so-so suspension, ABS not available on sedan, doesn't offer the most appealing value package in this segment.

Pro: Strong 1.8-liter engine, attractive -- if not distinctive -- exterior design, sedan and wagon body styles.

Edmunds Say: An aging economy sedan that offers little in terms of value or amenities.

What’s New: Not much changes for the 2002 Esteem. The seat upholstery is new, and sedans now have an inside trunk release handle. Suzuki has changed with the trim levels, and last year's GLX+ and GLX Sport sedan trims are no longer available. Suzuki now offers a 24-hour roadside assistance program.

Review: There is nothing really objectionable about the Esteem sedan and wagon, but the economy car segment is not what it used to be -- at least not since the Focus and a fresh batch of Sentras, Civics and Elantras arrived. Now, it seems that customers are looking for value (!), socially acceptable aesthetics and a bit of driving amusement. The Esteem has been around since 1995, and it has never been able to deliver all three, though advertising (that ideally, would get people into the dealerships) has not been especially heavy-handed, either. Slowly, Suzuki has enhanced the Esteem, but we're not sure that the company is moving expediently enough to rescue the car from the cellar of the segment in sales.

The Esteem comes with a relatively powerful 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine. This engine makes 122 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 117 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm. These numbers are competitive for this class, but we've observed more engine roar in the Esteem from 4,000 to 6,800 rpm than we have in its peers. The noise isn't obnoxious -- there is simply more of it. For 2002, you can buy two different sedan trims (GL and GLX) or three different wagon trims (GL, GLX and GLX+). Base-level GL cars are outfitted with air conditioning, power steering, a rear window defogger, a fold-down rear seat, and an in-dash CD player. GLX trim offers a desirable content package: Besides the GL bits, you get remote keyless entry; power windows, mirrors and locks; alloy wheels; a tachometer and cruise control. The only options for these models are floor mats and an automatic transmission. The GLX+ wagon comes with a power moonroof, antilock brakes, a combination CD/cassette player and two exclusive exterior colors. The Esteem's exterior styling might not gouge the sensibilities (in the way that the Focus does), but the mild-mannered may find it pleasant. The interior is user-friendly and solidly constructed, but it doesn''t make you forget how little you paid. Occupants will find the expected amount of plastic and seats that are reasonably comfortable but lack height adjustment and adequate seatback tilt. Nor does the steering wheel have a tilt or telescoping adjustment.

Given the selection of excellent economy cars available, we see little reason to buy a Esteem. Pricing is high given the lack of content and the trim packages make it difficult to tailor a car to your needs. If you are interested in the Esteem, we encourage you to compare it with similarly equipped peers before you buy.


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