2002 Pontiac Aztek
This 2002 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Pontiac has slightly improved the look of its Pontiac Aztek because sales of this versatile sport-utility vehicle have been hurt by its over-the-top appearance.
Pontiac said that the roomy Aztek's appearance reflected its functional nature, but the front styling was overdone, the body cladding looked tacked-on and the rear end was chunky.
The Aztek arrived as a 2001 model, so there hasn't been much Pontiac can do with its appearance this year. However, the new Aztek does look better with such things as body colored trim instead of gray lower cladding and a new rear spoiler to help out the rear-end appearance.
Also, the Aztek looks more substantial with redesigned 16-inch wheels and tires that better fill out the wheelwells than the previous standard 15-inchers. Even larger 17-inch wheels and tires are available for the all-wheel-drive trim.
Still, the styling remains very offbeat and may turn some potential buyers in the direction of the mechanically similar but more smoothly styled Buick Rendezvous, which is slightly longer and has third-row seating.
There's more standard equipment, including a console/beverage cooler, an AM/FM/CD stereo and heated front seats that accompany the optional leather seating. Also, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls now is standard with the dual-play radio or in-dash 6-disc CD receiver.
There's also expanded availability of the optional OnStar communications and security service and theft-deterrent system.
The Aztek is one of the growing number of "crossover" vehicles, in that it is based on Pontiac's Montana minivan. There are four large side doors and a bulky combination glass rear liftgate and drop-down tailgate that calls for extra muscle to operate.
Two Drive Systems
Versatrak has no low-range gearing and thus limits the Aztek's off-road abilities. But the all-wheel-drive trim has a superior independent rear suspension for better ride and handling on bumpy roads. And Versatrak also comes with an all-disc brake setup instead of a less effective disc/drum brake setup.
The compact Versatrak system only operates on-demand when needed, and thus saves gasoline. The Aztek has decent fuel economy for a roomy, midsize sport ute that weighs 3,779-4,043 pounds: an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway with front-wheel drive and 18 and 24 with all-wheel drive.
The steering is quick and handling is decent if you don't push the Aztek too hard; this is no sports truck, despite its adventurous personality. The ride is well-controlled, although the front-wheel-drive model rides more smoothly. Stopping distances are average.
There's good room for four 6-footers. But taller drivers with long legs should have more rearward seat travel. It's easy to get in and out, although the large rear doors are awkward in tight spots.
The futuristic-looking dashboard has easily read gauges and large controls. However, thick rear roof pillars hinder visibility so a driver best keep an eye on the outside rearview mirrors. Higher-grade materials would be welcome in the cockpit, which looks rather plasticky.
Two seating configurations are offered: nicely supportive bucket seats in front with a choice of a 50-50 split seat or dual captain chairs in back. The split-bench seats are light, modular units that can be folded, flipped forward or removed to create extra cargo space. The removable rear captain's chairs have fold-down seatbacks that recline.
The cargo area has a low opening and is large, even with rear seats in their regular position.
The Aztek is fairly well-equipped, with such things as air conditioning and power windows, door locks and mirrors. Side airbags up front are among standard safety items.
There are plenty of cargo nets, storage areas and cupholders, with especially large rear ones molded into the doors.
The Aztek remains pretty much a singular entity in the sport-utility vehicle field. Active types will like its features, but the styling remains controversial.