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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Pontiac Aztek Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Pontiac Aztek Overview

Daring to be Different

The Aztek is still making ground, confounding many critics who pronounced a premature death for the edgy Pontiac crossover almost from the minute it was conceived. The Aztek continues to thrive because it is a highly useful, well designed vehicle that can serve as everything from a weekend warrior to a pickup truck to an overnight accommodation. Even the Aztek's styling—once considered too far out—is now relatively tame in the face of such new arrivals as the Honda Element and Scion xA.

When you think about it, the Aztek is really one of the first of the crossover SUVs to reach the market. Because it is based on a minivan/car chassis, the Aztek inherits a relatively low center of gravity that in turn gives it a rather stable ride and surprisingly good cornering ability. Available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Aztek is powered by a gutsy 3.4-liter V6 good for 185 horsepower. We really enjoyed this engine and felt it provided excellent acceleration whenever called upon. GM is known for having some of the best transmissions in the industry, and the Aztek's nearly seamless four-speed automatic proves it's a reputation well earned. Our front-wheel drive Aztek returned nearly 25 miles per gallon during our highway driving time and never felt labored or over worked.

Sitting behind the Aztek's wheel for the first time will probably find you taking a few minutes to get your bearings. That's because the Aztek's long dash stretches out over the engine, placing the windshield pillars far in front of you. The Aztek's space-age dash also requires some acclamation—not because it's confusing or ill-conceived but because it's so darn cool to look at. Big cockpit like gauges, protruding rotary vents and a set of steering-wheel mounted controls are all bathed in a deep red light that puts molten lava to shame. The driver and front passenger's seats are comfortable and feature adjustable headrests and an optional heated package; in between the seats, you'll find a large armrest that doubles as a removable cooler. Rear seat occupants also enjoy comfortable seating with hip and leg room that is about average for the class. New this year is an optional DVD-based entertainment system that is perfect for keeping the kids out of your hair during long trips.

Once in motion, you'll find the Aztek is relatively easy to maneuver, though the tall seats and awkward rear quarter panels do create some blindspots. You won't have that problem when looking directly backward thanks to the massive glass hatch and lower lid glass lip. The Aztek's steering response is light with a bit of play in the center, but overall it's a competent package and besides, this is not supposed to be a GTO, it's a utility vehicle. The soft springs and standard shocks return a very smooth ride and the entire interior is well isolated from both tire and wind noise.

Of course the Aztek is versatile and yes its large hatch make it easy to load bulky items, as do its folding rear seats. But all that is expected of this type of vehicle, and let's be honest, you're not going to impress the neighbors with the number of groceries you can stack into the rear of your Aztek. What will impress them is the optional Enhanced Camping package that includes an attachable rear tent and awning that fits over the rear gate and an inflatable air mattress with electric pump. Now you can travel to the beach, spend the day surfing and then retire to your cozy little rolling hotel where you can take in a movie or just cuddle up and watch the stars.

Among the Azteks many standard features include air conditioning, rear defroster, fog lights, auto headlamp control, dual power mirrors, three 12-volt outlets, AM/FM stereo with CD, tilt wheel, tachometer, intermittent wipers and power windows. Options include the Head Up display system that projects your current speed and other engine and temperature functions onto the lower portion of the windshield, a power sunroof, XM satellite radio and 17-inch wheels and tires.

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