For the last three years, we had been a one-car family. And considering that one car is a 1969 VW, long road trips were not in our vocabulary. With a new job and a 50-mile commute, it was time to get a new car.
We looked at a lot of different vehicles, both cars and SUVs. We decided to go with a small to medium-sized SUV because we wanted space for ourselves (two 6-footers) and to tote our two dogs. We also wanted AWD and ABS for the rain and snow we get in our part of the country. I wanted a little luxury of seat warmers since this was my first new car. And, the price needed to be reasonable (under $27,500). Our short list included:
- Saturn VUE (roomy, nice drive)
- Pontiac Aztek (roomy, nice drive, odd looking)
- Honda CRV (backseat was small, didnt like the gear shift being on the dashboard)
- Jeep Liberty (too small, backseat was uncomfortable)
- Toyota Rav4 (too small for us to fit comfortably)
- Toyota Highlander (very roomy on the inside, best backseat of all, too difficult to locate one which lends itself to dealer markups)
My spouses parents both work for GM, so they were very interested in us going with a GM vehicle. After test driving several makes and models, we had settled on the Saturn VUE. It was a good size for two 6-footers, it was a pleasure to drive, and it was designed well. We went in to purchase the VUE using our GM discount and the dealership refused to accept the discount. We went home disappointed and shell-shocked. The next weekend we headed back to the Saturn dealership to see if we could strike a bargain. Suddenly, the dealership decided that they would honor the discount on stock (as opposed to special orders). We asked them to try and find a Black VUE and we would want leather and seat warmers after-market. The sales staff was very friendly when we were on site, but they wouldnt return our calls. It was almost like they didnt care if we bought a VUE or not, so we decided to look seriously at our alternatives.
We looked at the Pontiac Aztek, our second choice. It was very roomy both in the front and back seats. The luxury package included leather, seat warmers, and some other nice extras like On*Star. The Aztek is not as popular a vehicle as the VUE or Highlander. It has gotten mixed reviews on Edmunds. We went ahead and test drove both a 2001 and a 2002 to identify the differences. Ironically the 2002 model appears to have a lower MSRP than the 2001 while having more options, so we focused on the 2002 model. We asked the dealer to find a black Aztek with the luxury package and we were able to get delivery within 10 days. (We lost the On*Star part of the package because it had a sun roof. Make sure you understand which features trade out when you add other options.)
When we lined up the features of the VUE and the Aztek, the Aztek had more bells and whistles standard from the factory (i.e., leather and seat warmers). When we compared price, VUE cost more than the Aztek. We had to ask ourselves if we were getting more value out of the VUE than the Aztek, and the answer was no.
Incentives and Negotiation
We bought it during 2002 Manufacturer's Cash Back Program, we got an additional $2002 off the Aztek. (Good for all deliveries through February 28, 2002). For those interested in the 2001 model, there is additional cash back of $1000 on top of the $2002. I recommend checking out www.edmunds.com for details on all Incentive Programs. I also recommend www.carbuyingtips.com for some advice on purchasing a car and negotiating with the dealer. We are currently shopping for an extended warranty since Pontiac only provides a 3 year/36,000 mile standard and with the amount Im driving, that wont last long.
Our New Rig
Weve had the Aztek for two weeks and love it. It is a big change from the VW, and I'm still adjusting to the size difference and learning to parallel park. I can turn quickly without fear of rolling, it has been stable in the wind, and I have not experienced any of the "mushy break" issues mentioned in other reviews. I love the dual passenger/driver climate control and the vents for the backseat so that everyone gets fresh air. The engine is so quiet...I keep thinking I've stalled.
The Aztek doesn't have a pretty face, but it is growing on me.
Three Months Later
We've had the Aztek for three months and have put about 9000 miles on it, mostly highway driving. There are three issues of which you should be aware:
1. There is a little water condensation inside the front, left turn signal. Solution: Took to dealer. Dealer replaced seal. Covered by warranty. No further problems.
2. Cosmetic Issue: The piece of ribbed material that surrounds the gearshift as it goes into the console and moves with the gearshift as you change gears has come loose and is not tracking. Solution: Took to dealer. Dealer replaced material. Covered by warranty. No further problems.
3. The lower part of the back windshield (beneath the spoiler) is prone to getting dusty, but traditional no-touch car washes don't really get it clean. Solution: Rewash that section by hand or use a wetnap.
4. The rear hatch does not fully unlatch the first time you press the button (either on the front console or the remote). It is a known problem as seen on the Yahoo boards. Solution: Take it to dealer to be fixed.
I am still happy with the Aztek and find the storage both up front, in the doors, and in the back really great. I regularly use the back bins for groceries and no longer lose fruit to sharp turns.
A Year Later
We've had the Aztek for over a year and have put about 34000 miles on it. We are getting just under 21.5 miles to the gallon over all of those miles...not bad for a SUV. I've had two flat tires due to road hazards (nails seem to be everywhere in this town!) The first time I took it to the dealer in Salem, OR to be fixed and they did so for no charge. The second time, the dealer wasn't open so I took it to a local tire store: Les Schwab. Unfortunately, we kept hearing this odd grinding/electronic noise from that wheel well, so we took it to our local dealer. They fixed it, but gave us the old "I hope you didn't get this fixed at Les Schwab. That invalidates the warranty." In the end they fixed it for free (something to do with the AWD not engaging). We'd definitely buy an Aztek again...maybe a white one.
Three Years Later
We've had the Aztek for over three year and have put about 65000 miles on it. We are getting just under 20 miles to the gallon. We have had a few issues since the last update. Specifically:
(1) The seat warming coil on the passenger side stopped working. Took it to the dealer and they fixed it the same day. No issues since.
(2) Moisture gathering on the inside of the passenger side headlight. Again, took it to the dealer and they fixed it the same day. No issues since.
(3) Dashboard lighting element for LED readout stops working. Again, took it to the dealer. It was something they hadn't dealt with, and it took them two days to fix. At first they thought they would have to replace the entire dash/gauge area, but it turned out to be a fuse. Definitely a cheaper fix.
(4) Vandalized and rear passenger door window broken. Fixed for less than insurance deductible.
We still love the Aztek. It is comfortable for daily commuting and longer trips. The gas mileage is good for a vehicle of the size...very important for those rising gas costs.
Four Years Later
We've had the Aztek for four years. I am no longer commuting 100 miles a day, and we have put about 77000 miles on it. We have had a few issues since the last update. Specifically:
(1) The seat warming coil on the driver's side stopped working. Not a good thing in the middle of a cold winter. We'll be taking it to the dealer for a fix.
(2) The lighting element in the gear shift (so you know if you are in Drive or Neutral or Reverse) burned out twice in the last twelve months. This one has me a little angry because I was charged $80 each time to get it fixed.
(3) We've started experiencing a shuttering in the front driver side when breaking. About a month ago, the ABS light went on and we took it to the dealer. They readjusted something, said the pads looked great, and that everything was okay. Then the shuttering began. We took it in again, they said everything looked fine and charged $50. It stopped and we began joking that there must be a satelite doing some sort of testing on the breaks. It started again. We took it in again, they said everything looked fine and charged $50. Today, it happened again. I've decided not to take it to the dealer, but to another shop. I may not be super-technical when it comes to cars, but something is wrong.
Amount Paid (US$):
2002Model and Options:
Fully loaded luxury package with tow