2003 Pontiac Aztek

  • 2003 Pontiac Aztek Base Sport Utility

    Base Sport Utility

    • MAX MPG
    • SEATS
    • ENGINE
      3.4L V6
    • MSRP
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2003 Pontiac Aztek Review

Poor performance and handling thingy lags behind refined classmates.

Reviewed by Automotive on


The 2003 Pontiac Aztek makes a great buy for the type of person who adopts the ugliest dog at the shelter and has a big heart. Yes, this seems like an odd way to approaching car shopping, but the Aztek serves as a truly odd sport utility vehicle/minivan crossover. It offers interior versatility and features, but lacks handling and performance.

The Range

Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 3.4-liter V-6
Transmissions: four-speed automatic
Models: Pontiac Aztek

What's New

For 2003, the Pontiac Aztek offers some new high-tech options such as a DVD-based entertainment system and XM satellite radio as available options. This model year also adds a tire-pressure monitoring system, additional wheel styles, and a new option package called the ""luxury appointment group.""


The 2003 Pontiac Aztek SUV/minivan crossover offers only the base trim. Standard equipment includes 16-inch cast aluminum wheels, a roof rack, a fold-down rear gate with built-in seats and cup holders, a rear window defogger, power locks, power windows, power mirrors, and a spoiler. Options include 17-inch wheels and a tire-inflation monitor, which both come in the Comfort and Security Package.

No review of the Aztek is complete without broaching the unpleasant topic of the exterior appearance and styling. Lambasted as ugly, unpleasant, bizarre, and other less-than-complimentary words and phrases by critics and observers, it seems reasonable to point out that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Having said that, it seems fair to point out that some people did by an Aztek. Sales fall noticeably short of expectations, at least partially due to the appearance.


The one trim of the Aztek comes standard with cloth seats, power steering, a four-way adjustable driver’s seat, air-conditioning, a tilt sport steering wheel, and an audio system with an AM/FM radio and an in-dash single CD player with speed-sensitive volume control and a radio data system.

Pontiac offers two optional Lifestyle accessory packages: one for camping with a tent that fits over the back half of the vehicle and another one for biking. The aforementioned Comfort and Security Package adds a DVD-based entertainment system. XM satellite radio remains available as an option on the 2003 Pontiac Aztek.

The interior seats five and couldn’t possibly look as bad as the exterior. The design seems decently ergonomic and most controls prove easy to find and use. The seats feel comfortable and the amount of space reaches expectations for a crossover. The interior boasts a good deal of versatility with all of the cargo options and a removable back seat that can either be a bench-style seat or get replaced with two Captain’s chairs.

Performance & Handling

The Aztek’s borrows its powertrain from the Montana minivan, employing a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 that produces 210 lb-ft of torque and connects to a four-speed automatic transmission. The Aztek may be equipped with either front drive or Versatrak all-wheel drive, a feature that engages automatically in low-traction conditions. Like the Montana, the 2003 Pontiac Aztek can be peppy in certain portions of the power band, but doesn’t do well from a standing start. It handles most traffic situations well enough. The weight added by the all-wheel drive actually slows the Aztek down.

The handling feels solid and unbothered by routine driving. The grip seems good, but the Aztek experiences a lot of body lean in quick turns. The brakes feel a bit mushy, but stopping distance with the all-wheel drive proves better than average. The front-drive models suffer from the dreaded torque steer.

The ride quality feels better than most SUVs and more like the Aztek’s minivan relatives with a smooth and absorbent feel. The body sways side to side a bit over uneven or bumpy roads. The all-wheel-drive version seems less comfortable than the front-drive version. The Aztek remains rather quiet, much more so than any of its SUV rivals and that includes all noise sources: wind, tire, and road.


The 2003 Pontiac Aztek has the basics for standard safety equipment: anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution and side-impact airbags. In limited NHTSA testing the Aztek receives four out of five stars for passenger safety and three out of five stars for driver and rollover safety. The IIHS only perform frontal-offset crash tests, and the Aztek earns the second lowest rating of ?Marginal.? Unlike many crossovers and a lot of the in-class rivals, the Aztek doesn’t fare well when it comes to occupant protection.

EPA Fuel Economy

Pontiac Aztek: 17/24 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Interior customization
  • Optional all-wheel drive

You Won't Like

  • Visibility issues
  • Inferior interior materials
  • Appearance

Sum Up

Poor performance and handling thingy lags behind refined classmates.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Hyundai Santa Fe
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  • Toyota Highlander
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  • Honda CR-V

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