Suzuki Sidekick

The Suzuki Sidekick was introduced to the North American market in 1989, although it was originally launched in Japan as the Suzuki Escudo. It was also known as the Vitara in many other markets around the world. The name Sidekick was used in North America for only the first generation of the vehicle. When the second generation was launched in 1999, Sidekick was dropped, and the vehicle was renamed the Vitara, putting the North American model in line with the rest of the world.

More on the Suzuki Sidekick
Suzuki Sidekick Origins

The North American Suzuki Sidekick was manufactured in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada as part of the CAMI project, which was a joint undertaking between Suzuki and General Motors. It was designed as a rear-drive or all-wheel drive offroad vehicle in response to the popularity of the Suzuki Samurai. Its purposes was to allow Suzuki to offer a larger offroad vehicle.

When the Suzuki Sidekick was first launched in the North American market, only the all-wheel drive version was available. The two-wheel, rear-drive version was introduced a year later.

About the Suzuki Sidekick

When the Sidekick was introduced, drivers could choose between a two-door hardtop and convertible sport utility vehicle (SUV). There were three trim levels to choose from: the base level and the more powerful JX and JLX trim levels. The base level was only available as a soft top convertible equipped with two-wheel drive, while the two higher trim levels came with all-wheel drive only.

All three trim lines of the Suzuki Sidekick were equipped with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that provided 80 horsepower. The standard transmission was a five-speed manual, while a three-speed automatic was an option. The JX and JLX trim lines were offered as either a soft-top convertible or a hard-top SUV, and both were equipped with on-demand all-wheel drive systems that could be activated during driving.

Suzuki Sidekick Features

For the 1991 model year, a four-door version of the SUV was added to the model line for the Suzuki Sidekick. The wheelbase of the four-door model was extended by 11 inches compared to the two-door models. The full body was 16 inches longer and came in the JX or JLX trim lines only. It was equipped with the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, a five-speed manual transmission, on-demand all-wheel drive, and a new anti-lock braking system. The two trim lines differed in that a folding rear seat was standard in the JLX and optional in the JX trim level.

The lineup was modified again for the 1992 model year when the midlevel two-door convertible was dropped. The engine for the four-door Suzuki Sidekick now produced 95 horsepower. The engine in the two-door models remained the same and only produced 80 horsepower. An optional four-speed automatic transmission was also available for all four-door models. A two-wheel drive version was also introduced.

Suzuki Sidekick Evolution

There were a few changes to the Suzuki Sidekick until the model re-launched in 1996. As well as updating the original base Sidekick, a Sport version was added. The Suzuki Sport had a longer nose and was wider. It also came with two-tone paint and 16-inch wheels instead of the 14-inch wheels on the base model. The Sport received a much more powerful engine, as well as some cosmetic changes. The engine in the new Sport was a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 120 horsepower. All standard versions of the Suzuki Sidekick were equipped with the updated engine that produced 95 horsepower. The upgraded engine was included in 1995 for all versions of the Suzuki Sidekick.

In 1996, for the 1997 model year, a new edition of the Suzuki Sidekick was added to the lineup. This was a two-wheel sport wagon that came in the JX trim level. For all vehicles, the three-speed automatic or five-speed manual remained as the standard choices, while the four-speed automatic transmission was an option. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes were also available on all models.

Very little was changed for the 1998 Suzuki Sidekick as plans were underway for the launch of the new generation for 1999. With the launch of this version, Suzuki dropped the Sidekick name for the North American market. The new generation of all versions of the SUV was renamed to the Suzuki Vitara. The Sport edition was also terminated at the time that the renaming occurred.

Select a Suzuki Sidekick Year

1998 Suzuki Sidekick

SUV, Utility/Offroad

1997 Suzuki Sidekick

SUV, Utility/Offroad

The 1997 Suzuki Sidekick is a mini sport utility vehicle (SUV) that falls neatly between a truck and a car.

1996 Suzuki Sidekick

SUV, Utility/Offroad

The 1996 Suzuki Sidekick is an off-road vehicle manufactured by the Japanese automaker.

1995 Suzuki Sidekick

SUV, Utility/Offroad

With a boxy design and choice of hard- or soft-top styling, the 1995 Suzuki Sidekick has a unique look and a distinctive appeal to some drivers.