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The Aztek: Not so Strange Anymore?
GMInsidenews.com
5/12/2004

Long the butt of jokes, the Aztek - that styling experiment at GM gone awry - is starting to look somewhat normal.

Nissan, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and even usually conservatively styled Honda have put out their own "stylish" vehicles that make the Aztek look tame - or at least a lot less radical - by comparison.

In the company of new cars like the Honda Element or Mistubishi Outlander, the Aztek is much less likely to draw stares, or leave people with gaping mouths or pointing and grinning. With Azteks even serving as rental car fare, people have gotten used to it.

Interestingly enough, the outlandish looks of the Import Brands models don't get much ridicule. They are said to be tailored for the "youth market", and its left at that, while the Aztek design could have only come from the GM Blanderizer mated to an already strange concept vehicle (Well, they DID take the painted cladding away from the concept...):

No one would suggest that perhaps the styling team in charge of the Element was just as influenced by Marketing Suits and Beancounters as the Aztek was.

Debate on whether the Aztek has been unfairly blasted because it is a GM while equally "exotic" Imports get a "pass" aside, the fact is that the Aztek is in some funky company now. And it gets funkier by the year, while the Aztek is actually turning down the volume and getting...classier?

That's right - less screaming taxi cab yellow and fire truck red, and more subtle, mature colors to tone down the sharp, angular styling, and painted cladding that kills the harsh and unattractive contrast between color and black/gray plastic that the Honda Element actually embraces.

The "Failure" of the Aztek is odd in a way -- it seems that GM was not the only one to think that it looked good before launching it. It is hard to believe that the Honda Element, Subaru Baja and Mitsubishi Outlander weren't at least somewhat inspired by the looks and versatility of the Aztek. Who knows, if the Aztek had been priced 5,000 dollars cheaper, perhaps the Aztek would have been more popular with the youth market it was targeted at, and people at the Car Magazines would have decided that it was good, and simply something they, with their balding pates and salt & pepper beards just couldn't understand (or does that only apply to "hip" Import brands?).

In a market where it blends in better, the Aztek, with its heavy rebates and more subdued colors and cladding - but still its fair share of uniqueness - actually makes for a more appealing choice on the Pontiac lots.

So does this mean that we should hold out hope that the Aztek will get a new 3.5L or 3.9L VVT engine with modern power punch to match its modern looks and "Rally" package inspiration, or that it will suddenly become a best-selling hit that takes the market by storm with people looking for a fuel efficient SUV in these days of 2 dollar gasoline? In a word, no. GM isn't known for heaping money on vehicles it has deemed to be "lost cause" material. The best we can hope for is more meaningless "Rally" updates that may be attractive and neat but are as functional as the Grand Am SC/T's hoodscoops, and equally impotent at drawing in new customers who probably wouldn't notice the cosmetic differences anyway.

What we (and Pontiac) can hope for is that the Aztek will actually go out with some dignity. Perhaps that its functional, and yes, even attractive interior and almost over the top versatility -
- will get the respect it deserves. Looking back, I doubt many who haven't already had their opinions molded by the Auto Media will remember the Aztek as anything any more radical in the looks department than the Trans Sport "Dustbuster" Minivan that came before it.

Instead, it may well be remembered as a historically significant vehicle that helped start the whole "versatile crossover" craze. And that deserves at least a bit of respect. Even if it left us with a bevy of strange-looking vehicles from the other Automakers.







Aztek Link
 

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Even GM execs admit that the Aztec is ugly, and that it missed its mark. It is not a victim of anti-GM bias, but it is the product of indecisive leadership micromanaging the design process, and restricted development budgets. The Aztec was initially intended to be a vehicle like the upcoming Torrent, a mid-sized, crossover SUV, with an affordable price tag. Budget restrictions forced the design to be uspsized and fitted to an outdated minivan platform. Proportion and design intent were compromised and lost. If the media and public were so biased against GM, why is the Vibe (similarly styled as the Aztec, except smaller, much cleaner, and more true to its original intent) such a success for Pontiac?

The Aztec, and the various cladded, and extrovertedly styled import crossovers that you site, also fall victim to what's going on in design schools. If you've ever visited or seen work from CCS, in Detroit, or Art Center, in Pasadena, you have witnessed that most of these future designers are being encouraged to create monstrosities, in an attempt to design the next "big-thing". That's not to say that these students are not talented. It just seems to me that the people running these programs don't appreciate the elegance of simple forms, and graceful proportions. Robert Cumberford, Automobile Magazine's Design Editor, wrote an article about this very thing, a few years ago.

Fortunately, with designs such as the Mazda 6, Solstice, C6, RX8, 300 C, and 350Z, car companies are showing that they still have some understanding of good form development.
 

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By the way: I think that the Murano is classy and hot, in a way that the Aztec never could be. From its well built (with real aluminum trim), and designed interior, to its powerful motor, Murano easily outguns Aztec, and Rendevous. It comes pretty close to surpasing the 6-cyl SRX, as well. Speaking of power, the Aztec never offered more than a 184 HP motor. What's up with that?????

As for starting the crossover trend, the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forrester, and Ford Escape all preceded the Pontiac Aztec, in the marketplace. Let's not forget the AMC Eagle, Mitsubishi Expo LR-V, and Civic Wagon. These cars all had the wagon/minivan/truck/car thing going on for decades before the current crop of crossovers.
 

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Sorry, the Aztek is not a victim of anti-GM bias (this coming from someone who loves GM and has only owned GM vehicles). The Element and the Quest are really ugly but the Aztek is the worst by far. The Element would look good if the gray plastic that looks like it's going to swallow it whole just was painted to match the rest of the vehicle. The Outlander grille is ugly but it's not that bad. The Murano is about the best styling a SUV has ever had IMO. But, to its credit, GM has made the Aztek much better looking than it was.
 

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Not only is it strange but it remains one of the ugliest vehicles ever made. The fact that this wasn't made by Mitsubishi (currently the host of the worst designed cars on the planet) shouldn't be a cause to celebrate that it is starting to look normal.

Face it, you can cover a stinking pile of dog doo with a host of things, but it remains a stinking pile. The Aztek is no different. It shouldn't have been produced and the fact that it lingers isn't a cause to throw a party. My guess is that the Aztek should be rebadged as a Cadillac Entry Level sport utility and next to the ugly lineup that resides in the land of the Crest, the Aztek might actually sell like it was supposed to!
 

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ok, the a$$tek looks bad, but so does the element. I REALLY can't decide wich one is worse...
as for the quest, well, that has to be the ugliest thing around. the murano is not far behind
 

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Originally posted by chev454ls@May 13 2004, 12:04 AM
The new styled Nissan Quest is one of the ugliest vehicles on the road right now.
I second that!

The Quest makes the Aztek look positively beautiful, especially on the inside.

Nissan/Infiniti has to be cranking out some of the ugliest stuff you can buy right now...G35 Coupe not withstanding.
 

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There is absolutely no justification to imply that the Azteq
is normal. It will go down in as one of the worst design
executions of all time. The sooner this sad, sorry looking
example of what was wrong with GM several years ago
dies, the better off they will be.
Honestly, living in Finland I am so thankful I never will see
one here. I saw enough when I lived in the states to get
a permanent case of nausea.
 

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If they had changed the ugly double grille after initial reaction, then they might have been able to save the Aztek [Why do people insist on spelling it AzteC?]

The rest of it isn't all that bad (especially after the first update). But the front is horrible.
 

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The Aztek is actually quite popular in my area... Everyone who dos have one loves it, and says it is the best vehicle they have had!

In my opinion: just change the front, like Rex said.... ;)
 

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Aztek has grow on me, I thought the APV-transport was very different when it first came out in 89?, and bought one in 93. It was a good van.
Rendezous is basicly the same but a little different sheet metal and it is loved by everyone. I friend had a loaded Rend for about two year until she unload it for a new Grand Prix last summer
The Element and Santa Fe wis worst looking
 

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i'm one of the few who can actually say he likes the look of it, especially now (with the all-one colour body). at $5000 less i'da bought one for sure (vibe was more in my price range though). it's not beautiful, but i find the lines interesting, which makes it stand out. can't tell you how many CRV's or RAV4's i saw yesterday, but i know i saw three new azteks (yellow, grey, and black), and two older ones (black and red). it was a little hampered too (especially in the regards of the 20something generation) by being too minivan like. i guess no 5-speed exists to mate to that engine, but that woulda gone a long way to make it more affordable AND more fun.
 

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I agree that there are more pleasing-looking vehicles on the road, but the Aztek is not a total lost cause. My friend owns one, and of course I berated him for buying one, despite the fact that it was made by General Motors: "What the hell were you thinking?!"

However, after driving around in it many times (and even driving it a few times), I've come to appreciate what GM was thinking when it made this vehicle. It's actually quite functional in terms of providing surprising comfort for its passengers and managing cargo. It gives a surprisingly smooth and quiet ride. Don't get me wrong, it won't win any straight-line acceleration challenges, nor will it bring you through the twisties with any great ease. But if you can appreciate the function of it all, then it's actually quite good at what it does. (God, I hate hearing myself say that!). Yup, there are other vehicles that meet or exceed the Aztek's functional attributes, but it amazes me how much Aztek drivers love their Azteks. And they don't seem to be rationalizing, either!

If the exterior had been more attractively designed, and perhaps had they added a bit more pep, this coulda been a contender.
 

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Azteks have blended well over the years. I don't even really notice them anymore. I am almost tempted to get one as the deals are fantastic and the utility is very decent. They drive pretty well also and are perfectly reliable.
 

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i actually considering a used one as a 2nd car, but decided next year to get a silverado instead. only issue with me is the styling, that front end to me is really odd.. i actually got use to the lights but its rest of front end that i think needed help. now had the front end look more like this i'd had changed my opinion.
 

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what IS that IMPALAon20's? an aftermarket body kit? looks good. front end looks similar to the pursuit to me! pretty slick. maybe an aztek GX/P is in order! does GM use a supercharged version of the aztek motor anywhere? would there be much to adding a S/C?
 

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:eatarrow: I WORK AT CHEVROLET DEALERSHIP AND WE ARE SELLING AZTEK LEFT AND RIGHT AS USED CARS :type:
 
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