The Pontiac Aztek was released as a 2001 model following one of GM’s biggest build-ups before the reveal. The team behind the Aztek certainly hit the mark when asked to deliver a unique vehicle, but maybe not in the right way. Here are several reasons to avoid owning an Aztek, which ultimately led to its quick end to production in 2005.
The Aztek is only available with an automatic transmission. Base model or GT? Doesn’t matter, you’re still getting an automatic.
It was Pontiac’s first official SUV. You should know better than to trust the first run of something, especially when it comes from Pontiac. The pressure to build something innovative that could turn heads and direct the industry may have led to the disastrous outcome of the final product.
During its first appearance at the Detroit Auto Show, the crowds were not wooed by the exaggerated and boxy design of the Aztek. There is nothing sleek or sexy about its styling. In fact, the Aztek resembles an early nineties minivan with enormous wheel gap and unsightly trim.
There are a number of small annoyances that pop up when working on any car, but the Aztek seems to have them in the worst areas. For example, the battery is situated below a bar that must be removed to replace it. In order to take the bar off, the engine fuse box must be removed first. A 30-second job takes several minutes. Thanks, Pontiac.
The early marketing campaigns dressed the Aztek up to look like a rugged, off-road-type vehicle. It was referred to as a “Sport Recreational Vehicle” and “perfect for off-road adventuring.” Just take one look, and you can tell that thing was not meant for the mud.
The interior had as much of an uncoordinated style as the body of the car. The patterned fabric seats seem out of place, and the rubberised accents throughout are almost a joke of how “rugged” this little SUV can be.
The included tent and blow up mattress package meant that drivers could get cozy in the back of their own car. A split tailgate had a pair of seats and cup holders for those tailgating or camping outings. Despite the fact that having perfectly-fitting camping gear already with your car is pretty neat, the focus of the car went entirely to being the perfect party wagon. The centre console even doubles as a removable cooler (we assume to get you through walking home after your Aztek leaves you stranded).
Okay, there was a Versatek AWD option available, but the front-wheel drive option was ridiculous. You shouldn’t be mad at Pontiac for this. Blame the EPA for even naming it an SUV for its size class. The only good thing about having the 2WD model was that it was faster than the AWD. When both were tested going from 0-60mph, the 2WD hit it in 8.5 seconds, while the AWD took 9.1 seconds.
Once a GM vehicle leaves the factory, there is almost an immediate recall issued. With the Azteks, owners were having issues within the fuel delivery system, prompting large recalls. The danger involved the leaking fuel catching the vehicle on fire. Airbags and other safety features were later recalled.
The Aztek was proudly assembled in Mexico in the same plant that put out some other not-so-stunning GM rides like the Chevy HHR and the Pontiac Sunfire. The fact alone that it was made in Mexico would not be so bad, but the overall quality is too poor to ignore. So bad was the response to the Aztek hitting the market that it never hit even half of its annual sales forecasts.