Lemon Series: The Worst of the Worst, The Pontiac Aztek

Often, when we see a unique vehicle we expect it to be a great new model to drive. That’s not the case with the Pontiac Aztek.

This little SUV did not last very long and it could be one of the reasons that GM had to delete the Pontiac brand after many decades in the market. This awful SUV was only offered from 2001-2005 but that was long enough for us to hate it.

Ugliness, thy Name is Aztek

Even when this SUV showed up on the stage at the Detroit Auto Show it was not met with anything that seemed like a positive response from the crowd. That should have been a signal to the GM team to can this design, but they went forward with what can only be described as ugly. From the ninety’s minivan style to the massive wheel gap, this SUV is one you don’t want to see.

No Option for a Manual Transmission

Before the time when every vehicle was better with an automatic, the Pontiac Aztek was part of the mix. This means there should have been a manual transmission, but that wasn’t offered. Even the “sportier” GT trim of this SUV couldn’t be had with a stick shifter. This certainly turned off the previous generation of drivers.

Pontiac Did Not Deliver on the Marketing

Marketing for the Aztek showed it as a vehicle that was supposed to be a rugged off-road vehicle that could be taken out on the trails for some fun and adventures. Even with the body cladding that was offered on some models, this SUV was not meant for mud or much at all. We were duped and this vehicle was not up to the marketing hype that we were given.

We Should Have Known

Even though Chevrolet and GMC have had SUVs for many years before the Pontiac Aztek was created, it seems the Pontiacteam did not ask for input from their sibling brands. This was the first official SUV of the brand and it was awful. We should have expected it to be bad, but maybe it shouldn’t have been that bad considering the number of GM SUVs that had already enjoyed success in the market.

A Continuation of the Minivan Troubles

When you look at minivans that came from the GM brands prior to the Aztek being offered, you see engines that were turned, twisted, and stuffed into small areas. These engine areas were nearly impossible for owners to work on, which might have been the goal for GM. In the engine area of the Aztek, you saw a battery positioned below a bar that had to be removed after removing the fuse box just to change the battery.

Offered in 2WD Mostly

When the Pontiac Aztek arrived, it was only offered in 2WD, which was anFWD layout. This setup was not made for handling time on the trails. Later in the four years on the market, the Versatek AWD option was available to give drivers power to all four wheels, but it still lacked the capability desired.

Massive Safety Recalls from the Start

Not a single Aztek made it off the factory line and onto the roads without a safety recall being issued. These recalls weren’t simple and quick fixes that were only annoyances, they were serious safety troubles. These problems ranged from the fuel delivery system to airbags. The Aztek was known for catching fire and having faulty airbags which could take lives if not addressed immediately, and that’s immediately after being purchased.

Made in the Wrong Place

Not everything that is made by GM in Mexico is bad, but the Pontiac Aztek was doomed from the start. The plant that made this dog was the same one that gave us the Chevy HHR and Pontiac Sunfire, a pair of terrible cars that should have never made it to the market. The plant certainly has not had a good run of vehicles that we can admire and enjoy, and that’s an understatement.

The Cabin was Strange

Even if you could get past many of the other strange and ugly items on the Aztek, you were faced with a strange interior that seemed to be out of place. There were rubberized accents throughout the front of the vehicle which was supposed to make this vehicle feel more rugged, but they didn’t. This interior was the icing on the cake of what was certainly one of the biggest lemons we’ve ever seen.