The Suzuki Sidekick, as it was known in North America, was produced under various names from 1989 through 2003. The Sidekick was known by many names; in Europe it was the Vitara as well as North America after 1999, and the Suzuki Escudo, which was produced from 1989 through 2004. The project was a joint venture between General Motors and Suzuki. GM's version were known as the Geo Tracker, after 1998 they were the Chevrolet Tracker. In Canada they were the Pontiac Sunrunner, in Spain it was the Santana 300 and 350. It even carried a Mazda badge in the Japanese market.
For the North American market, the Suzuki Sidekick was first introduced in 1989. It was offered in two bodystyles including a two-door convertible or hardtop. The JA version was fitted with a 1.3-liter engine. The JX and JLX trim levels had a 1.6-liter engine rated at 80 horsepower and given a four-wheel drive system. The JLX version was removed from the line-up in 1990. A four-door version of the Sidekick was introduced in 1991, sitting on a larger wheelbase, and greatly enhancing the versatility and appeal of the vehicle. A Sport version appeared in 1996, featuring a 1.8-liter engine that was good for 120 horsepower. The package included 16-inch alloy wheels, a two-tone paint scheme, and dual airbags for safety.
1996 was the same year Suzuki introduced their X-90, which was basically a Sidekick with two doors, seating for two, a trunk, removable T-bar roof, and a much rounder body. Mechanically, they were identical. The X-90 never sold well as the public did not agree with the design. Production lasted for a short time, ending in 1998.
In 1999, the Sidekick/Escudo/Vitara was redesigned. For North America, the name 'Sidekick' was dropped in favor of Vitara. The four-seater vehicle could be purchased with a 1.3L, 1.6L, or 1.8L four-cylinder engine with carburetion or electronic fuel injection. Diesel engines were made available in Europe. A four-speed manual was standard, with a five-speed manual and automatic being offered as optional equipment. The Vitara came in two- or four-door models or soft-top 2-door models.
The Vitara remained in production in North America until 2003. Its twin, the Chevrolet Tracker, follwed the same fortune the following year. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007