61k Original Miles: 2003 Pontiac Aztek

Determining whether a vehicle deserves to wear the “classic” tag can sometimes be challenging. A candidate could be utterly stunning, offer breathtaking performance, or cocoon its occupants in a world of total luxury. This 2003 Pontiac Aztek probably doesn’t meet those criteria. Still, there’s no doubt that everyone has an opinion on one of the last new offerings from a manufacturer that has disappeared into the pages of automotive history. Our feature Aztek is a well-preserved survivor with a genuine 61,000 miles on the clock. It is listed here on SoCal Sportscars in Covina, California. You could drive away in this distinctive classic by handing the seller $6,995.

The Aztek represented Pontiac’s first foray into the world of the crossover SUV. That made it a ground-breaking vehicle for the company that should have been a sales success in an emerging market. General Motors projected annual sales of 75,000 Azteks per year, with 30,000 as its break-even point. However, at no time did the total come close. In 2003, only 27,354 buyers handed over their cash, which is only a few sales short of the record-setting 2002 figure of 27,793. General Motors hedged its bets with the Aztek, introducing a Buick cousin called the Rendezvous. I refuse to use the word “ugly” when describing any vehicle, but I readily admit there are more attractive vehicles than the Aztek. Each styling change that transformed the Aztek into the Rendezvous was minor, but taken as a whole, they made an enormous difference to its appearance. Our feature vehicle wears Light Spiral Gray Metallic paint that helps hide some of the often-criticized plastic trim pieces. The effect is an improvement over earlier examples, and the overall condition of this vehicle indicates it led a sheltered life in a dry climate. The paint remains consistent, with no signs of patchiness or physical damage. The panels are laser straight, with tight and consistent gaps. The acres of plastic haven’t succumbed to UV damage, while the alloy wheels and glass are flawless.

The Aztek’s interior looks excellent for a vehicle of this type with nearly two decades under its belt. Upholstered cloth surfaces are free from significant wear, physical damage, and stains. The carpet and wheel are equally impressive, and there is no crumbling plastic. The rear sliding trays have scuffs and marks but remain presentable and practical. Comfort and luxury remain Aztek’s strong points, with this example nicely equipped in a 2003 context. The buyer receives front airbags, air conditioning, power windows, power locks, a center console cooler, a rear defogger, and an AM/FM radio/CD player.

The seller supplies no engine photos, but the Aztek features a 3.4-liter V6 producing a healthy 185hp. That power feeds to the road via the front wheels and a four-speed automatic transmission. If the new owner pointed this classic at a ¼-mile, it would complete the journey in 17.3 seconds. That brings us to a fascinating point worth pondering. Pontiac also offered an AWD version of the Aztek, and you would think that the additional grip when launching off the line would allow it to produce a faster ¼-mile ET. However, the extra 264lbs carried by the AWD results in a time of 17.9 seconds. That graphically demonstrates the impact weight has on performance potential. The seller indicates this Pontiac has 61,000 miles on its odometer, but they don’t mention verifying evidence. If the reading is confirmed, that bodes well for the potential buyer. There are plenty of Azteks in the current market with more than 300,000 miles on the clock, which run and drive well. That suggests this one should offer its next owner many years of faithful service if appropriately maintained. The vehicle is in excellent mechanical health, meaning the buyer could fly in and drive home in this beauty.

While the Pontiac Aztek has the honor of being “penned” by the same man that gave the world the C7 Corvette, it shares an important character trait with the legendary DeLorean. The latter could have faded into oblivion were it not for its starring role in the “Back to The Future” movie franchise. The Aztek could have suffered a similar fate if not for one serving as character Walter White’s vehicle of choice in the TV series “Breaking Bad.”  Some readers will question whether an Aztek deserves to grace the pages of Barn Finds, and that’s a fair point well-raised. I’m not going to try to convince you that the Aztek is the most beautiful car ever produced, but it isn’t the most unattractive. Recent history demonstrates that even unloved vehicles like the Suzuki X-90, the AMC Gremlin, and Pacer can develop a devoted following, and they wouldn’t be described as oil paintings. Will the Aztek become a future classic? Your guess is as good as mine, but as one of the last vehicles produced by Pontiac, I wouldn’t rule it out.

Comments

  1. Moparman Member

    “Mr. White, your vehicle has been repaired and is ready for pick up!” Breaking Bad was my first thought when I saw this before I read the description
    LOL!! :-)

    Like 16
  2. RayT Member

    All I can think of when I see one of these is the time I stopped at a store while driving an Aztek a little while before they were released. A couple was looking at it and the woman asked what it was. The man said: “That’s the new Pontiac Anthrax.”

    And of course it belongs on BF! Because a) it’s different, and therefore at least slightly interesting, and b) because someone out there must love it!

    Like 17
  3. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    2003 A Space Oddity. Should be launched and double parked next to the Tesla roadster.

    Like 6
    • Domenic DAlessandro

      One of the ugliest vehicles ever made.

      Like 9
  4. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    I thought I would never say it, but Azteks don’t look so bad these days, especially since so many present-day, smaller SUVs look quite similar.

    Like 26
    • Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

      My thoughts exactly 370zpp. There are some curiously styled vehicles out there nowadays. I attribute that partly to the fact that most manufacturers have multiple SUV’s, so there are tons of choices (especially compact SUV’s), each trying to grab your attention.

      Like 6
    • SubGothius

      Indeed, I remain mystified that the Nissan Juke is a smash hit while the Aztek was near-universally panned as ugly. A bellwether ahead of its time?

      Like 9
      • Steve

        I call it the Nissan ‘Joke’.

        Like 6
      • George II

        The Nissan “Juke” no doubt set a world record for the least alluring auto name ever produced.

        Like 3
    • Doug

      You read my mind .Use to make fun of GM for making it

  5. Vegaman Dan

    I see no difference between this Aztek and most of the CUV/SUV market offerings today. Change the tail lights a bit to look more insect or alien like and I wouldn’t know it from any Honda/Mazda/Ford crossover today.

    Ahead of its time when people weren’t ready for it.

    Like 13
    • JoeNYWF64

      This makes more sense to have today! Because it would be somewhat easier to spot this in a big parking lot. These days with so few colors available on vehicles & so many that are so lookalike, it could be a nightmare trying to find yours in a huge parkin lot – if it weren’t an Astek – tho the cookie cutter silver paint here does not help matters.

      Like 1
  6. Stan

    Cool vans. The Buick division had one the rendezvous. Great mountain/ski vans w the awd system optioned. 🎿 🏂

    Like 3
    • Rick

      I remember reading a review of the original Buick Rendezvous in one of the automotive magazines. The first Plus they listed was “Does not look like Pontiac Aztek.”

      Like 2
  7. Rw

    Needs small block Chevy , straight axle,3 on the tree and a Ford 9 in.

    Like 2
  8. Tom Heermans

    At somewhere between $6-7k, show me another vehicle that wil bring more reaction, good or bad.

    A Pacer just sold for over $20k, so here we have a bargain in the making

    Like 3
  9. Big C

    A Russian fellow at work had a red one. That was his baby! He was so proud of it. But then, when you only had a Skoda to compare it to? The Aztek was a spaceship.

    Like 5
  10. RMac

    My mother in law who described herself as”quirky” worked at Kaiser Pontiac in DeLand Florida they sold her a black one with camp interior and all that cladding telling her that car will make a statement that says “I do not care what you think” that sold her on it hers only had a 2.8 v6 in it and could barely keep a steady 70 mph on Fla interstates that was ok with her she would rive 55 in the fast lane just to piss off tourists she was a real piece of work god rest her soul

    Like 1
    • RALPH

      People who behave/drive like you described are huge reason to stay out of that idiot place forever. I will fly there, but damned if I am willing to put up with hateful, fat headed, butt wipes like the MIL you speak of…Jesus Christ! (please spare me the idiots like this damned sad woman!!! AMEN!)

      Like 7
      • Big C

        That’s why God created California. The fruits and nuts needed a place to drive.

        Like 4
      • MikeH

        Florida has the worst drivers in the US.

  11. RMac

    Camouflaged interior not camp
    But it did have a removable 6 pack cooler center console

    Like 2
  12. Cadmanls Member

    As I remember this was a totally different version of what was designed and by the time the corporate bean counters got done this was the result. Ended up pulling parts out of the existing production to assemble this car, aww truck, no suv. I think the powers to be at GM were not really happy with the Pontiac folks.

    Like 3
    • SubGothius

      Reckon the feeling was mutual there. But yeah, the Aztek concept was much neater and more coherent before the brass insisted it be adapted to the existing GM minivan platform among various other engineering and styling indignities for productions.

      Once saw a ‘shoop of an Aztek given a Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am black’n’gold color scheme replete with gold snowflake alloys and a screaming chicken decal on the hood, looked surprisingly sharp.

      Like 4
      • Marko

        Just realized that SubGothius has seen the same Aztek photo I refer to lower down in the comments.

        If I could build a similar Tans Am tribute, I would drive it forever.

        Like 1
  13. RMac

    Ralph I moved out of Florida because of tourists and the heat and humidity and shear flat land even though I lived in Clermont but my mother in law was a PITA for sure LOL

    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      RMac, As I sit here at 1:18am typing this, the winds around my house in Central Florida are at around 50mph. The good news is I still have power and no flooding, yet.
      Not fun for sure, but when it’s over, I will be back out on the bike path, riding my Trek, 12 months out of the year.

      Like 9
  14. DON

    When it comes to things like the Aztec , I get the impression that GM was trying to kill the brand slowly so people wouldn’t miss it. Make a bizarre looking ride that turned most people off from buying it. Sure some people would buy it, but more would buy the Buick version . The same with Oldsmobile. Shortly before their demise, Olds changed their logo – Why ? Instead of the familiar Rocket that everyone knew meant Oldsmobile, they make an odd shape that looked a bit like an “L” . When my wife bought her new 98 Intrigue, people asked if it was a Lexus. There was no Oldsmobile name plate anywhere on the car. Apparently Olds fans complained ,and the next year Intrigues had an Olds nameplate on the car – a very tiny one in the corner of the trunk lid – You had to look real close to see it ! I’ve always thought it was GMs way of trying to make the brand disappear.

    Like 4
    • SubGothius

      Ehh, I doubt GM mgt. would deliberately invest so much money to lose so much money intentionally. “Never ascribe to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence.”

      IMO their real brand-retargeting misstep in the ’90s was getting Buick and Oldsmobile exactly backwards. Olds should have doubled-down on being a traditional mature American posh-luxury marque (so no need to try countering that perception with a “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” slogan), allowing Buick to become the more sophisticated, high-tech and modern upscale marque that Olds tried to become, translating the longstanding perception of Buick as a “doctor’s car” to what modern doctors actually preferred and bought, which is what Buick eventually became by now anyway. Cadillac of course would combine all the best aspects of Olds, Buick and Pontiac, offering peak-level modern luxury, sophistication, and performance together.

      Like 2
  15. RMac

    370zpp
    I also ride my bike 12 months of the year here in Travelers rest SC and the rails to trails here go past waterfalls and views of the blue ridge mountains so…… to each their own I spent 20 years in Orlando and Clermont and that was enough for me glad you enjoy it!! Aztec is still ugly on that crummy minivan chassis

    Like 1
    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      RMac, sounds like you have some beautiful trails there. I am definitely jealous. And don’t get me wrong, I complain constantly about most things Floriduh. Unfortunately I am not in a position to do anything about it like you did.

      Azteks, even if they fit in better now aesthetically, are not for me either. Although when I reach the point where I no longer can easily get in and out of my Z, I might look for a Nissan Juke Nismo. Maybe. Safe biking.

  16. Car Nut Tacoma

    I love the Pontiac Aztek. I’ve always loved its styling. I would loved to have driven the car if given a chance to do so. I don’t get why some people hated the car. I thought it was Pontiac’s better ideas.

    Like 5
  17. DANIEL J GREEDER

    Great suv with the AWD!!! Unstoppable in the Sconnie winter! I had an ’03 AWD, equipped with the Pioneer sound system, rear audio controls too!
    I even had the tent/mattress option!! Ahead of its time for sure! Very dependable even with the 3.4!

    Like 2
  18. Troy

    Still ugly after all these years

    Like 3
    • Donnie L Sears

      Still running after all these years.

      Like 1
  19. Fender Unbender

    I bought an Aztek when they were new and I loved it, especially from the inside. It was an amazingly comfortable and easy to drive, the only thing it was lacking was in the power department. I traded it in on a Grand Prix GXP that took care of the performance issue. Fast forward to 3 years ago and I still really missed my Aztek, so I bought another. Of all the vehicles that this car guy has owned over the last 40 years (and driven hundreds more thru my job) this one is still my favorite one to jump in and drive. Like others have said, the looks have finally caught up with the times and if it wasn’t for the bad press this should have been a runaway hit. It just came out 20 years too soon.

    Like 4
  20. Steve

    This monstrosity pretty much put the nail in Pontiac’s coffin.

    Like 1
  21. Greg Gustafson

    These Azteks were ugly then; and they are ugly now!

    Like 2
  22. Witness to Tragedy

    A friend bought one. He figured an SUV is an SUV and since the dealer could not unload his collection of bright and shiny Aztecs, my friend was willing to acquire modern transportation at a significant discount. It seemed to run fine, though none of the other cars wanted to play with it.

    Like 2
  23. Chicago_Mikie Member

    If I ever come across a low mileage Aztek with heated seats, a sunroof and heads-up display I’m buying it! My search has shown that, as stated, many Azteks went many, many miles.

    Just a warning – going to the So-Cal Sportscars triggered my anti-virus program to stop a connection to a malicious site.

    • Fender Unbender

      Having heads up display was one of the main reasons I originally looked at an Aztek when they first came out.

  24. Terrry

    The Aztek’s only real crime is it’s ugly-certainly not the first nor the last car to be lacking in the “looks” department.

  25. Jerry Bramlett

    It was the answer to a question nobody asked.

    Ugly as sin, incredibly under-powered, and soon to be an orphan. Oh baby, baby! Take me here and take me now!

  26. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    I babysat for a neighbor who had one, not sure of the year, but it was loaded, complete with the headsup display. They told me to use their car to take the kid to the park, which I did. I couldn’t understand all the negative hoopla over this car. It was a nice car to drive. Ugly is subjective.

    Like 5
  27. Chris Londish

    The first time I saw one of these was on Breaking Bad, I thought it was a construct of the producers what a horrible looking object if they tried to put those on the market in Australia they would go out the back door real quick, like the SSang Yong

  28. 67Firebird_Cvt Member

    I think the question of whether this should be included on Barn Finds was answered by the 40 plus comments. :)

    Like 7
  29. Brad460 Member

    About 2010 I was looking for a good used car as a 2nd vehicle. Wanted acceptable mileage, good room, higher driving position, practicality etc.

    Knowing that pretty much everyone else hated them azteks depreciated quickly which worked to my advantage. I was able to find a fairly new late model aztek with very low miles.

    Yes I didn’t care for the looks but it worked well for us, decent on gas, and held up pretty well. Traded it 4 years later and took a very small financial hit.

    Like 1
  30. Marko

    I kind of like the look of the Aztek with the unclad abs plastic body panels. Looks a little more modern.

    I am not sure where I came across the photo, but there was one that was painted black, slightly lowered, and had wider Pontiac WS-6 style aftermarket snowflake wheels, with a small Trans Am Firebird decal, kind of like a W78 Special Edition, without the gold pinstripes. It looked pretty rad.

    Like 1
  31. Emel

    Seems like the ugliest vehicles get the most comments. lol
    I’ll add mine.
    Yuck, yuck & yuck.

  32. Merrill Newman

    Just pop a hubcap, poke a hole in the muffler, put on your Heisenberg fedora and live it up!

    Like 1
  33. JoeNYWF64

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