1989 marked the launching of Suzuki's first compact four wheel drive SUV. It was initially released as a two-door vehicle in convertible or hardtop. Its dimensions are a little larger than the Suzuki Samurai, but remained a lot denser than the other four wheel drive vehicles offered by Suzuki. Despite its compressed structure, the Sidekick remained true to Suzuki's tradition of delivering reliable off-road vehicles.
1989-1992: Experimental stage
The first engine offering came out in 1.3 liter JA; this remained as the base engine on Suzuki Sidekicks from 1989 to 1990. A more powerful four wheel drive was also offered as an upgrade; trim choices that came with it were the base JX and the more upscale JLX. During the late months of 1989, an 80-hp 1.6 liter, 8-valve, four cylinder engine became available to cater to the demands of the performance-seeking drivers.
In 1991, the base two-door Sidekick received a chassis revamp. The wheelbase was lengthened to make way for a four-door Sidekick offering. Even the engine received an upgrade when a 95 horsepower, 1.6 liter, 16-valve engine was introduced. 1991 also marked the introduction of rear antilock brakes for the Suzuki Sidekick.
Aside from the power boost that was introduced during the late part of 1991, the 1992 model year also boasted of dual overhead camshafts and automatic-locking front hubs. Although the JL four-wheel drive convertible option was dropped during that time, a two-wheel drive JS four-door Sidekick arrived. The three-speed unit remained for the four-wheel drive two-door models, but it was also during that time when a four-speed automatic transmission was optionally installed in four-door models.
1993-1995: Minor updates
During the 1993 to 1995 model years, the design and engine of the Suzuki Sidekick was somehow on a limbo. Primarily because, the initial concepts during the experimental stage proved to be a big hit in the market. In 1993, a few trim changes took place. In 1994, an antitheft alarm, tilt steering column, and center high-mounted stop lamps became the norm. In 1995, the two-door JX convertible models made the 95 horsepower engine as its base. The two-doors also received an update with their convertible tops, zip-out plastic side windows became standard.
1996-1998: Keeping up with technology
The Suzuki Sidekick struggled to keep up with the vast expansion of automotive technology. In 1996, the Sidekick was installed with dual airbags, and a four-wheel antilock braking system.
The new Sidekick Sport model was also introduced in mid-model year. It received an upgraded 1.8-liter engine that produces 120 horsepower. All the other models, however, maintained the original 95-horsepower engine. The Sport model featured a longer nose, fender flares, two-tone paint, 16-inch tires, and a wider general stance. The four-wheel antilock brake system was provided as an option.
In 1997, A new model called the JX Sport wagon joined the lineup. It was a sleeker and a more upper-class version of the previous Sidekick Sport. Automatic-locking front hubs were standard on the JX Sport, while all the others have manual-locking hubs.
The 1998 model year saw no changes from the previous year. This was in preparation for the all-new 1999 version of the Sidekick, which would be rebranded as the Suzuki Vitara.