Now ending its first decade in production, the Suzuki Grand Vitara is a strong contender in the compact sport utility vehicle category. Its value pricing, strong warranty, good cabin and cargo space and satisfactory overall driving have prompted more potential buyers to give it appropriate consideration.
My weekly drive was the Grand Vitara X-sport. It had a 2.7-liter V6 engine, 185 horsepower and a five-speed automatic transmission.
With its two-wheel drive and sunroof additions, it’s one of eight configuration of the vehicle positioned in the class featuring more heavily marketed and more expensive competitors like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota Rav4, Mercury Mariner and Jeep Liberty.
Despite varying marketing campaigns, many compact SUVs seem remarkably similar. None are touted as speed burners or comfort machines. But as utilitarian vehicles for outdoors enthusiasts and families, the Grand Vitara stands out among its competitors in a few areas.
The Vitara has good overall vision, a spacious cabin, and straightforward controls. Its side-hinged, rear cargo door provides quick and efficient access and the Suzuki has the feel of a multi-use ranch vehicle. Beyond its appealing price, it may not do anything as the best in its class. But it does most things well. Add it all up, and Suzuki’s econo-priced SUV is impressive.
There are a few exceptions. I didn’t drive the manual transmission version, but it reportedly does not shift smoothly. Nor does the automatic Vitara. It only maneuvered through gears after an added pull or push.
Equally noticeable, the Grand Vitara isn’t quiet, even by SUV standards. There’s moderate road, bump and wind noise, particularly at highway speeds. Then again, the Suzuki is not a luxury sedan and there is some appeal — however unique — that a good workmanlike vehicle is bound to make some noise.
For its price point, the Grand Vitara is nicely presented. Gauges and large and cleanly designed and controls are efficiently positioned in a spacious cabin constructed with none-cheaping-looking plastic, cloth seats (leather seating is an option) and firm padding. There’s also ample head and legroom and entering and exiting the vehicle is not cramped.
The Grand Vitara is also a good choice for RVers. It’s flat towable, while class leaders like the Ford Escape and Toyota Rav4 are not.
The Weekly Driver: Suzuki Grand Vitara, 2008
Safety Features — Dual front airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, antilock brakes, antiskid system, tire-pressure monitor, daytime running lights.
Comfort and Convenience Features — AM/FM radio w/in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, air conditioning w/automatic climate control, tilt steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats, center console, split folding rear seat, power sunroof, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, tachometer, variable-intermittent wipers, rear defogger, intermittent rear wiper/washer, floor mats, keyless access and starting, cargo cover, automatic headlights, fog lights, rear privacy glass, roof rails.
Gas Mileage (Estimates) — 17 mpg (city), 22 mpg (highway)
Warranty — Bumper-to-Bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 7 years/100,000 miles (transferable); 24-Hour Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles; Corrosion 3 years, unlimited miles.
Price — $22,349.00