The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara is one of the stronger values in the compact SUV class. It has a standard 4-cylinder engine and a more powerful available V6 with slightly revised styling. I drove the 230-hp 3.2L V6 with a 5-speed automatic. This not-so-small-feeling SUV seats five and has a side-hinged rear cargo door.
The V6 builds speed gradual, has decent reserve power for passing and offers a firm ride. Gauges are large and clear. Audio and climate controls are mounted high and were within easy reach with large knobs and clearly marked buttons. The car was equipped with keyless access and starting, but can also be started with a key, which I preferred.
The cabin is sharp with a blend of hard plastic surfaces and padded panels. The car felt and looked classy for a compact SUV. The leather upholstery gave it a particularly rich-feeling.
Headroom was sufficient, even for a more than six-foot tall test driver. Leg room is adequate, too. My petite wife had no trouble stepping in. The seats were comfortable. Thick rear roof pillars and tall front headrests obstruct rear views. But the rear headrests can be retracted to below the driver’s sight line.
Space is good behind the rear seat, so it wasn’t necessary to choose between a baby stroller (featured here) and my golf clubs. The rear seat backs fold easily without removing the headrests. The side-hinged cargo door is easier for smaller folks to open and close, and my wife was happy. Taller people won’t hit their heads, and so I was happy.
If the door was hinged on the driver’s side, it would make loading and unloading more American-friendly. The Suzuki is assembled in Japan where traffic is opposite of the United States. Passenger-compartment storage space is more than adequate.
When I first returned to the United States from the Japan 14 years I bought a Geo Tracker. It’s basically the same car as the Vitara with a different name. My family made good use of the Tracker; we really loved that little work horse. I was excited to drive the same car and to learn how far Suzuki has brought this vehicle.
Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper – 3 years/36,000 miles. Powertrain – 10 years/100,000 miles; Roadside assistance, 7-years/transferable.
Safety Features — Dual Surge Front/side Airbags; Electronic stationary program; Anti-lock brakes.
Gas Mileage (Estimates) — 18 mpg (city), 24 mpg (hwy);
Range — 313.2 miles (city), 417.6 (hwy).
Price As Driven — $23,919.