The Car Connection Suzuki Grand Vitara Overview
The Suzuki Grand Vitara is a compact sport-utility vehicle that originally replaced the Sidekick in Suzuki's lineup. With rugged, truck-like construction and rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, the Grand Vitara has more inherent hauling or off-roading ability than other compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, or Ford Escape.
The Grand Vitara was first introduced as a somewhat larger version of the two-door Vitara SUV, offering more interior space and a slightly more comfortable ride. By 2003, the Vitara was dropped from the lineup but the Grand Vitara continued mostly unchanged except for a few minor design refreshes. Grand Vitara models of this generation handle quite well but the ride can be somewhat unsettled and the 155-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 just can't put out enough torque to move along quickly, let alone with brisk traffic. Four-cylinder models of the same period, such as the CR-V or RAV4, feel more sprightly.
A second-generation Suzuki Grand Vitara was introduced for 2006 and while it was completely new it retained the more truck-like layout. The engine was bumped up to 185 hp and 2.7 liters but the Grand Vitara wasn't much more rapid and suffered from an indecisive five-speed automatic transmission. Even with these models, the ride could be quite choppy on pockmarked pavement and while the Grand Vitara handles quite well it's not a great choice for family touring on curvy roads. A four-wheel drive system with low range again gave the Grand Vitara impressive performance off-road, and with tight, rugged construction it felt up to the task.
The Grand Vitara got a number of changes for the 2009 model year. With 230 horsepower, from a new 3.2-liter V-6, the Grand Vitara earned a more sophisticated feel on the road and quicker passing power; ride quality has also been much improved. By the 2012 model year, Suzuki had discontinued all other powertrain options except for a four-cylinder engine with about 155 hp, teamed to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Overall, the cabin is a little narrower and more upright than in other compact crossovers and seating is a little short and flat. With 4WD, Limited models get Hill Hold Control and Hill Descent Control—both electronic aids that help maintain stability.
With respect to cargo, the Grand Vitara offers an overall package that's much like that of crossover rivals—except for a cargo floor that's quite high, and a rear tailgate that opens sideways and holds the heavy spare, which hangs on the outside.
The Grand Vitara has never been lavishly equipped, but in recent years Suzuki has included extras like heated leather seats, heated mirrors, cruise control, and XM Satellite Radio on top Limited models. Electronic stability control has been standard on all models for many years, and just this past year Suzuki is offering a flip-up Garmin touch-screen navigation system, with gas-price, news, and weather information, on all but the base and Premium models.