2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 11, 2009

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara is more maneuverable than larger rugged SUVs, but there aren't many other reasons to recommend it.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Suzuki Grand Vitara in order to give you an expert opinion in this Bottom Line. Then TheCarConnection.com researched available road tests pertaining to the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara to help you get the most information as you shop for a new vehicle.

The five-passenger Grand Vitara compact SUV is reasonably civilized on-road, and it has the goods to perform decently off-road—including such features as a ladder frame and truck-style four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. The redesigned unibody construction, along with a fully independent suspension, results in a kinder, gentler ride and handling characteristics in the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara than the previous truck-based generation could muster.

The Suzuki Grand Vitara is available with a choice of engines for the 2009 model year. The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, and should deliver EPA fuel economy estimates of around 19 mpg city, 26 highway. The new 3.2-liter V-6 engine, replacing the 2.7-liter V-6 and available in the Grand Vitara XSport and Luxury models, produces 230 horsepower and 213 lb-ft of torque. Despite its 45-horsepower increase, the new V-6, according to Suzuki, is 20 percent cleaner than the old V-6 and delivers better fuel economy.

Also new on the 2009 Grand Vitara is the front bumper design and grill and interior enhancements, including illuminated steering wheel controls, a sliding front center armrest, visor extenders, HVAC controls, an upgraded audio system, and updated cloth upholstery.

Review continues below

The high seating position, combined with good forward and side visibility and especially precise, direct steering, makes the Grand Vitara surprisingly convenient and maneuverable on tight city streets, with a footprint for parking that's about the same as the smallest sedans. The ride quality is decent, but it can deteriorate and get bouncy over choppy pavement. Outside city limits, the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara doesn't handle or brake as well as expected—partly due to its heavy 3,700-pound curb weight—and the high seating position exaggerates the modest body lean in sharp corners.

Cargo space is a letdown; the cargo floor is higher than expected, and the heavy, old-style side-opening tailgate can be difficult when parallel-parked or when you're trying to hold on to grocery bags with one hand. The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara also has front seats that are a little short in proportion for taller occupants, but the backseat has enough legroom for adults—only two though, as the body is quite narrow.

Unlike its competition, the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara has the underpinnings for serious off-roading. An available, dual-range, Four Mode four-wheel-drive system includes a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing for off-road use—or a fully automatic single-mode version.

Front-side and side-curtain airbags are standard on the Grand Vitara, along with anti-lock brakes and stability and traction control systems. The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara earned four-star ratings in frontal impact and five stars in side impact from the federal government, but it hasn't been tested by the insurance-supported IIHS.

The XSport features keyless entry and start, fog lamps, roof rails, alloy wheels, and an upgraded sound system. The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara Luxury adds heated leather seats, a hard-shell tire cover, and wood-grain trim. New features on all models include automatic climate control and a remote fuel-door release.

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2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Styling

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara scores slightly above average—if you're looking to make a rugged statement.

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara sports clean, if forgettable, lines. For the new year, the Grand Vitara receives a new front bumper design and grill and interior enhancements, including illuminated steering wheel controls, a sliding front center armrest, visor extenders, HVAC controls, an upgraded audio system, and updated cloth upholstery.

According to MyRide.com, the Suzuki Grand Vitara possesses "clean, hard lines that appeal to those who want refined, mainstream styling in their SUVs." Kelley Blue Book says the Suzuki Grand Vitara "applies traditional SUV styling cues to a scaled-down package with just the right rounding of contours to yield a clean and contemporary appearance." Motor Trend is substantially more impressed with this Suzuki 2009 exterior, calling it "arguably the best looking car in its class."

According to Kelley Blue Book, "silver plastic accents on the base and XSport are replaced by leather and faux wood in the Luxury model," but to the tester at MotherProof, "the rear of cabin proved to be very basic." Edmunds says "flowing lines abound, with gauges taking up residence in a multilayered cluster with simulated aluminum trim." They add "the Limited's leather is very nice to look at."

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2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Performance

When it comes to performance, the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara meets with mixed reviews.

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara may be good for off-road expeditions, but overall it’s only average.

Addressing the new 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, Edmunds says it “makes 166 horsepower,” and getting “from zero to 60 mph takes 10.2 seconds, slightly slower than the last all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V we tested.” Motor Trend notes, “Merging on the freeway and climbing hills requires only modest throttle input, as does passing on the freeway,” adding, “What hampers the Grand Vitara…is the old-school four-speed transmission. In most situations it's not a problem, but if you hit an incline on the freeway, things get ugly.”

The Grand Vitara’s new four-cylinder engine can be teamed to a standard five-speed manual transmission or a new four-speed automatic transmission, while the V-6 is matched to a standard five-speed automatic transmission.

In terms of fuel economy, Motor Trend reports the new four-cylinder “on regular-grade gas, got an average of 23.92 mpg in 90 percent highway driving, achieving a personal best of 24.56 mpg.”

According to Edmunds, the 3.2-liter V-6 isn’t "necessarily a top choice for major towing duty, the Grand Vitara can tug up to 3,000 pounds." If this Suzuki 2009 motor seems to lack power, Motor Trend suggests "torque may be the culprit, as the Grand Vitara's peak twist resides at 4,500 rpm."

ConsumerGuide reports that "highway passing can take patience with the automatic transmission, which downshifts readily for more power," and "the manual transmission doesn't change gears smoothly when rushed." According to Cars.com, "the four-wheel-drive system has a Low range and is intended for use only on slippery surfaces."

Kelley Blue Book notes "hard cornering does elicit some body roll, but not an excessive amount." According to Car and Driver, however, once it leaves the pavement, the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara really shines: "off-road, the Grand Vitara was pure Viagra, nearly as solid and capable as the Jeep." ConsumerGuide reports "marked body lean but good grip in fast corners," adding that "steering is nicely weighted and the turning circle is commendably tight, but test AWD models exhibited some front driveline binding when turned fully to either side" and "firm, easy-to-modulate brakes provided good stopping control."

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2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Comfort & Quality

Fit and finish earn kudos for the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara, but the lack of refinement leaves a lot to be desired.

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara feels smaller but better finished than many rivals.

Kelley Blue Book says "comfortable front seats provide good lateral support while the seatbacks of the 60/40-split rear bench offer adjustable reclining and room for two six-foot adults or three kids." ConsumerGuide reports that Suzuki 2009 "leather-upholstered seats have an overly firm cushion and insufficient lumbar support," adding that "cloth seats are softer but also need more lumbar support."

Edmunds contends that Suzuki Grand Vitara "interior storage compartments are lacking...luggage capacity is a meager 24.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up." According to ConsumerGuide, "space is good behind the rear seat.” Cars.com observes that "modest cargo space behind the rear seat can be expanded from 23.4 to 50.2 cubic feet by folding down the split rear seat."

Motor Trend says the "fit and finish is solid, with no squeaks, rattles, or untoward panel gaps," but "the seats feel like airliner surplus in comfort and material quality" on the Suzuki Grand Vitara.

ConsumerGuide notes "moderate road, bump, and wind noise," which "increases markedly above 65 mph." Car and Driver comments that the Suzuki 2009 engine is "far louder at idle than any other engine here.” However, ride quality stands as a positive. Edmunds reports that "city driving feels smoother and more carlike compared to other body-on-frame truck-based SUVs.”

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2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Safety

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara earns good—but not outstanding—scores on safety.

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara offers respectable crash protection and a comprehensive list of safety features.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, the Grand Vitara receives the highest rating of "good." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives Suzuki’s small SUV four stars for front impacts and five stars for side impact protection.

The tester at MotherProof "was impressed with the [Suzuki] Grand Vitara's lineup of airbags, which includes dual-stage front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags," adding that "it's good to know Suzuki doesn't skimp on safety to keep prices down." TheCarConnection.com's editors would like to point out that side bags are being phased in as a requirement.

This review also reports that this Suzuki 2009 vehicle is "outfitted with an electronic stability system and a tire pressure monitoring system." According to Edmunds, standard safety features "are plentiful and advanced for a low-cost compact vehicle, and include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, full-length side-curtain airbags and front seat side-impact airbags."

According to Consumer Guide, "rear visibility is hindered by thick rear roof pillars and tall front headrests; the rear headrests retract below the driver's sight line."

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2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Features

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara is well equipped for the price, but lacks some options available in rival models.

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara offers some newer tech gizmos as dealer-installed accessories; otherwise, it’s typical stuff.

For the new year, the Grand Vitara receives interior enhancements, including illuminated steering wheel controls, a sliding front center armrest, visor extenders, HVAC controls, an upgraded audio system, and updated cloth upholstery.

Cars.com states that standard equipment on this year's Suzuki Grand Vitara "includes air conditioning with micron air filtration, a tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry, cruise control, an in-dash CD player, and power windows, locks and mirrors." Trims, according to ConsumerGuide, include "Base, XSport, and Luxury models." Kelley Blue Book reports that all Suzuki Grand Vitara models "include a generous set of standard features...even the rear-drive [Suzuki Grand Vitara] base model with a five-speed manual transmission includes power windows, locks and mirrors, 16-inch wheels, automatic digital climate control, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, multifunction steering wheel on a tilt column and cruise control."

"Beyond the specific feature enhancements included in each of its three trim levels, Grand Vitara factory extras are relatively few,” reports Kelley Blue Book. However, "step up to the XSport or the leather-trimmed Luxury model and you gain a five-speed automatic transmission, upgraded audio package with six-disc CD changer, power sunroof, roof rails, SmartPass keyless entry and starting, fog lamps, alloy wheels and more." The reviewer here notes "key dealer-installed options include Bluetooth wireless connectivity, XM Satellite Radio and an iPod integration kit."

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6.6
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 6.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 8.0
Features 7.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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