- Agile in-town maneuvers
- Upright seating position
- Serious off-road abilities
- Bouncy ride and suspension
- Tailgate-mounted spare tire
- Archaic four-speed automatic
- Not very fuel efficient for its size
The 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara offers real off-road ability and is maneuverable in town, but there are few other reasons to choose it.
The 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara compact SUV holds five passengers, has civilized on-road handling, and brings more off-road capability than many of its competitors-including such features as a ladder frame and available four-wheel drive with a low range, more like a truck than a crossover. Redesigned for the 2009 model year, its unibody construction and fully independent suspension provide a kinder, gentler ride and better handling characteristics than previous truck-based Grand Vitara models could offer. Starting at a base price of $18,999 (plus $795 freight), the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara faces off against stiff competition from the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, the Ford Escape, the Chevrolet Equinox, and the Hyundai Tucson.
The 2010 Grand Vitara has clean if forgettable lines that are square-cut without being domineering. It was extensively upgraded last year with a new front bumper and grille design, along with some thoughtful interior enhancements: illuminated controls on the steering wheel, visor extenders, a sliding front center armrest, and an upgraded audio system.
For the 2010 model year, the Suzuki Grand Vitara is available with two engines: a four and a V-6-as are many of its competitors. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 166 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque. It delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 highway with the five-speed manual, and 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway with the four-speed automatic. The larger 3.2-liter V-6 engine, offered in the 2010 Grand Vitara XSport and Luxury models, produces 230 horsepower and 213 lb-ft of torque, and is paired with a more modern five-speed automatic transmission. It is rated by the EPA at 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway-the mileage for either engine is bested by others in the class.
Unlike some competitors, the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara provides legitimate underpinnings for drivers who take their off-roading seriously. Suzuki offers a dual-range, Four Mode four-wheel-drive system that includes a two-speed transfer case, providing low-range gearing for uses like climbing rough trails. There's also fully automatic single-mode all-wheel-drive option.
Drivers sit high in the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara, and benefit from good forward and side visibility from the large, vertical windows. The Grand Vitara is pleasantly easy to drive, with precise, direct steering making it surprisingly maneuverable in tight urban traffic. It's easy to park, too, taking up only as much space as a compact car. The ride, while decent on smooth roads, can fall apart quickly when the pavement turns choppy. At speed, the handling and braking aren't as good as expected-partly because at 3,700 pounds, the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara is one heavy compact SUV. And that same high seating position makes modest body roll seem more extreme during tight turns.
The front seats hold average-sized passengers comfortably, but taller occupants may find the seat cushions short. The rear seat, however, has surprisingly good legroom-for two only, due to the narrow cabin. People buy crossovers to carry stuff, and the 2010 Grand Vitara's cargo space is a definite letdown. The floor sits higher than expected, and because the tailgate opens to one side, it's challenging to access with one hand or when parked on slopes. It's also worth noting that the heavy tailgate flips out to the street, with its hinges on the right, rather than to the curb.
The 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara has decent safety equipment but hardly rates at the top of the class. It offers the expected anti-lock brakes, as well as stability and traction control systems as standard, along with front-side and side-curtain airbags. The Grand Vitara earns four-star ratings for driver and passenger frontal impacts, and five stars in driver and passenger side impacts, when it was tested by NHTSA. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), on the other hand, rates it "good" (the top rating) for front impacts, but only "average" for side impacts.
The Base model of the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara comes in real-wheel drive only, but all-wheel drive is available or standard on all other models. The Premium model is the better-equipped four-cylinder, with optional four-speed automatic and four-wheel drive. The XSport and Luxury models upgrade to the V-6 engine and offer increasingly comprehensive feature sets. The 2010 Grand Vitara XSport features alloy wheels, fog lamps, roof rails, and a better sound system. The Grand Vitara Luxury model adds to that a hard-shell tire cover, wood-grain trim, and heated leather seats. All models now include remote keyless entry, a remote fuel-door release, and automatic climate control.