Read AutoUncle's review of used Suzuki Grand Vitara
Elegant Range Rover inspired styling
Good value options and overall package
Impressive off-road performance
The petrol engines are a little noisy, especially the 2.0-litre
Gearbox could use some improvement, it's tough and slow
Driving position is poor
The Grand Vitara is the Japanese manufacturer's 4x4 offering, one that has been with us for some time now. That said there has been a lot of evolution since its initial release in 1988. Indeed, we are now on the third generation of the Grand Vitara, and it has grown not only in size, but in sophistication. Yet how does the latest incarnation stack up against the stiff competition?
Suzuki Grand Vitara Third Generation (2005 - 2014)
From the outside, the evolution of the Grand Vitara has largely been a success. The styling clearly evokes a budget Range Rover feel, and whilst the badge has little luxury value, this styling theme is a big step forward for Suzuki. What's most surprising about the budget 4x4 is how well it performs off-road, unlike most of huge lumbering giants so beloved by middle class mothers, it can actually traverse rough ground rather well. Most likely because it isn't weighed down by the finery that bejewels so much of the competition.
Unfortunately, the lack of refinement still shows itself beneath the bonnet. The petrol engines in particular are very loud once motorway speeds are reached, and if you're in the market for a cruising 4x4 this particular model may simply be too noisy for comfort. What's amazing is the fact that only one diesel engine is offered for the Grand Vitara, a rarity in the off-road world with its love of the turbodiesel. The 1.9-litre diesel is fairly mediocre and in terms of engine choice its the larger petrol engines that give the most satisfaction, the 2.4 and 2.7-litre petrols don't create as much noise pollution. The fuel economy is not great though, which is a big hit for a car appealing to a more budget niche.
The cabin is rather impressive in terms of the layout and everything seems very solidly built. The designers at Suzuki have done a great job in keep things cheap but robust, there is enough variation in the tones of plastic used to avoid that dire grey everywhere look. Things are comfortable on all fronts for passengers and driver alike, the seats have a good range of horizontal movement allowing some nice reclined comfort. That said, the roof is a little low, and one major flaw is that the driver's seat doesn't lower far enough. If you're tall, you could find problems fitting your knees comfortably below the steering wheel. The ride is good though, and the suspension does a great job of balancing on and off-road performance.
Competition and conclusion
Suzuki Grand Vitara
The third generation Grand Vitara is a big styling milestone for Suzuki, and it performs very well off-road with its purpose-built gearbox. Good suspension and dependable 4-wheel drive system. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to overwrite the hampering flaws. The engine selection is not efficient enough, and the smaller petrols are far too noisy. Combined with the discomfort the car may cause taller drivers the overall Grand Vitara package doesn't seem well thought out enough for the European market. Still, at least the price is low. The competition is leaps and bounds ahead as the Ford Kuga, Hyundai Santa Fe and the more luxurious Land Rover Freelander indicate.