Grand Vitara has the right looks, size and value
The most eye-catching difference with the Grand Vitara is that where Suzuki’s previous small SUVs were boxy, the latest version is rounded, handsomely sleek and big enough to go head-to-head against other compacts like Toyota’s RAV4 or the Honda CR-V.
Styling aside, the Grand Vitara has an important feature that’s not readily visible. It’s a genuine, integrated ladder-frame design — the sort of chassis that’s just not found in many of today’s “grocery-getter” small sport-utility vehicles. And it’s this frame that braces the body shell to ensure rattle-free, go-anywhere ruggedness.
The engine is another noteworthy item. A 2.7-litre V6, rated at 185 horsepower, is standard equipment — and it’s one of very few in the non-luxury compact segment of today’s SUV market. The downside? Even some rivals’ 4-cylinder engines are quicker and quieter than the Suzuki’s six.
The base transmission is a 5-speed manual. It’s found on the entry-level JA and mid-range JX models and an optional 5-speed automatic is available for either one. The automatic is the only transmission available in the top-line JLX.
While the JA base model continues with highway-oriented, all-wheel-drive, the mid-level JX and flagship JLX get a new 4-mode, 4-wheel-drive system for 2007. With 4H, 4H Lock, 4L Lock, and Neutral settings — along with 200 mm (7.9 in.) of ground clearance — that makes them arguably the only true off-roaders in the “cute-ute” segment.
The JX and JLX also have Suzuki’s Smart Pass keyless entry and start system, just one among numerous amenities that make the Grand Vitara a terrific value.
Pricing starts at an affordable $25,495 for the base JA, moving up to the JX at $26,895 and rounded out by the $29,495 JLX model.
Standard features include six airbags (two at the front and two more along each side), anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control. There are disc brakes up front and drums at the rear. They do a good job, even though some might raise an eyebrow on learning about the lack of disc brakes all around.
But many 4x4 advocates believe rear drums are better for off-roading under muddy or wet conditions, and they work better when the hand brake is applied — especially on treacherous slopes.
n its more typical daily driving role, the vehicle’s steering is very responsive, handling is well controlled and ride quality quite comfortable. Surprisingly, the off-road ride is also forgiving, even when traversing steep trails too rocky to be walked on.
The interior is also comfortable, attractive and user-friendly. The gauges are easy to read and all secondary controls neatly and logically laid out. The seats are above average and legroom is more than adequate. Cargo space with the rear seats up is 758 litres. The rear seats split 60/40 and when both are flipped forward, load space expands to 1,958 litres.
But some might quibble about trying to load cargo at curbside since the tailgate is hinged on the right side of the body.
Suzuki Grand Vitara JLX