REVIEW DATE: 26 Sep 2007
Until the announcement of this 1.9-litre diesel version, the three-door Suzuki Grand Vitara was only offered with a weedy 1.6-litre petrol engine. The emergent combo packs quite a punch. Andy Enright reports
Given that three-door compact 4x4s are all about fun and a certain 'point and squirtability', it seemed a shame that Suzuki hobbled their Grand Vitara SZ three-door with a rather weak petrol engine. With the 1.9-litre diesel fitted, it's now a whole lot more enjoyable and capable. It may be small but it packs a punch.
The Renault-sourced 1.9-litre diesel engine in this three-door model isn't short of muscle, delivering a hefty 221 ft lbs of torque for reassuring operation both on and off road. This power makes the Grand Vitara a far more versatile proposition, with even enough power to pull a small caravan if required. The permanent four-wheel drive system with centre differential lock and low range transfer 'box is at the heart of this Grand Vitara's accomplished performance. The intercooled and turbocharged diesel can hurry this 4x4 to 62 mph in a lively 12.6 seconds and then go on to hit a top speed of 105mph. It's even more impressive in the midrange where the short Grand Vitara feels as if it has the mumbo to keep a hot hatch honest. Despite this verve, the Grand Vitara 1.9-litre DDiS returns a respectable 38.2 mpg on the combined cycle and will manage over 31mpg around town.
Suzuki has a well-deserved reputation for producing 4x4s which actually perform rather well when the going gets steep and slippery. One would imagine that the 3-door Grand Vitara's key customer base would be formed by trendy urbanites attracted by the funky styling, active image and mild road manners that typify compact 4x4s. If, however, such a buyer decided to put the Suzuki's alleged offroad abilities to the test, they would probably be surprised.
The Grand Vitara features a tough, built-in ladder frame chassis and independent suspension for all four wheels. The stiff underpinnings allow the permanent four-wheel-drive transmission system to extract maximum traction from the terrain while keeping the vehicle stable and the suspension (MacPherson struts at the front, multilink at the rear) helps to give a supple on road ride. The 3-door car can't offer the same range of offroad capabilities as the 5-door model which boasts a locking centre differential and a low-range gearbox. It does have a torque-sensing limited slip differential though, and the 4x4 system is constantly engaged - unlike on many 'softroaders' which switch automatically between two and four wheel drive.
"Put off by compact diesel-powered 4x4s costing the wrong side of £20,000? Give this Suzuki a try. You might be pleasantly surprised."
You'd expect the Grand Vitara to be bigger (or at least grander) than the original Vitara but it's more than that. There's virtually nothing of that car's DNA in today's product. What the current Grand Vitara is bigger than is the old Grand Vitara - the model that campaigned quietly from 1998 until this replacement arrived. We're looking at the 3-door models here and the current version is 10cm longer while adding 3cm in width over its predecessor. It's actually 4cm shorter as well but Suzuki are keen to point out that the integral ladder frame construction of this model allows lower floor heights than in the old car. There's no reduction in headroom and ground clearance is increased to 20cm.
There's also a marked disparity between the bodystyles of the current Grand Vitara, with the 3-door giving 46cm in length away to the 5-door derivative. This indicates differences between the two versions that go beyond the choice of entry and exit points. There's definitely a more pugnacious feel to the 3-door car's styling, its thick B-pillar and squat, muscular stance contrasting with the longer lines of the larger car. Predictably, space is at more of a premium in the rear of the 3-door too. Occupants will find legroom significantly reduced but the possibility of seating two adults in the back remains a realistic one. The 3-door Grand Vitara features 50:50 split-folding rear seats, as opposed to the 60:40 set-up in the 5-door. With the release of a lever at the seat base, the backs fold down to increase luggage capacity at the expense of passenger accommodation. More space can then be freed-up relatively easily by means of a lever at the back which allows the whole seat to tumble forward.
The interior of the Grand Vitara 3-door is a far cry from Suzuki models past. Gone are the acres of black or grey plastics as seen in the old Grand Vitara and in their place comes a far more stylish duotone finish to the dashboard. The three-spoke steering wheel is an attractive design and can be configured with wheel-mounted controls for the stereo. The centre console features clean detailing and effective ergonomics while the instrument binnacle is comprised of the speedometer in the middle ringed by a metallic finish. The rev counter sits on one side and the minor dials on the other, creating an interesting three-dimensional effect.
Grand Vitara three-door buyers get electric front windows, climate control air-conditioning, front, side and curtain airbags, ABS with EBD, ESP and a CD stereo. There's also heated and folding electric door mirrors, alloy wheels and front fog lamps. Front, side and curtain airbags protect front seat occupants while those in the rear benefit from curtain bags too.
With a combined economy figure of over 38mpg, the Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDis three-door isn't going to attract the ire of anti-SUV fundamentalists. Or rather it shouldn't. A carbon dioxide emissions figure of 195g/km isn't the end of the world (sorry) and the very low upfront price and perceived benefit of the diesel engine should prop up residuals very nicely.
With the caveat that it's clearly not the choice for a sizeable family, there's really not a whole lot wrong with the Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDiS SZ three-door. It's good fun in a rather unsophisticated fashion and some of it feels a little built down to a price, but that can be excused when the price is just £14,999 and a great diesel engine is thrown into the package. It's well equipped with convenience features, festooned with airbags and looks the part with its chunkily aggressive stance and respectable off-road ability. If you were thinking of a diesel Toyota RAV4 but were put off by prices that start the wrong side of £20k, give the Suzuki a try. You might well be very pleasantly surprised.
The results below show the top SUZUKI deals on buyacar
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ4 3dr Auto estate|
|Price £15,861||Save £2,524|
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|Price £14,448||Save £2,222|
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ5 5dr Auto estate|
|Price £18,571||Save £4,054|
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.6 SZ3 3dr estate|
|Price £13,891||Save £2,089|
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 VVT SZ5 5dr Auto estate|
|Price £17,355||Save £4,690|
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|For GRAND VITARA 3-DOOR 1.9 DDiS|
|OVERALL||6.9 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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