REVIEW DATE: 26 Feb 2008
Suzuki's current Grand Vitara offers a big step forward over its predecessor. Andy Enright reports
It used to be straightforward. Compact 4x4s were once rather unsophisticated things that you'd have no hesitation subjecting to a bit of off-road bouncing about. Then, as top-end 4x4s stretched the market ever pricier, we started to see some rather chi-chi compact 4x4s that you could never countenance giving a good splattering with mud. Fortunately the Suzuki Grand Vitara was never one of them. It campaigned on honest value for money and no-nonsense capability and the latest model is no exception.
Don't let the more sophisticated angular styling fool you. Beneath the sheet metal there's a proper ladder framed chassis that will eclipse rivals such as the Hyundai Tucson or Toyota RAV4 when the going gets tough. In that regard, you're getting the best of both worlds - a vehicle that doesn't look like something that's just picked up a stray ewe but which can still cut the mustard during the occasional 'off piste' foray.
It's good to see the Vitara brand being rehabilitated after the indignities it suffered at the hands of fashion in the early nineties. You'll probably shudder as you recall those wide-wheelarched horrors, usually so mercilessly colour-keyed in white that it looked as if they'd emerged from a peroxide bath. The windsurfing or rollerblading rhino on the spare wheel cover and the booming stereo from within were all rather 'of their time'. The easy thing to have done after suffering these ministrations would have been to quietly drop the Vitara name and think up a new badge for their next generation of compact 4x4s but Suzuki stuck with it, probably to their cost, in this country at least. As the market grew more sophisticated, the Vitara and Grand Vitara models became rather neglected.
"So many compact 4x4s are mere pretenders. Here's one that isn't"
The first signs of a Vitara revival came in 1998 when an all-new model was introduced. Suzuki ditched the rather frivolous short-wheelbase Vitara in 2000 and sales of the more sensible Grand started to pick up, helped by a handsome three-door Grand Vitara model introduced in 2001. Seven years is a long time for a model to survive in a sector as fast moving as the compact 4x4 market, and even the introduction of a seven-seat version couldn't punt the Grand Vitara into the premier league of big sellers. What was needed was an all-new model and when the covers came off the show car at the 2005 Frankfurt Show, it was apparent that Suzuki had been paying attention to the current trends.
The neat, minimal front end styling is very appealing, while the sculpted wheelarches and clever use of curves and angles in the car's glasshouse gives it a very contemporary look. Longer, taller and wider than its predecessor, it improves on its packaging still further, offering decent space for taller rear seat passengers. Suzuki claim there are no plans to replace the seven-seat variants of the old Vitara but both three and five-door five-seater models are offered. A side-hinged tailgate features a separately opening rear window section so you'll be able to sling a couple of bags in if space is tight in the multi-storey.
The interior has been given a radical rethink. Gone are the acres of black or grey plastics as seen in the old Grand Vitara and in its 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 design and effective ergonomics while the instrument binnacle contains 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.
A trio of engines are lined up for UK buyers kicking off with a rather weedy 93bhp 1.6-litre offered in three-door guise. I'd be tempted to save a little extra and spring for one of the larger powerplants on offer. The petrol-engined five-door version gets a healthy 140bhp which uses a variable induction system to make the most of its 182Nm of torque. Some may find its 31mpg fuel consumption a little much for them, especially if a lot of urban journeys are on the cards. The pick of the range will doubtless be the 129bhp diesel, offered in both bodystyles, which uses a Renault-sourced 1.9-litre turbodiesel. Mated to a five speed manual gearbox as standard, those who tire of changing gear themselves can pay a little extra and land themselves a four-speed automatic 'box.
The Grand Vitara is said to be far more capable in the rough than a Toyota RAV4 or a Honda CR-V and it's not difficult to see why. The four-wheel drive system is geared towards off-road rather than wet road traction and ground clearance is far better. The flipside of this is that the steering and chassis won't feel so responsive on road, but for many this will be a more than acceptable trade off.
The Suzuki Grand Vitara is one of those cars that has gently bubbled on the back burner for a while. It finally looks as if the newly emboldened Suzuki have given it the looks its fine engineering has long deserved. Let's just hope that it doesn't become too fashionable, if you know what I mean.
The results below show the top GRAND VITARA deals on buyacar
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ4 3dr Auto estate|
|Price £15,861||Save £2,524|
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.6 SZ4 3dr estate|
|Price £14,448||Save £2,222|
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ5 5dr Auto estate|
|Price £18,571||Save £4,054|
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ4 3dr estate|
|Price £14,992||Save £2,318|
|Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ4 5dr estate|
|Price £16,262||Save £2,613|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT GRAND VITARA DEALS|
|For GRAND VITARA RANGE|
|OVERALL||6.7 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||6|
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