Suzuki Revs Up Interest with Grand Vitara
2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review:
For years Suzuki’s cars and small SUVs didn’t garner much respect.
That’s changed after the automaker’s Kizashi sedan and SX4 small crossover raised awareness in the brand by being well designed and executed, on par with other entry-level and value brands. Another winner is its Grand Vitara, a small sport-SUV that’s fun to drive, simple and delivers excellent value.My silver tester was the midlevel Ultimate Adventure model with 4WD. And even with its impressive sounding name, it lists at $23,949, including delivery.
Most cars and SUVs move upscale shortly after their introduction and end up averaging a lot closer to $30,000. Grand Vitara easily delivers on the affordability end.
If you need a lower price, the base model starts at $19,499. All models come with the same 2.4-liter I4 that produces an ample 166 horsepower. That compares quite favorably to others in the class and will get you up to highway speeds without any worries.
I was surprised at how easily this 3,610-lb vehicle with a 4-speed automatic gets up to speed. Many small cars and SUVs feature 5- and 6-speed automatics, mainly to boost fuel efficiency. But this has the older transmission, and it works just fine from a performance standpoint.
The four-wheel drive is full time, so you’ve got that helping with traction. Traction and stability control are standard, along with four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.
The Grand Vitara rides on a 103.9-inch wheelbase, long enough to give it a decent ride on crumbling roads and a fine ride on newer asphalt. MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension in back, along with stout 18-inch Dunlap tires give a well controlled ride.Handling is good with only mild body lean in hard cornering, and the steering is fairly responsive and light enough to give this a fun, youthful feel. Steering effort is moderate.
My only disappointment is mediocre gas mileage. I got 21.5 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway. The EPA rates this at 19 mpg city and 23 highway. This is where a 5- or 6-speed automatic transmission might help boost mileage a bit, but also would likely push the price tag higher.
The interior is simple, but don’t mistake that for cheap. The dash and doors are black leather-like textured soft-touch material, and the doors have cloth inserts on the lower portion. Seats are black and gray leather with a dark purple to navy blue insert for the main portion of the seat.
The plastic trim has a pewter-like appearance on the doors, center stack and gauges, of which there are three round ones right in front of the driver. These are easy to see and read.
Seating is manually controlled, with a pump handle on the driver’s seat for height adjustment. Suzuki seats are on the firm side, but comfortable with moderate contouring. This model also has a tilt steering wheel with audio and cruise controls on the hub, and there are one-speed seat heaters on the console.Radio and climate controls are simple, with six actual buttons for radio channels, no touch screen, and two medium-sized knobs for volume and tuning. Two knobs control the climate system with a red digital readout between them to show the settings.
Grand Vitara is comfortable for four with easy passenger access to the rear seats. Those are a two-thirds/one-third split, and you can adjust the rear seatbacks’ angle. You have a generous 28.4 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and 70.8 cubic feet (a bit below average) when the seats are folded forward. The folding isn’t difficult, but you must tether the seats to the front seat headrests to keep the second row seats from folding back down. That seems a bit awkward.
There is no hatch in back, but a rear opening door to load cargo. That is less convenient than a hatch, especially in a crowded parking lot.
The full-size spare tire is housed on that back door, which gives this a utilitarian look.
Other interior features include sun visors with extenders, a key start, but with remote fob for unlocking and a few optional items, best of which was the thick rubber all-weather floor mats for $125. The silver paint cost $130 extra and a first aid kit and thick rubber rear cargo mat is $115, while Bluetooth with on-screen graphics costs $250. That pushed the final price to just $24,569, still quite a value.Standard is a portable Garmin navigation device that also includes active traffic and weather info. There’s a storage and plug-in area atop the dash. So you can fold it down if you don’t need to use the navigation, or even take it off its mount and carry it with you, if needed. Other pluses include automatic lights, fog lights, automatic locking wheel hubs and a limited slip differential, the latter two being helpful if you head off road.
The Grand Vitara comes with a tire pressure monitoring system, side curtain air bags with a rollover sensor and, to help resale value, a 100,000-mile, seven-year transferable powertrain warranty.
This isn’t a fancy vehicle, just a fun, economical one with some practical features that make it a great first car for young buyers, or a more entertaining commuter for those needing a second vehicle in the family.