The 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara has the structural integrity of the Brooklyn Bridge with its ladder-frame-reinforced unibody, and that helps make it a solid off-roader with its available four-wheel-drive system.
This compact, fairly handsome, reasonably priced SUV has much standard equipment—including a navigation system. Numerous safety features include all-disc anti-lock brakes with a brake-assist feature, electronic stability control, traction control and lots of air bags.
The Grand Vitara is often overlooked because Suzuki lacks the dealer network and advertising firepower of rivals, such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. It has a more trucklike-feel than most competitors, with an upright windshield, high seating position and a firmer ride.
But that’s not to say that the Grand Vitara isn’t refined. Its all-independent suspension system is fairly supple, and it goes, stops and corners better than some rivals. It strikes a good balance of street manners and off-road credibility.
The steering is nicely geared for both on- and off-road use. Handling is good, with little body lean when streaking through curves. An engine set far back in its compartment for better weight distribution helps here. And the brakes have a firm pedal and provide good stopping power.
Off-road ability long has been a Suzuki hallmark. The Grand Vitara is up against car-based “cute utes” in America, but is known as a get-dirty off-roader in other parts of the world.
The Grand Vitara is sold with rear- or four-wheel drive in a variety of trim levels that start at $19,499 and go to $25,249. The four-wheel-drive versions begin at $22,849.
The base model has a five-speed manual gearbox, while others have a four-speed automatic transmission, which shifts effectively but should be a more modern unit with at least five speeds.
All versions are loaded with standard equipment. It includes a voice-activated navigation system, climate control, AM/FM/CD sound system, adjustable steering wheel with audio controls, automatic headlights, keyless entry and power windows and mirrors.
Take one step up to the $21,399 Premium version and added are the automatic transmission and cruise control. The top-line Limited has items including a premium sound system, leather seats, keyless start and a sunroof.
New for the 2012 Grand Vitara is an “Ultimate Adventure Edition” that has dress-up black chrome trim, foglights, water-resistant two-tone heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and 18-inch “smoked” alloy wheels—besides fog lights and side-view-mirror turn signals.
This version with four-wheel drive lists at $23,949, and is the model I tested.
The Grand Vitara’s V-6 engine was dropped for 2011, leaving it with a 2.4-liter dual-overhead-camshaft, 16-valve four-cylinder. It generates 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque.
Performance in town is lively, but the engine of the 3,470-pound Grand Vitara provides just moderate 65-75 mph passing ability and is somewhat noisy during hard acceleration. The 0-60 mph time is approximately 11 seconds.
Estimated fuel economy of the four-cylinder is 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23-26 on highways.
The engine has a zero-maintenance timing chain, and the Grand Vitara is covered by a 7-year, 100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty. Also offered is a roadside assistance program.
Long doors with large handles allow easy entry without a high step-up to the roomy front-seat area, which has easily used backlit gauges, handy controls, nicely placed cupholders, supportive seats and a good number of storage areas.
Dashboard air vents are adjustable for the most comfort, and a thoughtful feature is sun-visor extensions to prevent visibility hampered by, say, a setting sun.
The rear-seat area is roomy, and fairly long back doors open wide. But door openings are narrow back there.
The large hatch door swings to the right, which can be awkward in some loading areas. The nicely shaped, fairly large cargo area has a wide but moderately high opening. Thick rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area.
The Grand Vitara may seem to have a presumptuous name to those who aren’t familiar with it, but owners of this vehicle likely don’t feel that way.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
- Buy it
- Lease it
- Rent it or
I recommend that you Buy It!
Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times–far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008. For more of Dan’s thoughtful and insightful reviews please visit his web site HERE.