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By Jim Flammang
April 29, 2003
Vehicle Overview The Grand Vitara is similar in size and appearance to the Suzuki Vitara sport utility vehicle, but the larger model has a selection of additional features and a V-6 engine instead of a four-cylinder power plant. A four-door hardtop is the sole body style, unlike the regular Vitara, which also comes as a two-door convertible.
The Grand Vitara comes in three trim levels: JLS, midrange JLX and top-of-the-line Limited. The engine output from the Grand Vitaras 2.5-liter V-6 rose to 165 horsepower for the 2002 model year. Suzuki has not yet released details on changes for the 2003 model.
Though the Grand Vitara is more popular than the Vitara, it is outsold by Suzukis newer and larger XL-7. Automotive News reported that 16,030 Grand Vitaras were sold during 2001, which represents a sales drop of 47.9 percent.
Exterior The four-door Grand Vitara measures 164.6 inches long overall, rides a 97.6-inch wheelbase and stands nearly 68 inches tall. The spare tire is mounted on the tailgate, which opens to the right. Unlike some other small SUVs, the Grand Vitara is based on a truck chassis with separate body-on-frame construction. All versions ride on 16-inch tires. Fog lamps and a power sunroof are included on the Limited model.
Interior Each Grand Vitara holds five occupants on front bucket seats and a split, folding rear seat. Modest cargo space behind the backseat can be expanded to nearly 45 cubic feet by folding the seatback.
Standard equipment includes a CD player, rear privacy glass, visor mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. Limited models are equipped with leather seats and a cassette/CD stereo system.
Under the Hood
The Grand Vitara runs with a 165-hp, 2.5-liter V-6 engine that teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. Both rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive (4WD) are available. Suzukis 4WD system includes a Low range that is intended for use only on slippery surfaces.
Antilock brakes are standard on the Limited and optional on the JLX. Daytime running lights are installed on all models.
Except for a somewhat choppy ride on the highway when the pavement is imperfect, the Grand Vitara is an appealing vehicle. People may not consider it a step above any of the competition though. Performance from the V-6 and automatic transmission is satisfactory but not exceptional. The SUV is moderately energetic, but its no powerhouse when extra zest is needed for passing. Automatic-transmission shifts are noticeable but not bothersome.
The ride around town isnt bad. In fact, the Grand Vitara copes rather adroitly over bumps despite its firm suspension. Its not as bouncy as some rivals. Handling also ranks around the SUV average. The Grand Vitara is easy to drive and grabs corners quite confidently, steering with a rather light feel and good response.
The interior is more spacious than it appears at a glance, but the drivers left-elbow space is a little tight. Backseat legroom is minimal when the front seat is moved rearward. Cargo space behind the backseat is moderate, and the cargo cover doesnt conceal the entire area. This SUV is easy to load. The seat bottoms are very short but not uncomfortable; longer drives could be more taxing.