Suzuki has offered three sport utility vehicles in recent years: the basic Vitara, the similar-sized but upscale Grand Vitara and the larger XL-7. The Vitara has been dropped for 2005, so the four-door, five-passenger Grand Vitara is the only smaller model in the lineup.
The Grand Vitara got restyled headlights and taillights, as well as new silver roof rails and color-keyed door handles, for the 2004 model year. The remote keyless entry system gained a panic button. Little has changed for 2005.
Powered by a 2.5-liter V-6, the Grand Vitara comes in LX and EX trim levels and is offered with rear- or four-wheel drive. Suzuki's larger seven-passenger XL-7 outsells the Grand Vitara.
Suzuki's smaller SUV measures 164.5 inches long overall, rides a 97.6-inch wheelbase and stands nearly 68 inches tall. A full-size spare tire is mounted on the tailgate, which opens to the right. A new hard spare-tire cover was installed for 2004.
Unlike some other small SUVs, the Grand Vitara is based on a truck chassis with separate body-on-frame construction. Steel or alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires.
The Grand Vitara holds five people on front bucket seats and a split-folding rear seat. Modest cargo space behind the backseat can be expanded from 23.4 to 50.2 cubic feet by folding the seatback down.
Standard equipment includes automatic air conditioning with micron air filtration, an in-dash CD player with seven-speaker sound, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, remote keyless entry and steering-wheel audio controls. Heated mirrors are installed on all models except the two-wheel-drive LX.
Under the Hood
The Grand Vitara uses a 165-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 that produces 162 pounds-feet of torque and teams with either a four-speed-automatic transmission or five-speed-manual gearbox. Both rear- and four-wheel-drive models are available. Suzuki's four-wheel-drive system includes a Low range that's intended for use only on slippery surfaces.
Antilock brakes are standard on four-wheel-drive Grand Vitaras and optional on rear-drive models. Daytime running lights are installed on all models. Side-impact airbags are not available.
The Grand Vitara exhibits a somewhat choppy ride on imperfect pavement. This SUV is reasonably appealing, but it doesn't necessarily beat any of its competitors. Performance from the V-6 and automatic transmission is satisfactory but not exceptional. The Grand Vitara is moderately energetic, but it's no powerhouse when acceleration is needed for passing. Automatic-transmission shifts are noticeable but not bothersome.
The ride isn't bad around town. Despite a firm suspension, the Grand Vitara isn't as bouncy as some rivals, and it copes rather skillfully with bumps. Among SUVs, its handling ranks as average. It takes corners confidently and steers with a rather light feel and good response.
The interior is more spacious than it appears at a glance, but the driver's left-elbow space is a little tight. Backseat legroom is minimal when the front seat is moved back. Cargo space behind the backseat is moderate, and the cargo cover doesn't conceal the entire area.