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By Rick Popely
December 1, 1999
Vehicle Overview This Japanese-brand sport utility vehicle is built in Canada at a plant Suzuki shares with General Motors and is sold in similar form by Chevrolet as the Tracker. Suzuki designed the vehicle and keeps one item for its own use: a 2.5-liter, V-6 engine that is not shared with Chevy. Vitara and Tracker were redesigned for the 1999 model year, and both come in two-door convertible and four-door wagon styling.
Interior The Vitara seats four, but the rear seat is short of legroom. If you want more space, upgrade to the five-seat Grand Vitara, but don't expect more rear-seat legroom. Folding the split rear seat can expand the modest cargo space in back.
Exterior The Vitara is about 11 inches shorter in wheelbase and overall length than the Grand Vitara, but the convertible is as wide and tall. The canvas top on the convertible is fully manual. The spare tire is mounted on the tailgate, which opens to the right.
Under the Hood A 97-horsepower, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine is standard; a 127-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder is an option. Both engines are available with either manual or automatic transmissions, and both with either 2WD or 4WD.
Performance Though it is in the same size and price range as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, Vitara has a truck-like body-on-frame design. This gives the Vitara true off-road capability, but the car-based CR-V and RAV4 have better on-road manners. It depends on what you're really looking for.