I have a collection of clothing items that I purchased for fabulously small prices. Who doesn't love a bargain? Of course, it's only a bargain if the thing you shelled out even a modest amount of cash for is something you actually want. My collection, as it turns out, is a testament to bad deals. They're things I bought because they were on sale, not because they fit nicely or went with anything else in my closet, meaning that $50 top that I got for $9.99 was no bargain after all. As one of the lowest-priced midsize SUVs on the market, Suzuki's XL7 will fit perfectly into my collection.
The XL7 looks great. The sporty front grille promises a fun ride, while the sleek lines of the body hint at luxuries within. The Premium trim I tested gets bonus points for adding a set of 17-inch aluminum wheels. All trim levels of the XL7 boast a pretty beefy V-6 engine that makes merging onto the freeway a breeze; it passed my "charge-up-the-hill-'cause-I'm-late-for-my-kids" test with flying colors. Sounds great, right? Initially, I too thought the XL7 was every bit the bargain of the century. Unfortunately, once I tried the XL7 on in every other real-life scenario, it was a letdown.
The ride is truck-like and really loud, especially at highway speeds. Even if you like a truck-ish ride, the XL7's steering has this weird, floaty feel that caused me anxiety on L.A.'s constantly under-construction freeways. There seems to be a lot of play in the steering and handling, and it gets even worse at slow speeds (so, if you enjoy making five-point U-turns, this is your car). Visibility out front is fair enough, but it's awful out back. Looking out the rear window is like peering through a porthole at the end of a tunnel. If there were some sort of rearview camera or backup warning system, that poor view would be forgivable, but without such supplements even available as options, backing up in the XL7 is just plain scary.
The XL7 has several incarnations; I tested a front-wheel-drive, five-passenger version with cloth seats and Spartan trim. Since I didn't have the third row of seats, the cargo space was cavernous (especially when I folded the second row up). The second row fits three people comfortably, but there are only two Latch positions (there wouldn't be room to squeeze three car seats into the back anyway). My three passengers were big enough to use regular seat belts, but the buckles in the XL7 are wobbly and hard for little fingers to grasp. The belt tension was also a bit temperamental; my 5-year-old kept locking them up when he tried to belt himself in. The whole setup doesn't seem to be geared toward kids.
There are two cupholders in the backseat, both in the armrest, so if you have a third passenger back there you can't use them. There are, however, cupholders in the cargo area, where a third row would be located. I believe I've already shared my argument for leather seats whenever kids are involved, so I'll spare you the rant. OK, I won't: Believe me, unlike that T.J. Maxx blouse, leather is worth the money.
I get that when I'm paying bargain prices, I can't necessarily expect things like leather seats and kickin' stereo systems, but I wish it didn't mean my music has to sound like it's coming out of a tin can. I also get that sometimes that bargain price accounts for poor design elements (I'm sure there are shirts out there that just won't fit anyone well), but the XL7's window controls are scattered to the far corners of the center console area. Operating the passenger-side windows requires the driver to reach around the shifter knob in a rather awkward maneuver, and the parking brake lever is somewhat buried between the console and the seat, which had me knocking my knuckles on a daily basis. Oh, and the automatic door locks don't unlock until the ignition is turned off. Let's just say I wasn't very popular in the carpool lane that week.
Essentially, at the end of my test drive, the biggest thing the Suzuki and my clothes from Marshall's had in common was that I wasn't sad to see the XL7 go, either.
*For more information on the 2008 Suzuki XL7 and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Some
2008 Suzuki XL7 Premium FWD
Base price: $23,249
Price as tested: $23,249
Engine: 252-hp, 3.6-liter V-6
Fuel: 16/22 mpg mpg
Ground Clearance: 7.9"
Turning Radius: 20.9'
Cargo space: 49.4-95.2 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: 5 Stars
Passenger's side: 5 Stars
Front occupant: 5 Stars
Rear occupant: 5 Stars
Rollover resistance: 4 Stars