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Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ5 5-dr

Click to view picture galleryDespite the unpredictable British
  weather and the one-car-per-
  family restriction imposed by the
  economy and the ever-increasing
  costs of simply fuelling a car,
s Grand Vitara shows it’s
  not all doom and gloom...”

IF YOU NEED A 4WD, FAMILY- AND BUDGET-FRIENDLY CAR capable of taking you away from it all whenever you want, then look no further than Suzuki's evergreen Grand Vitara. In five-door, petrol-powered, 2.4-litre SZ5 guise it costs an affordable 20,920 and is effectively two cars in one.

For the money it has a comprehensive tally of kit that includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climate control air conditioning with pollen filter, cruise control, in-dash 6CD changer with radio, MP3 audio-compatibility and seven speakers, multi-function steering wheel (audio and cruise control), electric windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, electric tilt 'n' slide glass sunroof (with one-shot operation, a sunblind and very effective side 'bellows' to keep out draughts when in the tilt position), keyless start and rear privacy glass.

When the sun’s shining,
the five-door Grand
Vitara will do very nicely,
thank you!
But when the next
snowfall arrives
it will keep you and
your family safe
snug and mobile
Additionally the SZ5 comes with front, side and curtain airbags, high intensity headlights, roof rails, 18-inch alloy wheels and electronic stability and traction control.

Fresh from a recent makeover, the Grand Vitara boasts a sleeker, more urbanised look that turns heads.

Most striking is the revamped front-end with its Freelander-style bonnet. At the tail there's a side-hinged tailgate, now without the door-mounted spare wheel of previous models and consequently 200mm shorter instead you get a tyre repair sealant and inflation device.

Under its compact five-door bodyshell, the Grand Vitara is still as strong as ever thanks to the monocoque construction incorporating a tough ladder frame chassis essential for the rigidity to tackle serious off-road work. In fact, it's one of a small number of compact 4x4's in its class to be equipped with electronically switchable high- and low-gear ratios and a differential lock.

The Grand Vitara's permanent 4WD system features a torque-sensing limited slip centre differential that sends power to the wheels with most grip. The four-wheel drive system is easy to engage; using the rotary knob on the centre stack, the driver can quickly switch from normal 4H (high-range all-wheel drive with free centre differential and front:rear torque split 47:53) to 4H Lock with the centre differential locked (the best mode for slippery conditions with the traction to power through deep snow or mud). And for when the going gets really tricky, and for challenging off-road work, there's 4L low range four-wheel drive with a locked centre differential offering excellent low-end traction.

The five-door body provides decent living space for five adults three comfortably on the stadium-style seating in the back that sits about six inches higher than the front seats. There's also loads of foot room under the front seats and sufficient headroom for near-six-footers.

Pull down the well-padded centre armrest, recline the individual backrests and two adults can really lounge about in the back; and thanks to the low transmission tunnel, even three can travel well. And discreetly, thanks to the privacy glass from the B-pillars back. And if you want some real fresh air, the rear windows go all the way down.

The boot's big enough (398 litres) and is accessed via the side-opening fifth door that's helpfully hinged on the offside. It features keyless operation especially handy when you're carrying shopping. Should you require more room, the 60:40-split rear seats can be folded and stacked up against the front seatbacks, creating a multipurpose 758-litre cargo bay. Another welcome touch: once you pull the release in the boot, the rear seats spring forward and fold easily ideal for the ladies.

Unlike many car-based
SUVs, the Grand Vitara
is a capable
mud-plugger and can
tackle quite scary
off-road conditions...
Beneath the mid-thigh-height boot floor is an extra storage bin of a good size and there are pockets in the rear wings and also in the back door. Strong metal tie-down eyelets and bag hooks add to the multi-task practicality. And for owners who tow, the Grand Vitara will pull a braked 1,850kgs.

Entry and exit is hassle-free, with easy 'pull' action door handles and a sturdy grab handle inside above each door. And there's no need to take the key out of your pocket key either to unlock/lock the front doors or to start the engine.

The driver has a good time of it in the SZ5. First there's a generous amount of kit to make life pleasant, such as the climate control, heated seats, a one-shot up/down driver's window and a sliding centre armrest (with a deep storage bin beneath it). There's also seat height adjustment and up/down adjustment of the steering wheel.

Thoughtful detailing includes the illuminated steering wheel audio and cruise control buttons. The leather-wrapped wheel feels good in your hands and it's easy to set a driving position that's exactly right. Excellent visibility makes placing the Grand Vitara a cinch both on the road and in the rough.

The fascia and centre stack are neatly executed and home to large, precise, man-sized switchgear that's logically arranged. A multi-information display keeps the driver apprised of the temperature outside, fuel consumption and driving range. And when it comes to parking, don't worry about the 'Grand' in the name a 4.3-metre footprint combined with a commanding seating position makes the Grand Vitara easy to park.

The interior is immediately welcoming and the supple black leather, chrome highlights and high-gloss wood-effect inlays to the centre console and the door armrests definitely lift the cabin ambiance. Passengers have more than enough space in all directions and the seats are comfortably supportive with light bolstering and perforated centre panels.

On the move, the new 2,393cc four-cylinder petrol engine is quiet, refined and powerful enough to propel the five-door Grand Vitara along at a fair rate of knots zero to 62mph takes 11.7 seconds. Mid-range grunt is strong, with 167lb ft of torque on call. The five-speed manual has an easy shift action but if you prefer two pedals, an auto 'box is available. Top speed is 115mph and at the legal limit, even riding on large 18-inch alloys and 225/60 tyres, the Grand Vitara is a relaxed cruiser.

Another welcome touch:
once you pull
the release in the boot,
the rear seats spring
forward and fold easily —
perfect for the ladies
Reverse is where sixth would be if there were more than five forward gears, and beeps on selection it makes sense from a safety angle with a manual 'box.

Rear parking sensors are a dealer-fit option and while most owners will probably have them fitted, parking without them is not an issue.

The 2.4's combined cycle fuel economy is officially 31.3mpg, with 24.8 and 37.2mpg respectively for the urban and extra-urban cycles. Our week-long test produced an overall average of 27.8mpg given the permanent four-wheel drive, that should satisfy most owners. Tailpipe emissions are 208g/km.

Unlike many car-based SUVs, the Grand Vitara is a capable mud-plugger and can tackle quite scary off-road conditions. Fortunately, Suzuki's engineers have struck a well-judged balance between on-road comfort and handling with off-road ability.

The all-round independent suspension is on the firm side but that's good news for body control. Handling is confident with decent grip; the 4WD and responsive steering ensures composed cornering and swift, safe progress through bends. Braking is by ventilated discs front and rear. Not only do they stop the Grand Vitara confidently but quickly return to peak condition if you need to wade through deep water.

When the sun is shining, the five-door Grand Vitara will do very nicely, thank you. But when the next snowfall arrives it will keep you and your family snug, safe and mobile. Well-specced with enough bells and whistles for the price, it's also the right-sized, family-friendly package for today's motoring environment whether you commute, shop, brave the school run or like to take off to the great outdoors at the weekend. MotorBar

Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ5 5-dr
| 20,920
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 11.7 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 27.8mpg
Power: 166bhp | Torque: 167lb ft | CO2 g/km