Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ5
not just snow and ice thats
easier to overcome if youre
a SUV but also, as this sodden
Spring has brought home, heavy
swamped roads can be just
as treacherous as those blanketed
HIGH WITH A COMMANDING VIEW of the road, able to fearlessly wade mini-lakes
on back roads and getting the least of the blinding spray on rain-soaked motorways,
it's obvious that whatever the weather is throwing in your path, behind
a 4x4's steering wheel is a very good place to be.
Lumbering great off-roaders will do the job, of course, but their size works
against them almost anywhere else apart from off-road. In town, things go from
bad to worse. And that's when you're not frequently stopping to re-fuel.
All of which explains the popularity of compact, city-friendly SUVs that make
a good fist of providing on-road comfort allied to proper off-road ability...
SUVs such as Suzuki's Grand Vitara, which we've just given a thorough soaking.
re-vitara-ised (sorry, revitalised), the 'Grand' is something of a smoothie
on the outside, with streamlined verging on chiselled muscular
styling offset by seven-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels. Admittedly it has lost one
of its wheels not from a corner, but from its rear fifth door, but the
upside is a more urban look.
At the heart of the
Vitaras appeal is its
four-wheel drive system
that, along with 200mm
of ground clearance,
enables it to drive
straight off the tarmac
into the rough...
At the heart of the Vitara's long-term appeal (now in its third generation,
it's been around since 1988 with more than 2.9 million sold world-wide) is its
permanently-engaged four-wheel drive system that, along with 200mm of ground
clearance, enables it to drive straight off the tarmac into the rough and defeat
just about any bad weather that Mother Nature throws at it.
Dialling up any of the three four-wheel drive modes is done in an instant using
the rotary switch on the fascia. On tarmac, just leave the knurled knob in its
default 4H setting. That's it no worries about switching it in or out
because the four-wheel drive system is doing its work all the time. All you,
the driver, ever need do is to pick your route and point the Grand Vitara's
4H provides a rear-end biased 47:53 front:rear torque split with a 'free' centre
differential that's perfect for most conditions. There's also 4H Lock (still
in high range but with the centre diff locked to provide max traction for powering
through mud or deep snow) and 4L a serious off-roading four-wheel drive
low range, also with the centre diff locked.
You'll also find an 'N' on the dial which disconnects the centre diff should
your Vitara ever need to be towed although it's much more likely that
it'll be you and your Vitara doing the towing!
Higher off the ground than the average car but not so high that it's a climb,
the Grand Vitara is nonetheless easy to get in and out of. Settle in behind
the wheel and the first thing you'll appreciate is the excellent view afforded
by the high seating position you can see the bonnet and placing and parking
the 'Grand' is child's play. The ergonomics are fine, with sensibly-sized switches
and controls for the entertainment and efficient AirCon.
multi-information screen inset in the main instrument cluster keeps you informed
of key essentials such as fuel consumption, range and the outside temperature.
Higher off the ground
than the average car but
so high that its
a climb, the Grand Vitara
is easy to get in and
out of. Settle in behind
the wheel and the first
thing youll appreciate is
the excellent view...
The three-spoke leather-rimmed wheel is good to grip; buttons on the horizontal
spokes make it safe and easy to operate the cruise control and hi-fi on the
move better still, at night they're illuminated.
Helped in part by the large electric glass sunroof (one-shot tilt 'n' slide
operation) and the deep glasshouse, the cabin is light and airy and a pleasant
place to spend time travelling between A and B.
Five adults can be fitted in with no hint of a squeeze and there's ample space
for legs, heads and shoulders. Three side-by-side in the back is comfy; rear
legroom for passengers is good, with decent room to stretch out. With just two
sharing the well-padded centre armrest and the backrests set to their maximum
recline (they go from upright to semi-reclining), it's really very relaxing
in the rear. Easy sliding rear headrests are great to use and drop down low
to optimise the driver's rear view when not required. Black leather upholstery
and supportive heated front seats ensure that everyone, wherever they're sitting,
Family-friendly it definitely is but it's also capable of moving biggish items
when you have a need we fitted in a good-sized fridge-freezer with the
60:40 split rear seatbacks folded down. Fold them properly (with the bases tumbled
forward first) and there's 758 litres for cargo-carrying duties. Even with five
aboard there's 398 litres for their luggage.
The fifth door is large and side-hinged and while side-hinged tailgates can
be inconvenient if you're towing or you're backed up tight to a wall or another
car, the Vitara's is hinged on the driver's side so opens easily to the pavement
here in the UK.
The loadbay floor sits conveniently just above your knee, while the rigid luggage
cover is segmented so can be flipped back for easy loading without removal.
If you need to take it out, it stows away easily in the boot. And the spare
that once graced the tailgate? Gone completely you now get a puncture
repair kit along with a 'tyre inflationary device'.
its latest incarnation the Grand Vitara's 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine
benefits from balancer shafts, a 'silent' timing chain and a stiffer engine
block for smoother performance and lower noise levels. This, plus some heavy-duty
insulation and thicker window glass, keeps the sound of the four-pot on the
right side of the engine bay and out of the cabin; noticeably so on motorways.
definitely is but its also
capable of moving
biggish items when
you have a need we
fitted in a good-sized
Which is all good news for cruising made even quieter by just 2,000rpm
in top gear being all that's necessary to coast along at the legal 70mph. Top
speed is capped at 115mph. With 166bhp and 167lb ft of torque the Grand Vitara
gets around town with no real effort keep the pedal to the floor and
it will hit the benchmark 62mph in 11.7 seconds.
The easy-changing manual 'box might only have five forward gears but they're
more than sufficient. Officially, owners can expect 32.1 overall; our week-long
test over mixed roads and in some extreme wet weather conditions saw an average
Most drivers will consider that liveable given the Grand Vitara's 4WD. And most
will be more than satisfied with its handling abilities: the well-weighted steering
is sharp and responsive, it's predictable not only on-road in difficult driving
conditions but equally off-road where it's far more accomplished than most of
the trendy SUV-lookalike crossover brigade.
It's also reassuring through corners, helped by a firm-ish suspension. Not that
it's not comfortable it copes well with both off-road ups and downs as
well as in-town broken tarmac and the often mandatory on-kerb parking in overcrowded
streets. Stopping is taken care of by strong ventilated discs front and rear
that have the added advantage of returning to peak braking condition quicker
after wading through deep water.
Grand Vitara can be yours from £15,995 (three-door model) or, if it's five doors
you want, £19,290. The best-spec SZ5 tested here costs £20,970.
However bad the
will be the last car
And for that you get all the essential kit including automatic climate control
with pollen filter, auto lights, keyless start, radio, 6CD autochanger, roof
rails, AUX socket, tinted glass, rear privacy glass, powered heated door mirrors,
cruise control, heated front seats, black leather upholstery, tilt 'n' slide
electric sunroof, on-board computer, four electric windows, sunglasses holder,
High Intensity Discharge headlamps and chunky 7-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
Your safety is well looked after by an Electronic Stability Programme, front
and side airbags and front and rear curtain airbags plus, of course, permanent
Easily transforming from commuter car to weekend workhorse, the Grand Vitara's
also a sensible choice for everyday town and country motoring. And whenever
the going gets tough, it will take on and beat bad weather of the kind that
will stop most cars dead in their tracks. Far from being 'the last man standing',
the Grand Vitara will be the last car still moving. MotorBar
Grand Vitara 2.4 SZ5 | £20,970
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 11.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 28.8mpg
Power: 166bhp | Torque: 167lb ft | CO2 204g/km