Let’s get one thing straight. All SUV’s are not created equal -- particularly when you step into the small SUV class. In recent years Honda, Toyota and others have been building “crossover” SUV’s, many of which ride on the frames of small sedans and sell in high volumes without four or all-wheel drive.
Don’t confuse Suzuki’s capable Grand Vitara with those competitors. The Grand Vitara may not be quite as cute to wheel around the mall parking lot, but it’s one of the few remaining small SUV’s that is actually a utility vehicle. My test Grand Vitara came complete with a four-wheel-drive transmission and even a locking differential. This is no mamby-pampby kidmobile.
Suzuki’s Grand Vitara has been around for a while, and while it’s always been competent (for its size and class) off road, it hasn’t always been civilized or fun to drive in town. All that changed in 2009, when Suzuki introduced two more powerful and refined engine options – a 166-horsepower four-cylinder and a 232-horsepoewr V-6.
For its 2010 model, Suzuki offers even more luxury and upscale options. Nobody will confuse the new Grand Vitara with a Lexus. Then again, some old-time Suzuki buyers might not realize it’s a Suzuki either. It’s just a nice little SUV.
Our test car came with a navigation system that worked very well, given the price. It also packed a six-disc CD changer, fog lights, a 3.2 liter V-6 engine and a great four-wheel drive transmission, all for only $25,000 That’s a lot of brand-new gear for the money.
If this Suzuki’s styling doesn’t catch your eye, or if you haven’t fallen for the beautiful 17-inch rims, then perhaps the gas mileage will catch your fancy. I averaged 22 miles per gallon around town in the Grand Vitara and 26 miles for every gallon of gas on the highway. Better yet, I had fun doing it. The Grand Vitara car boasts a magnificent transmission, and its competent suspension delivers it a tight performance feel. Four-wheel disc brakes stop this little ride like brick wall.
Our Grand Vitara also proved itself on some moderate off-road trails. There I noticed that it has significantly higher ground clearance than its other small-ute competitors. We also loaded up the Grand Vitara with four full-grown adults – for a highway roadtrip. We cruised between 65 and 80 miles per hour, and this little truck rode just dandy.
The Grand Vitara’s small footprint came in handy in parking lots, as well as on thin off-road trails. I quickly learned that this little ute can turn itself around in off-road nooks that would have larger 4x4 trucks stuck and spinning their wheels.
Those shopping the small SUV genre would do well to examine Suzuki’s 2010 Grand Vitara. This back road bruiser and urban cruiser is living proof that good things still come in small packages. For some, the Suzuki may be too much brawn. For others, that may be exactly what sets it apart from the competition.
Each month John Dickerson tests a worthy car. From smoking teenagers at stoplights to cramming groceries and small appliances into the trunk, Dickerson examines the features you actually care about, like how well a spilled mocha cleans off the upholstery. Dickerson was raised on industrial pollution, deer venison and American steel in Detroit, Michigan. His co-workers often find him in a trance, slumped over his keyboard, uttering words like “torque steer, horsepower-to-displacement ratio” and “nav system.”
© 2010 John Dickerson