Suzuki’s Grand Vitara has to be the most under-the-radar vehicle on the market. Despite that, this is a credible entry for small SUVs. The driving experience is by no means class-leading, but it meets expectations.
The 3.2-liter V-6 provides sufficient thrust and is quite smooth. Steering is on par with the segment, lacking in feel, but responding as you expect. The five-speed automatic provides drama-free gear changes on the way up, with slight pulses on down shifts. Body control is a bit loose, but not egregious.
Styling, both inside and out, doesn’t hold up quite as well. The exterior lines appear dated while the interior uses a strange faux finish on some of the interior trim pieces. To my eyes it appears to be an imitation of marble, which is a bizarre choice even if Suzuki could create a more convincing finish. Suzuki’s navigation strategy of offering a Garmin unit in a pop-up door is a weak substitution for an integrated unit. Sure, the price is good (free, as it’s standard), but those who want a Garmin can go to their local electronics store.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I forgot just how much I missed Suzuki’s small, utilitarian SUVs until I stared longingly at a pristine LJ-40 at this year’s Chicago auto show.
The Grand Vitara may be many decades removed from that small two-cylinder Jeep-like vehicle, but the lineage still remains. While other cute-utes have developed into more comfortable, car-like machines, the Grand Vitara retains its off-road credentials. I can’t remember the last time I climbed into any other compact sport-ute and found a transfer case that allowed me to select a low-range or shift into neutral.
Sadly, it seems Suzuki will only let you attain such features by springing for higher models. I’d be more than happy to have a basic, four-cylinder version with the full-fledged transfer case and a five-speed manual, but it’s not offered. The only way to get a manual transmission is to buy a rear-wheel-drive Grand Vitara, while the transfer case of my dreams seems to be relegated to V-6 models. Pity.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Yes, the Grand Vitara is something of a throwback and is one of the few compact crossovers that wouldn’t wet itself during an off-road excursion. Of course, most people buying small SUVs these days are really looking for a tallish station wagon, and by those standards, Suzuki is behind the curve. Its interior is rather crude, a mix of old General Motors parts and the fakest faux wood I’ve come across of late. The Grand Vitara goes down the road well enough, with decent V-6 verve, but its skittish steering and slightly tippy feel as it goes through corners won’t appeal to the Honda CR-V crowd.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
On the face of it, $27,000 seems a bit steep for a small Suzuki SUV, but this Limited V-6 is fully loaded. (A four-cylinder model is also available.) The Grand Vitara’s weakness when it was introduced back in the late 1990s was its powertrain; it originally had an anemic V-6. Now its 230-hp 3.2-liter does deliver the goods: acceleration from 75 to 90 mph is more than adequate. But it still lacks the sort of auditory refinement that you would find in a Honda or Toyota engine.
Truth is, when it comes to a Suzuki Grand Vitara, I’d rather have a base model, four-cylinder with manual. I just can’t see spending $27K on this vehicle; it’s more like a $22K vehicle to me. Among my complaints? The heated seat has only on and off settings; it should have high and low. The interior plastics are okay but not great. And this removable navigation system? Pretty chintzy, especially these days when you can get an integrated navigation system in a sub-$20K Honda Fit.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara Limited V-6
Base price (with destination): $26,999
Price as tested: $27,653
3.2L DOHC V6
5-speed automatic transmission
4-mode full-time AWD
4-Wheel independent suspension
18-inch alloy wheels
4-Wheel disc brakes
Electronic stability program
Side curtain airbags with rollover sensor
Touch screen navigational system
Auto Air with cicro filtration
CD/AM/FM Audio & MP3 AUX jack, 7 speakers and subwoofer
Options on this vehicle:
All-season cargo Mat & nt – $130
Floor mats – $125
Metallic paint – $130
Bluetooth w/ text message display – $269
Key options not on vehicle:
Size: 3.2L V-6
Horsepower: 230 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 213 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Curb weight: 3876 lb
18-inch alloy wheels
225/60R18 Dunlop AT20 Grandtrek all-season tires