I love the old Suzuki Grand Vitara, it had character and off-highway capability that could only be followed by vehicles like the Jeep Patriot in its bracket. Hell, I used to own a modified Suzuki XL7 and miss it terribly. Roman and I were one of the few journalists that were permitted to test a heavily modified Grand Vitara ARB (featured in the video below).
That’s why it pains me to report on this newest itineration of the Suzuki Vitara… it’s nothing special.
Gone this year is the strong V6 proper low-gearing on all but the Limited edition – which leaves a full-time, single-mode 4WD system that works with traction control to aid power delivery to the slipping wheel. You can also get a rear-drive only… but what’s the point? I mean, it makes little sense in a vehicle like this.
The Ultimate Adventure Edition is not as cool as it sounds. No, none of the rock-bashing abilities are exhibited as the name would suggest. What you do get is water-resistant seat skins, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, handsome 18-inch wheels, fog lights and integrated turn signal side mirrors.
The 166 horsepower 2.4-liter four-banger puts out 162 lbs-feet of torque. Uh, that ain’t so great for a vehicle that weighs about 3,500 lbs. It’s like Suzuki took their mountain goat, busted its front legs and replaced its heart with a field-mouse’s ticker. It bums me out as I know this chassis can handle SO much more.
… it can handle a modern transmission too… I mean, a four-speed automatic? There's a five speed manual available with rear-wheel drive only. Dude, there's automakers who have EIGHT gears for crying out loud. All I can say is – oy.
It gets okay gas mileage. You can score 20 mpg combined with the 4WD equipped Grand Vitara and 22 with the rear-drive models. That’s near the bottom for the 4-cylinder class. For the record – that’s only a minute gain over the old V6. What you lose is performance as the 0 to 60 times drop significantly. I measured a 0 to 60 time of about 12 seconds at about 5,300 feet elevation. That’s about 2-seconds slower than the V6 I tested 2-years back.
Here is the good news: it’s not a bad companion.
Yes, despite the grimace on my puss regarding the axing of the V6, I felt the four-banger accounted for itself competently. In traffic, there was acceptable power and the highway ride is pretty good, if a tad loud (the 4-cylinder’s grumble-thrash is easy to hear over 65 mph).
There’s excellent loading space with a big rear cavity and a very low loading floor. You get an impressive 70.8 cubic feet of maximum cargo space. Unfortunately, the side swinging door obscures right-side curb access, but it’s easy to open when your hands are full. This tailgate design betrays the 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara’s biggest issue: extreme old age. Bummer.
Towing is damn good too; there’s a maximum capacity of 3,000 lbs. But, that’s only when properly equipped and I would hate to be the one who has to lug that much weight in the Zuki’ driving in the Rocky Mountains… talk about wheeze-city. Still, it beats the Jeep Patriot by 1,000 lbs and most competitors.
Prices start at $19,499 and, if you go for the Limited 4WD checking all of the option boxes, you can top out at about $30,000. That’s not too bad especially given the 7-year 100,000 transferable power-train warranty. Also, the nifty, standard, portable navigation system is pretty easy to use.
There are a ton of better, more modern choices out there – but this is still a go-to vehicle for better than average off-highway ability and towing. It still has a front engine/rear drive layout. It’s still older than dirt. It still looks good and, frankly, it still cuts the mustard when it comes to a nice driving commuter too. Hopefully Suzuki will regain its tough little ‘ute in the immediate future. I mean, how many years can you keep regurgitating the same truck?
Honestly: get the Suzuki SX4 instead… unless you want to tow.
Here’s two Suzuki Grand Vitaras (one modified, one not) shooting it out off road!
Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com page HERE. Follow on twitter @TFLcar or watch latest car review videos on YouTube.