2006 SUZUKI GRAND VITARA ROAD TEST
Test Model: Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.0L 5 Door with five speed manual transmission.
Options Fitted: None
Recommended Retail Price: $28,990
On Road Price: $31,996
A stylish and competent member of the small to medium 4WD family with genuine off-road ability and one of the better buys in the class.
HOW IT GOES
I found the 2.0L powerplant struggled a little under acceleration, particularly when climbing hills and getting away from traffic lights. You really have to plant the accelerator to get the vehicle underway at times. However, I took the car for a short surfing trip down the South Coast of NSW and out on the highway, the 5 speed manual performed well enough even with a sizeable load on board. That being said, if you can stretch your budget $2000 further, you could have the 2.7L V6 which provides smooth power delivery with none of the shortcomings of the 2.0L power plant
HOW IT HANDLES
There’s no question that ride set up on the Vitara is firm and as a result, it corners with minimal body roll (I don’t like body roll in any vehicle) which was definite plus, as I wasn’t expecting such composure through the bends, almost car like. The steering provides good feedback and as such, is well weighted and quite direct. In other words, it goes where you point it. The test vehicle came with standard five-spoke steel wheels which to be honest don’t look too bad but, if you can afford an additional $1000, you get a set of five spoke alloys that will set the car off. I actually called the local Bob Jane T Mart and they couldn’t give me a set of alloys for the same sort of money.
OFF ROAD ABILITY
The Grand Vitara is a “proper” 4WD with high and low range gear ratios and has the ability to mix it up amongst some rough stuff out there in the wilderness. On the surf trip, we decided to take the Vitara down to a surf spot called Potholes near Ulladulla, for obvious reasons. Even though it was particularly muddy after some consistent rain throughout the week, it handled the 3km track with ease in standard all wheel drive mode, without having to switch to Low range, something I was eager to try. Switching from High to Low range is simply a matter of turning a well marked dial on the centre console. Too easy.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Finding a comfortable driving position is not hard in the Grand Vitara with a lever-type seat height adjustment on the diver’s side along with a welcomed driver’s footrest (all cars should have one). The dash is well set out and the switchgear is easy to read and simple to use. Front seats are comfortable with decent side bolster support (one of the first things I look at in a car) and the standard fabric is modern and stylish although, it’s anyone’s guess how it would stand up to food and drink spillages.
SPACE, STORAGE AND PRACTICALITY
I was surprised how much room there is in the Grand Vitara with ample space for 4-5 adults in comfort, even if they are on the tall side. You can’t really classify the Vitara as a compact vehicle, more medium sized. Front and rear passenger legroom is more than adequate with plenty of storage pockets, cup holders and bottle holders to keep everyone happy. For once, there’s a decent sized glove box which will accept additional items other than the owner’s manual.Also welcome is a roof mounted sunglass holder and no less than three 12V accessory sockets for phones, ipods and chargers etc.
The rear tailgate opens wide enough and is supported by a single strut but nonetheless, I found it a little awkward to open and had to push hard against the strut when opening fully (could be just me). I’ve already said that the load area is reasonable which can be expanded when the rear seats are folded in half to allow another 50% more room however, I would prefer a design that folds flat in to the floor. The full size spare wheel sits on the back of the tailgate and comes with an attractive Suzuki badged hard wheel cover which is standard kit on all spec levels.
You get all the usual so called luxury gear including; electric windows & mirrors, power steering (not a luxury in my book), remote central locking, Climate controlled air conditioning and a four speaker CD tuner (decent but no praise) as there are actually fake tweeter housings on the side window trim. On the way down the south coast I was looking for the cruise control and was amazed by its absence (should be standard kit these days). The interior looks modern and is highlighted by some brushed aluminium look highlights around the centre console and AC vents which set it off against some quality plastics.
The Grand Vitara gets driver and passenger airbags, head impact protection structure (as Suzuki calls it), ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution as standard features. (remember that the real benefit of ABS brakes is the ability to not only avoid skidding into another car under heaving braking but being able to steer the car around an object while under brakes)!
The Vitara also comes with three-point ELR with height adjusters with pre-tensioners and force limiting front seatbelts (the standard these days) with rear passengers held fast by three-point ELR seatbelts.
Although I have no problem with the way this vehicle stops, I was a little disappointed to see drum brakes on the rear as most of the newcomers in this class are using disc brakes back there.
COST OF OWNERSHIP
With a retail price of $28,990 the Grand Vitara 2.0L with manual transmission represents excellent value for money amongst rivals from Honda, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Ford. The resale value on the Suzuki may not be as high as those from Honda, Subaru or Toyota but rest assured, Suzuki are building quality cars these days with models such as the Swift selling in big numbers throughout the world.
What I’m not so sure of, is the fuel consumption on this model Vitara. Suzuki quotes combined city and highway driving consumption at 9.2L/100kms but given that you need to push this engine a fair bit around suburbia, I suspect that this figure would be more like 10L/100kms.
The colour choice is excellent and includes: White Pearl (my pick), Azure Grey Pearl, Bluish Black Pearl, Clear Beige Metallic, Graphite Grey Pearl Metallic and Silky Silver Metallic.
Just Released “Prestige”
Suzuki has added a “Prestige” model to the Grand Vitara range and with a retail price of $36,990 is exactly $3,000 more than the 2.7L V6 Auto with alloy wheels. The good news is that the heap of additional features with the “Prestige” include; Keyless start, Cruise control (yes!), In-dash 6 stacker CD with MP3 function and 7 speakers (including tweeters and subwoofers) linked to speed sensing volume control.
There’s more; 3-spoke leather steering wheel, full leather seats and door trim, more silver highlights and a wood printed shift knob.
There’s still more; Front fog lamps, 17 inch alloy wheels (yes, yes, and the spare) and Side & Curtain SRS airbags.
Go find the extra $3,000 as these features on their own, would run at least $6,000-$8,000. That said some of the stuff such as cruise control and speed sensing volume control should come standard in this day and age.
The new Grand Vitara is great value for money with attractive styling and more than enough space for a family of four to five. However do yourself a favour, buy the 2.7 V6 and you’ll have no complaints.
By Anthony Crawford