Wanting to get into a little bit of off-roading, I looked into what was available that at least had low range 4x4. With a price range of less than $5K I couldn't really afford the typical options like a Prado or Patrol or the 4 door utes like a Ranger or HiLux. I didn't particularly want something too old or with excessively high kilometres either. Good luck to me huh!
One 4x4 that did meet the brief however was the Suzuki Grand Vitara and after some research I discovered it was a reliable workhorse, capable off road and relatively simple to own and maintain. It was also in the price range. This one I found was on eBay and listed for $4000. It did have 208k's but was assured they were mostly highway k's driving from Gosford to Sydney every day. Research showed many models with over 350k's still going strong so I thought it could be a good bet. After looking over the car and a small test drive I thought it was the right option and parted with the cash after a small negotiation.
I did only really intend on keeping 'Val' for 6 months or so but after 2 years our trusty Suzuki has been far too handy to let go!
Not a heap of space up front but plenty in the back and the rear, which has made it be a useful hauler, helping to move house twice. Val's been used off road to great effect up in the Blue Mountains and on Stockton Beach as well as a trip to Wombeyan caves where an altercation with a LandCruiser on a dirt road left Val a bit worse for wear (not my fault and is currently being fixed).
Val is by no means a refined ride being more truck-ish than car-ish. Power is OK but torque is high - it takes a bit to get going but feels like a freight train when on the go. Not that the 2.5 litre V6 is a slouch - it has more than enough urge to keep up with traffic and get away quickly from lights, albeit making a bit of a racket! A great ride on road and off, while off-road the torque helps keep your momentum up. The great torque also means pottering around in the suburbs Val is generally happy in 4th gear.
Val's been checked by two different mechanics thoroughly and they've found nothing that needs to be done short of regular maintenance. One even considered buying one as he's never found a Grand Vitara that had any significant problems - especially the V6 models. Luxuries are limited to air-con and power windows but an aftermarket iPod compatible stereo makes life a bit easier. Wish we had cruise control though!
In short, Val is an attractive, economical, reliable, comfortable and very useful steed - I would thoroughly recommend one!