December 10, 2008

2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara

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Grand, even in base trim

Suzuki’s Grand Vitara still looks much the same as it has since a 2006 redesign. While the company touts this year’s model as having been redesigned inside and out, the exterior of the GV is still very much the same.

It sports a larger grille for 2009, and a somewhat more intimidating bumper, but the company hasn’t gone all-out on the restyling the way we saw with the last change to the XL7, also a couple years back.

The major change to the vehicle, Suzuki’s second-biggest ute, is a new engine availability for the base models; and our Autonet test model was equipped with it- a 2.4L inline four cylinder.

Search for a used Suzuki Grand Vitara

The four-banger gives the GV 166 horsepower and 162 lb.-ft. of torque, and its displacement provides better mileage without a punishing trade off in power, making the 2.4 litre Vitara a relatively economical light duty ute. Incidentally, the Grand Vitara is also sold with a 3.2L V6, which ups the output to 230 ponies)

While the smaller engine didn’t feel inadequate in my time with it, there is the expected lag in acceleration when taking off from a full stop; though not enough of a delay to feel alarming.

The Grand-Vee boasts a four-mode, four wheel drive system, making it capable of going offroad when necessary; though I’ll stick my neck out and say that I imagine most of the smaller-engine models sold will be used in suburban settings.

The vehicle’s ability as an all-purpose hauler is framed by very good towing capability, which Suzuki asserts is best-in-class for a compact SUV: 1360 kg (3,000 lb.) when properly equipped.

And though not pretty enough to be called a cute-ute (the cute ute from Suzuki would be its delightful little SX4), the GV is comparable in size to vehicles like Toyota’s RAV4 or the Hyundai Tucson; leaving it fairly wieldy in city traffic and parking lots.

Inside, the cabin of my test vehicle was clad in a net-textured black cloth upholstery, with seating for up to five people. Seat comfort was good all around, and the rear seats offer good head and legroom. The interior is not unattractive, just somewhat plain; with a rather basic-but-functional instrument layout and easy to use controls.

The real-time mileage display on the central gauge cluster is not the most useful thing in the world, displaying second-by-second fuel consumption; but it can be set to show a static display of averaged fuel economy.

My favourite feature of the JX trim test vehicle was the keyless start and entry. I love an intelligent key that you never have to take out of your pocket to get in the car and drive, and it came as something of a surprise, considering the tester was a rather base level.

The ride is reasonable if not luxurious, with some road noise making its way into the cabin without being overly jarring. The Grand Vitara’s suspension (independent strut front, multilink rear) lets you feel what’s happening on the road, but absorbs the bumps and craters well, without shaking up front seat passengers.

Handling is average, and commensurate with most of its competition. As with any ute of its proportions, you can feel a little sway when cornering; and steering is acceptably responsive. ABS brakes provide good stopping power, and apply smoothly in normal situations.

My only complaint with it at this point is I’m not sure I like the wide-swinging rear door. Hinged on the right hand side, opening the rear gate takes up a fair amount of space, and is best accessed from the left side. Of course, if they made it hinged on the top the hard case for the spare tire would have to be done away with, so decide if you like that.

Ultimately, the Grand Vitara provided everything a smallish utility vehicle should. While my model was a near bottom-of-the-line JX model, including no options, yet still managed to bring a very good level of standard equipment and a ready work ethic.

In addition to the keyless start and ABS, the JX had cruise control, A/C, steering mounted audio controls, a hard case spare tire cover mounted on the rear, tinted glass, and perfectly acceptable base stereo system among its amenities.

The vehicle can be had (slightly) cheaper by opting for the manual-transmission JA trim or more expensively, if a buyer chooses a leather-appointed JXL model, but for our JX tryout, the MSRP stayed well under 30K.


Source: AutoNet

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