Cruisy Suzi Vitara
  |  First Published: August 2008

Suzuki's Grand Vitara diesel certainly created a stir at its release in February this year. The concept was brilliant – Suzuki's style, comfort and outstanding off road ability in a package that is cheaper to register and run than previous models.

Following the initial review of the Suzuki diesel earlier this year I had the opportunity to take a Grand Vitara diesel on a decent country run. I took the Suzuki for a full blown run from Brisbane to the New England town of Ebor, via Grafton, and back.

It was a good mix of road and road surfaces. The motorway was a hoot at 110km/h, but then the annoying road works of the Pacific Highway between Broadwater and Grafton made the going softer and frustratingly slower. From there it was up, and up, the hill to Ebor where the weather and trees went a little sideways. A gale force wind carrying snow arrived the next morning.

The test car was a five speed manual – Grand Vitara diesels are only available in manual shift – but the addition of cruise control made the highway runs on the M1 just that bit easier.

The five-door Grand Vitara, in petrol or diesel, is a well appointed and comfortable vehicle with no shortage of features to ensure the comfort of driver and passengers. There is ample head and leg room all round, electric windows and a decent air conditioning and heating system.

Travelling with two people plus a reasonable amount of luggage, the 1.9L diesel engine made very light work of keeping up with other traffic.

The Suzuki's diesel engine incorporates many features found in the best of modern oil burners. It has a direct common rail injection system, it's intercooled and combustion boosted via a variable geometry turbo charger. It sports a characteristic diesel rattle at idle but settles nicely into power mode with little noise intrusion into the passenger cabin. As it's mated to well spaced gear ratios the 95kW/300Nm four cylinder engine actually feels quite nippy and never seemed to be working very hard under normal driving conditions. Even if low range is selected and the Grand Vitara is made to work for its keep the ratios are spaced nicely, the engine is able to keep up to the driver's demands with ease.

The Grand Vitara is overall a solid vehicle. It won't rattle on rough roads nor will it shake the fillings from the teeth, thanks to MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi link rear set up. It will, however, induce some reminiscence of the good old days when car travel was not that expensive.

Love those fuel runs

I love fuel consumption tests. I have a little slide calculator that translates data to litres per 100km, kilometres per litre and good old-fashioned miles per gallon.

At Grafton, where we had made remarkable travel time thanks to having an excellent early evening run down the M1, we stopped just on the outskirts of town to re-fuel. The trip metre recorded 338km travelled, the tank required 26.3L to top it up. This worked out at around 8L per 100km, 13km/L or 37 miles per gallon. Remarkable. But there was more to come.

Next was the up hill run that commenced just out of the kayaker's paradise of Nymboida. Between Ebor and Nymboida there is around 100km of winding, twisting, turning back on itself, sort of bitumen road. The Suzuki's headlights were powerful enough to cope with the dark and rainy conditions and the gearbox was able to come up with the right ratio when an advisory sign declared that the next turn was to be taken at 30kph.

We eventually arrived at Ebor and were thankful for a warm bed for the night. The next morning we topped up the fuel 11.5L at Ebor at – ouch – over $1.90 per litre, which was an average of around 8.5L per 100km. Still not so bad, really given the fact that the third and fourth gears were in use quite a lot on the run up the range.

The run home came later that day with a good sort of a southwesterly tail wind right up the exhaust pipe. I noted that when the wind did drop for a second two, water hens by the road fell straight over – it sure was windy!

As expected, with gravity assisting on the downhill section and then an easy coast from Nymboida to Grafton the fuel tally was a modest 10.3L. Grafton back to home required another top up of 25.9L, reflecting the traffic was light on a mid week morning making it easy to maintain a nice steady cruising speed.

Around 7.7L per 100km is the overall average, which is pretty outstanding for a four wheel drive.

On long stints, I found the Suzuki's seating quite comfortable, the driving position leaving little to be desired, and overall comfort levels certainly near that of a standard sedan. Despite all the extra comfort, it is the outstanding fuel economy that is really going to be the draw card for potential buyers, especially given that the fuel price spiral seems to be showing no signs of slowing down.

The Grand Vitara five door diesel retails for around $35,000.

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