I don't often have the opportunity of reviewing two cars back to back but when the opportunity came to review the Grand Vitara three door petrol and Grand Vitara five door turbo diesel respectively I grabbed it with both hands.
The Grand Vitara varieties are special vehicles, well suiting these tough economic times with minimal costs all round without compromising the performance, comfort and sheer pleasure of a good driving experience.
Let's face it, not everyone wants a large four wheel drive, but plenty of people do appreciate the capabilities that a dedicated four wheel drive can offer.
The compact Suzukis, with low range gearing at the flick of a dial, will go where crossover vehicles (all wheel drive but without low range) will often falter.
Powered by a 2.4L fuel injected four cylinder petrol engine the three door Grand Vitara represents terrific cost savings at $27,990 for the auto model that I reviewed. Despite the budget price tag, Suzuki have not skimped on extras with the reviewed vehicle equipped with power windows and mirrors, cruise control, climate control air conditioning and an MP3 compatible CD player with steering wheel controls. Extensive safety features such as Electronic Stability Program with traction control, front, side and curtain air bags, and an ABS and EBS braking system are also included.
The three door Grand Vitara was more compact than it's larger brothers but gave away little in ride quality. As expected with the shorter wheel base the ride was a tad sharper but by no means uncomfortable even when travelling rough or corrugated gravel surfaces. On main highways and bitumen roads the ride was virtually indistinguishable from the five door Grand Vitara.
One of the real advantages of the three door vehicle comes in off road ability. With a wheel virtually on each corner and very little over hang at the rear, the three door Grand Vitara is very capable, handling rough going conditions with ease.
The 2.4L four cylinder fuel injected engine of the three door had ample power (at some 122kW plus 225Nm of torque) for any given situation and was silky smooth throughout the rev range. Never noisy or inclined to buzz, the almost silent four cylinder was mated perfectly to the four speed auto gear box. This combination proved to be frugal at the bowser with a mix of country and city driving returning around 9L per 100km, which would see a good cruising range from the 55L fuel tank of this model.
Seating capacity is rated for four people, although I'd see children best seated on the rear seat. Entry was not that difficult as the front seats slide well forward, but children can scramble in and out much easier than adults. My view is that the three door would provide plenty of beach and bush excursions for parents and a couple of youngsters. Towing capacity is rated at 550kg for an unbraked trailer, upgraded to 1600kg for trailers set up with brakes; a reasonable boat or camper would be no sweat.
At the time of it's release last year the 1.9L diesel Grand Vitara was widely acclaimed, and went on to win some very prestigious awards, but I suspect sales did suffer as a result of diesel being up around $1.50 per litre at the time. Now with diesel back down around the dollar mark, this vehicle is again an affordable option with good fuel economy.
The five door Grand Vitara diesel boats all of the comforts of the three door model, great handling, a comfy ride and seating capacity for five people.
The turbo charged four cylinder engine is a modern common rail design. Reworked mid last year to offer even more refinement, I found the engine was markedly quieter than it's predecessor (of the same capacity) and I found the diesel drove just as well in city traffic as it did in the bush. The vehicle started smoothly and rapidly without much noise at first idle and warm up.
Mated to a five speed manual gear box the diesel really kicked into life from around 1,800rpm onwards, thanks to figures of 95kW of power and 300Nm of torque, this vehicle could only be described as having brisk performance. Yet it was incredibly easy on the pocket at the bowser. A test drive involving a fair amount of city driving returned fuel consumption of 8.3L per 100km, while a country run of some 500km fuel consumption was 8.1L per 100km. For us old timers, that's awfully close to 35 miles per gallon.
It's hard to top that sort of economy from a dedicated four wheel drive today and with a decent sized rear cargo area (398L) plus a rated tow capacity of 750kg/2000kg (braked), the frugal five door Grand Vitara diesel represents serious value for money at $34,990.Reads: 9143