Suzuki's Grand Vitara has been operating successfully in its 2.0 litre and 2.5 litre five-door format since April 1998. The three-door version was released in May this year for the first time, satisfying a small gap in the lower end of the four-wheel drive market segment.
With a slightly shorter wheelbase and narrower track, the three-door Grand Vitara is fitted standard with air conditioning, alloy wheels, engine immobiliser, power windows and mirrors, power steering and central locking. The small four-wheel drive segment is growing at a steady rate with the introduction of Honda's CRV and HRV, Daihatsu's Terios, Mitsubishi's Pajero iO, Subaru's Forester and Suzuki's own Jimny. The race for supremacy, however, will be fought between Toyota and Suzuki.
Two models of the three-door Grand Vitara are available, a manual version priced at $24,950 and an automatic model at $26,950. Both vehicles are identically fitted out and are available with optional airbags, side sills and luggage compartment covers at an additional cost. A range of accessories also allows the owner to personalise his/her vehicle.
Suzuki's two-litre, DOHC, sixteen-valve engine is basically unchanged since its introduction in 1997. It features an aluminium block and cylinder head, multipoint fuel injection and hydraulic valve lifters, and drives either two or four wheels through a five speed manual gearbox or a four speed automatic transmission, both of which drive through a dual range transfer case.
The Grand Vitara still uses a ladder style chassis with a separate body shell attached to it on rubber mountings, a set-up that has its obvious advantages for this type of vehicle. An independent McPherson strut suspension is retained at the front and the rigid axle at the rear is located by a five-link system, gas dampers and coil springs. Basic ventilated front discs and rear drum brakes provide the Grand Vitara's stopping power.
Apart from the obvious reduction in length, the number of doors and the lack of wheel arch flares, the three-door Grand Vitara follows the same overall style as the five-door model.
Driving the Grand Vitara is a pleasurable experience with all controls light and easy to operate, except for the fiddly stereo buttons. The driving position places the occupant higher than the average sedan car and enables a clear vision over a much greater distance. The engine offers sprightly performance and the gear ratios are well suited to the power available, providing the engine revs are not allowed to drop too low.
The rear seat legroom is limited, being suitable mainly for children and small adults on short trips only. The shorter wheelbase also limits the luggage space, except when the 50:50 split rear seat is folded. However, cabin storage is very generous, with two glove boxes, large double pockets in the doors, recesses in rear side trims and slide-out trays under both front seats.
Bump-steer and a choppy ride, both of which are more prevalent in short wheelbase vehicles, are evident in the Grand Vitara.
With its high/low range transfer case, the Suzuki has a definite advantage over some of its competitors when venturing into the more serious off-road situations. Not only does it have the ability to ascend steep inclines and climb over obstacles that are off-limits to vehicles without this low range capacity, it is also able to descend steep inclines with loose surfaces, using the mandatory low range and engine braking. Being able to select high range four wheel drive at speeds of up to 100 km/h is an advantage, however, low range can only be selected when the vehicle is stationary.
Our test vehicle allowed water to enter the cabin floor area through the driver's door during our basic water crossing, emphasising the dubious choice of carpet and the way it is secured on the floor of an off-road vehicle.
The rear drum brakes locked-up very easily, resulting in erratic operation that resulted in a substantial increase in heat and pedal pressure during our performance testing.
The under-bonnet layout allows easy access for servicing, which is scheduled every 15,000 km or 12 month intervals.
The Grand Vitara is a fair dinkum small four-wheel drive vehicle that performs equally as well around the city as it does on the highway and off-road. Its low range ability allows it to go places other similar sized four wheel drives cannot. This vehicle is definitely on the ‘must consider' list for the outdoor person who needs a small vehicle that can cope with both weekend and weekday activities alike.
Test vehicle supplied by Ateco Automotive P/L.
|Price of vehicle tested||$26,950|
Ease of operation
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||3 years, 60,000km|
Manual 3 door
$24,950 - manual
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||2.0 L|
|Induction||Multipoint fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||94 kW @ 6000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||174 Nm @ 2900 rpm|
|Wheel size||16 "|
|Type||Power assisted rack and pinion|
|Turns to lock||3.75 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||9.85 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1975 mm|
|Fuel capacity||56 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||450 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||24|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||5.6 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||7.6 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||8.3 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||12.9 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||9.1 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||12.2 L/100km|
|Average on test||10.1 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||33.6 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||66.8 dB(A)|