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Suzuki has a long history of offering a range of small four wheel drive vehicles. As flagship of this range, the Vitara is noted for its low, squat styling which has remained basically unchanged for a decade.
The all-new, more rounded body style of the Grand Vitara is more in line with other contemporary small four wheel drives, and the V6 version introduces yet another engine to the Vitara line-up.
The Grand Vitara is an addition to Suzuki's range of four wheel drive leisure vehicles, with other Vitara models continuing unchanged. With the introduction of a number of other makes into this category, the competition is becoming more aggressive.
The Grand Vitara is available in two engine sizes, each with a choice of automatic or manual transmission. Pricing begins at $27,950 for the 2.0 litre manual and extends to $31,950 for the 2.5 litre V6 automatic as tested. Air conditioning is standard on all Grand Vitaras, the only options being automatic transmission, alloy wheels, metallic paint, anti-lock brakes and dual airbags.
The 2.5 litre 24 valve V6 engine fits very neatly under the bonnet with sufficient space around it to allow easy access to all serviced components. This engine is an upgraded version of the previous 2.0 litre V6 and although increased in capacity by 500 cc, the power is raised by a meagre 7 kW. Maximum torque, however, is up by 36 Nm and is available at a more sensible 3500 rpm instead of the previous 4000 rpm.
The length, height and width of the Grand Vitara are all substantially greater than the current Vitara, providing larger overall storage space in the rear compartment and in the numerous pockets and other small spaces. Due to the increased width of the rear seat cushion the rear passengers are not so squeezy, however, the leg room in the rear has been reduced slightly. Leg and head room are adequate when seated in the front, although the door trims do intrude into the cabin area reducing side movement. Although offering good vision all round, the large glass areas allow considerable heat and glare into the cabin.
Engine performance of the 2.5 litre V6 is an improvement over the 2.0 litre V6, with the extra torque available at lower engine revs making it more flexible.
The ride comfort proved smooth and quiet, and was complemented by excellent transmission shift quality with ratios well suited to the V6's capacity. Although still a relatively small vehicle and engine, the fuel consumption for both highway and city driving was quite high at 12.6 and 13.5 litres/100 km respectively.
An improved impact absorbing chassis supports the all-new front and rear suspensions. Although independent strut and coil springs have been retained in the front, they have been redesigned, and the five link trailing arms with coil springs bring a totally new approach to the rear. Even with all the changes, I found the handling qualities were only marginally better than the current Vitara.
Suzuki claims its new suspension design provides more wheel travel in off-road conditions, but combined with limited ground clearance, these are the two items which limited its ability in the rough, over and above all else. High range four wheel drive can be selected on the move, but the vehicle needs to be stationary with the transmission in neutral to select low range.
Although pricing suggests it is an upmarket model in Suzuki's line-up, there is little in the way of safety and security offered as standard. A security rating of 23, and optional only air bags and ABS, suggest these are low priorities.
The Grand Vitara is a small four wheel drive vehicle with contemporary styling, and offers comfortable city driving with the ability to enjoy a range of leisure based activities, including off-road excursions.
Its departure from a decade of unchanged styling is a refreshing change, and its increase in size offers additional space in most areas for smaller families. Overall comfort is improved, and the new V6 engine adds a new dimension in performance, albeit with an economy penalty.
Test vehicle supplied by Ateco Automotives.
By NRMA Motoring, June 1998.
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||3 years, 60 000 km|
2.0 litre manual: $27,950
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||2.493 L|
|Induction||Multi-point fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||106 kW @ 6200 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||208 Nm @ 3500 rpm|
|Wheel size||7JJ x 16 "|
|Turning circle (measured)||10.7 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1780 mm|
|Fuel capacity||66 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||1200 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||23|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||4.5 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||6.8 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||7.6 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||11.5 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||12.6 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||13.5 L/100km|
|Average on test||12.9 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||33.8 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||67 dB(A)|