While the Suzuki Grand Vitara isn't really a new car, it's still offered as new at Suzuki dealerships. I got my paws on one with less than 2000km on the odo so I could give it a bit of a go and to see if it would be on par with the rest of the Suzuki range that I like so much. Would it live up to my expectations? Well yes and no. Let me explain...
The Grand Vitara that's still available is the 2.4, 4-cylinder model, the V6 is no longer an option. While down on power from the V6 version, the 2.4 still offers ample power and is a little less thirsty. It does like to chuck it back though, especially when you hoof it a bit, but for a car of this size with permanent four-wheel drive it's still not bad. The 2393cc lump has Suzuki's VVT (variable valve timing) and makes 122kW (at 6000rpm) and 225Nm (at 4000rpm). When I got the car it showed figures of 12l/100km but after a week with it that was down to a pretty consistent 9.6l/100km. That was in the manual version, but an auto is also available. I reckon the more kilos the GV racks up, the lighter it will be on fuel, well to a point obviously. I had the manual version on test and the 5-speed 'box is good, it has that sorta clunky mechanical feel that a 4x4 needs, but the clutch is nice and soft and could be operated by the most petit of drivers.
What's it like to drive? Not bad at all. As you'd expect from permanent 4x4, it feels pretty solid, as does the build quality inside and out. Of course it was still new, but there were no noises or rattles to be found, even on corrugated sand roads and on some rocky terrain. It's got good punch and if you rev it hard it actually feels pretty sprightly, but making all the cars in the range feel the same is something Suzuki has always managed to do. If I kidnapped and blindfolded you and chucked you in the boot (you'll fit) and then kicked around town for a bit and dumped you roadside again, you'd be telling the police that you were in a sedan of sorts and not a 4x4. It turns great, has little body roll and accelerates and brakes as if it's half the size it is. This is not a bad thing.
If you want to take it offroad, it's more than happy there, probably happier than on tar because it's so damn capable. It features an advanced all-wheel drive system with a low-range transfer case, the different drive modes are electronically controlled and can be easily changed by simply reaching over to the centre console. The permanent four-wheel drive is good, but if things get sticky you can change to low range and you'll be on your way. It's rather versatile out there in the sticks and could keep up with a Jimny in most places. 200 mm of ground clearance and short overhangs with good approach and departure angles let you play nicely just about anywhere. If you want to go extreme there are plenty aftermarket options available to lift it and lock diffs and soak up the better part of R100k from your budget, so that's cool too for the overlander types.
The interior is good. Build is solid and things are comfortable. Materials used are sturdy too and easy to clean, which is something you'll need in a proper offroader. The clocks and steering wheel look good and the brushed aluminium-look edgings give it a bit more class. The next bit is where the Grand Vitara fails a little. The infotainment system isn't really a system. There's a radio / CD player but no more. You can't use an external source to play your own tunes, not via an aux cable or USB. The red digital display is quite outdated on the looks and features front. It was ok when the car was launched, but these days even cars on the bottom of the model spectrum include more things to fiddle with. The baby of the Suzuki range, the Celerio, out-features the Grand Vitara. The sound could be louder and clearer, and no I'm not basing that on aftermarket sound systems or brand that use larney people in the sound world to design their systems, I'm basing it purely in relation to the other Suzukis in the model range. On the plus side, it means there's an update due and while one hasn't been confirmed yet, I'm sure we'll see one. It will probably be based on the new Vitara, but bigger (he says as if he's qualified to comment on the future of motor manufacturers...)
On the outside, the Grand Vitara looks good and isn't as dated as you'd expect from a car launched around seven years ago. Of course the lighting may not be as fancy as a 2016 car but it works as it should. The dark silver wheels look good, and the added roof rails, integrated mirror turn signals and colour-coded spare wheel cover are nice touches. Is it worth the price tag though? I dunno? There's good competition out there in the segment, and even though it's not quite as capable as the Grand Vitara offroad, the new Vitara looks like the better choice. Would I have one? Well yeah, it's a Suzuki and it will last as long as Keith Richards and Pokemon.
Specs - Models - Pricing