The 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara is the latest in a long line stretching way back to 1988 when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, Madonna was in the charts and the very first internet computer virus was discovered. It seems like only yesterday.
Suzuki were pioneers of the modern day 4×4, but in recent times its become a crowded market, and it wouldn’t be fair to say the Grand Vitara had lost some ground to the competition. This particular model however, claws back old headway, and ticks most of the right boxes, especially price wise.
After driving a Mitsubishi Shogun for a week it was back to earth with a slight bump when I got into the Suzuki for the first time. What the Vitara lacks in top level luxury and finesse it does makes up for in other areas, it’s a no fuss, robust and unpretentious motor and it’s almost £20k cheaper than the Shogun too.
All round it’s an enjoyable car to drive, the gearbox is a bit stiffer than to could be, but the ratio’s are nicely balanced and it’s punchy in 2nd and 3rd gear. The car I tested was the 1.9 DDIS SZ5 5dr diesel version, and while it doesn’t have the ooomph of the 2.4 litre petrol 16 valve model, it’s cleaner emissions-wise, and has a combined MPG of 41.5 , compared to the petrol’s 31.4 (manual) and 29.1 (automatic).
Despite it’s height, this SUV crossover actually drives more like a smaller car, which is a good thing, especially if you are more inclined to be heading down the Old Kent Road than conquering Scottish Highland Trails. There is also very little sign of lean going into corners, something these cars have struggled with in the past.
Inside the finish is solid, but simple, and robust enough to take the odd kick from the kids without the doors falling off. The seats are comfy and the controls and dashboard are well laid out. The stereo didn’t blow me away, but you wont need a PHD in software engineering to work out what does what.
The boot (211 litres), is big enough for the luggage for a family of four, as long as you don’t have to pack a tent. If there is only two of you, take the seats out (this will give you 528 litres of space) and you can sleep in the back (more money saving tips next week).
I do like the Grand Vitara’s looks, and the tinted rear windows are a nice touch, but without the spare wheel on the back and only the huge Suzuki badge and grille to distinguish it from other similar vehicles, it’s not what you might call a major ‘head turner’.
0-62mph (100kmh) in 13.2 seconds is fairly leisurely, but you’re not going to buy a Grand Vitara to race people at the lights (you’d get a Swift Sport for that), and its top speed is a fairly modest 106mph.
If you’re not already a fan, it’s well worth a test drive, especially if you are too young to remember the eighties the first time around.
For more info visit www.suzuki.co.uk