2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Ultimate Adventure Edition Review By Dan Poler
By Dan Poler
The Auto Channel
Introduction / History
Let’s face it – the CUV segment in the US is a crowded one. With excellent offerings from American, European, and Asian manufacturers, a vehicle must really stand out and be something special in order to be successful in this part of the market.
The Grand Vitara last went through a refresh cycle in 2008. For 2012, Suzuki presented the Ultimate Adventure Edition, which includes faux-leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18” alloy wheels, fog lamps, and turn signals on the mirrors.
Most reviews of the Grand Vitara note its extensive list of standard equipment, and this is true, the Grand Vitara comes standard with a host of amenities including power everything, automatic climate control, side airbags, and a detachable Garmin GPS unit. Despite these features and despite its refresh with a host of updates in 2008, today the Suzuki Grand Vitara feels dated, as if from a decade ago, and falls short of the challenge presented by its peers in this segment.
The exterior of the Grand Vitara features an athletic, rough-and-tumble
look, accented by the full-size spare mounted on the tailgate.
Interior Comfort and Styling
A somewhat controversial choice for interior appointments, but the seats are fairly comfortable and the synthetic fabric is intended to be easy-to-clean. Unfortunately, the fabric gets very, very hot in the summer sun. Uncomfortably so, and far more so than leather.
As noted earlier, the Grand Vitara features a removable Garmin GPS
as standard equipment. It’s a nice touch, but emphasis should be
placed on the fact that it’s a GARMIN GPS unit. Sound for navigation
and Bluetooth route to the audio system, but that’s about as far as
integration gets. The Garmin’s display is small and hard to see when
driving, and the Bluetooth is difficult to hear – and difficult to be
Huh? What’s “a long time?” Fear of damaging the GPS will mean removing it every time you park, a ritual which will quickly become tiresome. Since the Bluetooth requires the GPS to be installed, this can be an inconvenience – one more thing to remember each time you begin and end a drive.
There are other little details that just add up to a less-than-superior experience, like a loose cover to the center armrest, and a turn signal that has an artificial click – when you can still hear the actual relay near the driver’s knees, out of sync with the artificial click.
Safety and Warranty
The Grand Vitara has a host of safety features, including the aforementioned side curtain airbags and stability control as standard. The Grand Vitara earns a four-star rating for rollover resistance from NHTSA and all “good” and “acceptable” ratings from IIHS.
Ride and Handling
Despite the respectable rollover resistance rating, driving the Grand Vitara feels as if it’s willing to roll at a moment’s notice. The ride is noisy and bumpy, with ever-present squeaks, jiggles, and rattles. Steering feels soft and vague at the center but picks up quickly, leaving the vehicle prone to oversteer.
Suzuki’s 2.4L 4 cylinder engine produces 166 HP, mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. It’s simply too weak a setup for the Grand Vitara. In many cases, a weak engine is a trade-off for excellent fuel economy – not the case here, with a rating of 19 / 23 city / highway MPG and an overall observed average of 22 MPG. We’re not seeing the tradeoff as worth it, especially as competitors in this segment are utilizing 6-speed transmissions and seeing as much as a full 10 MPG highway greater efficiency than the Grand Vitara.
For any manufacturer, calling a trim level the “Ultimate Adventure Edition” is a pretty bold claim – we wish that Suzuki would have considered provisions like the transfer case with selectable low-range 4WD available on the Premium trim, as well as perhaps a V6 engine and tires more appropriate at least for basic soft-roading.
In any vehicle, it’s always the little details that make the difference. For the Grand Vitara, It’s the little details that work against it. Suzuki sold less than 5,000 Grand Vitaras in calendar year 2011, and investing time and energy in that attention to detail would clearly be of benefit for Suzuki in the long run.
Suzuki needs to step up their game to be competitive in the CUV segment. If you are investigating the Grand Vitara, you owe it to yourself to also take a look at the Hyundai Tuscon and it’s twin, the Kia Sportage. For soft-roading capabilities, the Jeep Patriot is also an option worthy of investigation. When similarly optioned, these three choices present within just a few hundred dollars of the Grand Vitara (you might not get the GPS, but a detachable unit similar to the one found in the Grand Vitara can easily be added from your local electronics retailer); for just a little more you can also find yourself in a decently-equipped Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, or Ford Escape.
Specifications: 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Ultimate Adventure Edition
Base Trim Price: $19,649
Price as Tested: $24,569
Engine Type: DOHC 4-Cylinder
Engine Size: 2.4L
Horsepower: 166 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft): 162 Lb-Ft @ 4,000 RPM
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic
Wheelbase / Length (in): 103.9 / 177.2
Curb Weight: 3,479 Lb
Pounds per HP: 20.96
Fuel Capacity (gal): 17.4
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: Dunlop Grandtrek AT20; P225/60R18 99H
Brakes, front/rear: Ventilated Disc / Ventilated Disc
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson Strut / Multi-link
Ground clearance (in): 7.4
Drivetrain: Full-time 4-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy:- MPG city / highway / observed: 19 / 23 / 22
Base Trim Price: $23,949
Options and Charges
All-Weather Floor Mats: $125
First Aid Kit & Cargo Mat: $115
Premium Metallic Paint: $130
Bluetooth w/ Screen Graphics: $250
Price as tested: $24,569