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2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review By Larry Nutson


2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara  (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara

2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara
The Little Truck That Can

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Suzuki’s entry in the compact SUV segment is the Grand Vitara. For 2012 it has been mildly refreshed from its redesign of 2006. The basic structure for the Grand Vitara is a unibody chassis offered in either rear wheel drive or four wheel drive. Key chassis features include a stiff structure, incorporating both a unit body and integral ladder frame; four-wheel independent suspension; and four-wheel disc brakes.

The only engine is Suzuki’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing 166 horsepower and 162 lb.-ft. of torque. The Grand Vitara’s four-cylinder engine can be teamed to a standard five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission with rear wheel drive or only with the automatic in four wheel drive, depending upon trim level.

EPA fuel economy ratings are 19 city and 26 highway with the manual, 19 city and 25 highway with the automatic, and in four wheel drive 19 city and 23 highway. With its 17.4 gallon fuel tank, about 400 miles of highway cruising should be possible. I thought the engine to be somewhat noisy and the fuel economy ratings leave a little to be desired compared with some of the competition. Hopefully Suzuki has some engine and transmission enhancements in the works to give the Grand Vitara a needed boost in performance and economy.


2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara  (select to view enlarged photo)

The 5-passenger Grand Vitara is offered in four trim levels…base, Premium, Ultimate Adventure and Limited. Pricing starts at $19,499 for the base model that is only offered in RWD. But the base model is nicely equipped with air conditioning with automatic climate control and micron air filtration system; trip computer; power windows, mirrors and door locks; remote keyless entry; tilt steering wheel; automatic on/off headlamps; four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM Satellite Radio®3-compatible audio system and 16-inch steel wheels.


2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara  (select to view enlarged photo)

Standard on all Grand Vitaras is an enhanced navigation system using the latest Garmin 1600 series system and includes standard info-suite of services, including real-time traffic*, weather forecast, movie time search, flight arrival/departure, lowest gas price and Google search.

My tester-for-a-week was an Ultimate Adventure with 4WD and a Navigation system priced at $23,949. In addition to the Navi came water resistant 2-tone seats, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, 18 inch smoked alloy wheels, fog lamps and side mirror turn signals.


2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara  (select to view enlarged photo)

I mentioned the base model is only available in RWD. The Premium and the Ultimate Adventure models are offered in RWD or Full-time 4WD. The Limited is also offered in RWD and is the only model offered with the 4-mode 4WD. The Grand Vitara’s 4-Mode full time four-wheel drive offers the best of both worlds: an exceptionally capable off-road vehicle that remains civilized on the asphalt. There, drivers can leave the dash-mounted transfer case switch in 4H and the electronically controlled on-demand four-wheel-drive system will apply traction to the front wheels…only as needed, optimizing economy while maximizing traction. When traveling off-road, or for low-speed power and traction, drivers can turn the switch to high-range 4H Lock or low-range 4L Lock to engage the center differential lock.

Nicely convenient for RV owners, a Grand Vitara equipped with a manual transmission or with the 4-Mode full-time four-wheel-drive system can also be flat-towed. Switching the transfer case control into the neutral position helps minimize driveline wear and prevent non-driving miles from accumulating on the odometer.


2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara  (select to view enlarged photo)

Along with the seating for five there is the typical SUV versatility. There is 24.4 cu.-ft. of storage space with the rear seats up. Fold the 60/40 split-folding rear seats and the cargo space expands to 68.9 cu.-ft. The Grand Vitara’s rear cargo door is side-hinged with the spare tire mounted to the outside. I found this to be a detriment in Chicagoland city parallel parking because you very often can’t open the rear cargo door since it hits into the vehicle parked right behind you. A top hinged hatch would be better plus the large hatch provides for great rain cover and in today’s world a remote power operated hatch is a great convenience.

The Grand Vitara earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS’s) highest rating of “good” for frontal crash protection. Active safety technology includes an anti-lock braking system with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and stability control with traction control. Standard passive safety features include driver and front passenger seat-mounted side-impact airbag supplemental restraint systems (SRS); an advanced dual-stage front airbag SRS; an advanced weight-sensing front passenger classification system; and front and rear side-curtain airbags networked with a rollover sensor. The three-point driver and front passenger seat belts feature pretensioners and shoulder height adjustment. Each rear seating position is equipped with a three-point seatbelt and a headrest. Also provided is a rear child-seat LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) at rear outboard seating positions.

Suzuki sell its vehicles through about 300 dealers in the U.S. and they are backed by a 100,000 mile/7 year transferable powertrain limited warranty. With a bit more power, reduced fuel consumption, and perhaps a few more refinements the Grand Vitara might be a more viable entry in the compact SUV arena, be even today it’s a pretty good value.

© Larry Nutson