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2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Ultimate Adventure Edition Review By Dan Poler

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2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Ultimate Adventure Trim

By Dan Poler
Colorado Bureau
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.

Exterior Appearance

The exterior of the Grand Vitara features an athletic, rough-and-tumble look, accented by the full-size spare mounted on the tailgate.

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That tailgate is a right-hinged door rather than the traditional vertical lift, which is convenient for cargo area accessibility, but its length can present quite an obstacle when opening towards the curb in urban environments.

Interior Comfort and Styling

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Purple seats? Check. Purple TRI-TONE seats? Double-check.

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.

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The dash and electronics feel cheap and dated, as if straight out of the mid-90’s. The audio system is weak and tinny, lacking bass. The center console has a blank for a missing buttons that just seems too … obvious.

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The same sort of blanks appear to the left of the steering wheel.

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 heard.

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Also confusing is the warning atop the GPS’ docking station, which tells us that “if you keep the navigation stored in the docking station when leaving the vehicle for a long time, the battery may become hot and damage the unit. Remove the navigation from docking station when leaving the vehicle for a long time.”

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.

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Although the front seats are reasonably comfortable (save for the heating of the fabric in the sun), the back seats are fairly small and cramped. In order to maximize cargo space, they tumble forward out of the way, but must be manually strapped to the front headrests in order to remain there, an awkward arrangement.

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.

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The Ultimate Adventure Edition comes with Suzuki’s full-time 4WD which isn’t a bad setup but is single-mode. Paired with the decidedly on-road Dunlop Grandtrek AT20 tires, the Grand Vitara did not feel competent even on gravel and packed sand roads – between the tires and the oversteer, the vehicle was able to slide around fairly easily.

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