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Suzuki 2DR Vitara JLX (2001)

SEE ALSO: Suzuki Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 17,999
     Price As Tested                                    $ 18,469
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 122 cid/1997 cc
     Horsepower                                   127 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               134 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   86.6"/67.3"/152.0"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3019 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  14.8 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                          P215/65R16 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                                     Disc /drum
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Four-passenger/three-door
     Domestic Content                                 15 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            23/25/24
     0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
     Maximum load capacity                            870 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         1000 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Bob Hagin owned a Suzuki motorcycle once but he fell off after a few hundred miles of riding. Matt Hagin says the new Suzuki sport/ utility vehicle is lots safer for his dad.)

BOB - Except for a handful of models, the current crop of SUVs takes itself very seriously. They're big, powerful and very fancy. Fortunately, the Suzuki Vitara Two-door isn't one of these. If potential SUV buyers are looking for one that's big enough to carry a Little League team complete with equipment, they'll have to keep on looking. This little machine was built strictly for fun in the genre of crawling over barely discernible fire trails or hanging out on the beach. It only seats four and those in back are going to be very cramped. The Two-door is classified as a convertible, but the two up front have the comfort advantage of being able to roll up side windows. With the cloth top laboriously removed and stashed away, rear passengers are almost as out-in-the-open as if they were in the bed of a pickup. The no-frills character of our JLX version was somewhat compromised by the fact that the windows, locks and outside mirrors are power operated.

MATT - This Suzuki is definitely not in the style of most of the sedan-based "cute-utes" on the market. Like all Suzuki SUVs, the Two-door is built on a truck-like ladder frame with a detachable body. Its running gear is no-nonsense, with a solid axle in back that's carried on coil springs and its front suspension uses MacPherson struts with lots of travel. Our 4WD JLX model is the top of the line and I guess that it was designed with heavy duty in mind since its the only one with a reinforcing brace between the two strut towers. It has eight inches of ground clearance and approach-and-departure angles of around 32-degrees. This makes if very well suited for boulder- crawling and its narrow body makes it ideal for working its way through terrain that would stop the leviathan SUVs that are as big as a two-car garage.

BOB - The fact that this Vitara has a turning circle of only 31 feet and a wheelbase of just 87 inches is a big help in getting through tight spots, too. There's four different versions of the Vitara Two-door available, but only two of them have 4x4 capacity. Both the plain and fancy versions of the 4X4 models carry a somewhat bigger engine than the 4X2 "posers." It's a 127-horse 2.0-liter, all-aluminum twin-cam four-banger that puts out 134 pound/feet of torque. Although these aren't stump-pulling numbers, they're enough to get the 2700-pounder through and over all but the most daunting obstacles it might come across. Our test vehicle came with a four-speed automatic transmission, which wouldn't have been my first choice for rough-duty. I'd have preferred the five-speed manual. Both transmissions have transfer cases to put them in an ultra-low range. Also, the 4WD system can be engaged on-the-fly, but not the low range.

MATT - For really heavy going, I think that it could use a limited slip differential in the rear end, but I couldn't find one listed as an option. The 4X4 versions come with 16-inch steel wheels that carry tall P216/65R tires. One weak point of the Vitara Two-door is cross-country touring. On the highway, the short wheelbase makes the ride pretty choppy and sports car-type cornering is out of the question. There isn't any luggage space at all except for the back seat, so it would be tough for more than a cozy twosome to do much traveling. It has a third door in back and the full-sized spare tire is attached to it, but it swings away to the right, which blocks curbside loading. But unless the rear seatbacks are folded flat, this aspect is academic since there isn't much storage space in any event.

BOB - The Suzuki Vitara two-door isn't for everyone, and that includes me. But it makes a great backroads explorer, campus cruiser or beach buggy.

MATT - You're right, Dad, and I'm pretty sure that you're well past those three aspects of your life.