Suzuki Grand Vitara LTD 5-door 2012 Review

Suzuki Grand Vitara LTD 5-door 2012 Review

Back in 2008, just before the Global Financial Crisis, Suzuki treated us all to an awesome trip to Ayers Rock and the surrounding outback to test the Grand Vitara range. It was a spectacular jaunt and one that highlighted the Grand Vitara’s good points – rugged versatility without compromising much on road manners being the main one.

While I didn’t go on the launch of this model (time constraints prevent those kinds of things these days), I was expecting to be impressed by how much Suzuki has

upgraded the Grand Vitara in the last 4.5 years.

Only they haven’t…much. It’s still a 2.4-litre engine pushing out the same 122kW and 225Nm through a four-speed automatic driving the same sized wheels and tyres (225/60R18 on 18-inch alloys) with the same 9.9l/100km fuel economy. It even looks the same (apart from some minor detailing changes). In fact there are fewer options now because you used to be able to get a V6 with 165kW, and now the only offering is the 2.4-litre four-cylinder.

Has Suzuki become Land Rover? Did they look at Land Rover’s success and think ‘If we keep the same model going for the next 20 years, will the public notice?’

Well, not quite. For a start, the Suzuki isn’t visually showing its age – the design has held up well. There is also a bit of change in the interior, most notably the entire multimedia system which now supports Bluetooth phone integration, Bluetooth audio streaming, auxiliary inputs and memory cards as well as terrestrial radio and CDs.

The large touch screen serves double duty for the satellite navigation. Both the audio and navigation systems are a little clunky in their operation compared to some other manufacturers, but they’re perfectly adequate once you’ve figured out what you’re doing.

The safety features are the same as before, according to my spec sheets, and that means six airbags, electronic stability control and traction control. But it only gets a four-star crash rating in a world where everything apart from some of the utes and Chinese brands are lower than a five.

The gearbox is only 4-speed (compared to, for example, the 8-speed BMX X1 I collected after giving the Suzuki back), but it has four modes, including low range to help you with challenging situations. That’s where the Grand Vitara is going to win its admirers.

If you own a sheep station in Otago and you want a car that can handle difficult terrain, but not be an absolute headache for the wife to park on the trip into the supermarket, then this is your car. You won’t be buying a Land Rover because buying a Land Rover says you don’t care about basic things like a turning circle and airbags and you just want to pummel the environment into submission. The Grand Vitara is just as easy to drive on the road as a car.

In 2008 the Suzuki was punching above its weight; now it seems like the engine is noisy and a little thirsty and the interior feels dated. It’s like stepping back into a slightly better version of 2008.

Even with its ladder chassis it would probably be outgunned and outclassed in the outback unless you’re taking it to the rougher terrain (which most people won’t).

It’s a cheap, compact off-roader, and with five doors and an ample boot, it could be a great country-dweller’s family car. But for similar money you can have a Peugeot 4008 (read review), Hyundai ix35 (read review), Nissan X-Trail (read review) and others – all better appointed and equally as good at the kind of ‘lifestyle’ off-roading of kerbs and boat ramps that the general populace needs.

Price: Range starts at $31,690. Price as tested, from $41,990.

Pros

  • Good capabilities for the money
  • Good off-roading abilities if you need them – not many of the competitors have a low range gearbox

Cons

  • Apart from the multimedia functions, you’re driving a 2008 car
  • 4-star crash test rating

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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