When we last reviewed our long-term Grand Vitara (July '07), she had just passed the 10,000-mile mark in our stable, and had passed into the realm of daily-driver/commuter duty. Now, after 13,000 miles in our hands, the folks at Suzuki PR have come to reclaim their tester, and we've said our teary goodbyes. But long story short: This is a terrific little rig, a Best Buy candidate in its class, and fun to drive.
What we liked: Our tester's 2.7L V-6 engine and Aisin five-speed automatic transmission worked flawlessly throughout the test period, though a couple of testers noted the transmission's occasionally unpredictable shift patterns on long grades. The pushbutton four-wheel-drive system worked whenever we needed it, and the ABS traction control displayed very polite manners, even when pushed hard on slippery, slow-speed trails. The Suzuki's rack-and-pinion steering delivered predictably neutral road feel, and the four-wheel disc brakes were equally reliable throughout. One component we most loved about our tester was its Yokohama Geolandar tires, which provided outstanding traction on pavement and plenty of bite on looser surfaces.
Most notably, our GV proved to be very, very economical in day-to-day operation. Total maintenance costs for the 15-month, 13,000-mile period were a whopping $93. The only component failure of note that we experienced-and it wasn't very much-was a recalcitrant fuel filler door that refused to stay latched shut some 5,000 miles into the test period. Our local dealer replaced the worn latch mechanism under warranty at no cost during the 7,500-mile service. If only every tester in our long-term stable were as reliable.
What we didn't like: Everyone on the staff agreed that the Suzuki's 17.4-gallon fuel tank is too small, at least to our liking. Cruising range is barely 200 miles, and even before that mark, we'd often find ourselves pulling into the gas station with the "low fuel" light flashing. Mileage, at a tad under 17 mpg for the test period, strikes us as less-than-stellar, but we'd probably rather have the V-6 than a four-cylinder in this rig for everyday use all the same.
Lessons learned: The Grand Vitara XSport is a great little runabout, reliable in operation and possessed of a versatile nature that serves it well as a daily driver, in-city errand rig, and dirt-road runner. What it is not, as we learned early on, is a seriously hard-core 'wheeling machine. But if you're in the market for an entry-level utility vehicle that delivers exceptional value for the money while still being rugged enough to hold up to the rigors of mild to moderate four-wheeling, the Grand Vitara is definitely worth a look. We'd be happy to testdrive another one, any time.
Report: 4 of 4
Previous report: Oct. '06, Feb. '07, July '07Base price: $20,399
Price as tested: $22,699
Four-wheel-drive system: Electronic full-time two-speed transfer case
Miles to date: 13,455
Miles since last report: 2,244
Average mpg (this report): 16.83
Test best tank (mpg): 22.16
Test worst tank (mpg): 14.88
None this period
What's Hot,What's Not
Hot: Maneuverability, tires, stowability, value
Not: Cruising range, mileage, ground clearance
* "Cruise control always downshifts when you hit 'Accel'"
* "Pretty darn fun on moderate trails"
* "Good traction control, just enough suspension travel"
* "This thing needs a bigger fuel tank!"
* "Terrific value for the money"