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2004 Suzuki XL-7 LX Review - Long-Term Report

The foundation is there-now where's the aftermarket?

Robin StoverPhotographer, Writer

"Little Blue" as we've come to know her, fits quite well into the "on-the-go" lifestyles of our editorial staffers. In fact, the rig's been seen leaving Four Wheeler's uptown stables packed to the roof with camping equipment, snow gear, and other travel essentials on more than a few instances. Favored for its excellent fuel economy and the simplicity related to driving a vehicle with such nimble proportions, the little 'Zuk is just right for weekend jaunts and spur-of-the-moment getaways.

If asked to summarize, we'd say the most impressive thing about the XL-7 is probably value. We're impressed with its low financial impact related to both drive-off pricing and cost of operation. During this particular period, out-of-pocket expenses have been minimal, requiring little more then a simple oil change at $31.10. We find the 2.7L V-6 engine very capable of moving the 4,380-pound chassis around.

Off-pavement, and especially in situations where traction is low, the accolades quickly turn to anguish, leaving drivers wishing for a differential lock or traction control option. Though we haven't managed to stuck "Little Blue," some editors reported feeling "less than confident" when conditions got rough. Perhaps a respectable set of mud-terrain tires could change this. All in all, the Suzuki fills a gap where larger, more-expensive SUVs typically fall short. Willing to squeeze 300-plus miles from one 15-gallon tank is a rarity nowadays, and we have come to enjoy it, especially on those longer road trips.

Now that we've had some time behind the wheel, we're anxious to see how the aftermarket responds to the mild-mannered XL-7. We hope to see suspension, drivetrain, and engine options in the near future. If so, we might consider building one as a project vehicle-after all, its distant cousin, the Samurai, certainly proved to be a quite capable machine. We think the modern XL-7 has similar DNA, and given the right equipment, may just make a decent trail rig. As for our test mule, most of the time we keep the tires on pavement and she does everything we ask.

Previous reports: Mar. '05, June '05
Base price: $21,399
Price as tested: $21,749
Four-wheel-drive system: Pushbutton-activated two-speed transfer case

Miles to date: 14,949
Miles since last report: 1,522
Report average (mpg): 20.2
Test best tank (mpg): 20.4
Test worst tank (mpg): 14.4

15,000-mile service: Oil Change
Cost: $31.10

Hot: We find the Suzuki to be an excellent value for the money. Well suited for both city slickers and rural environments, this SUV makes transportation fun while minimizing financial impact.
Not: The tight-handling suspension system under the XL-7 is a limiting factor when the pavement turns into trail. Traction aids and a mud-friendlier set of tires would give this lightweight some prowess.

* "Smooth ride, engine has a decent powerband."
* "Lots of 4WD for $22K."
* "Fun in the dirt."