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2004 Suzuki XL-7 Review - Long Term Report

Entry-level price does not equal entry-level capability

After residing in our fleet for a full year and 17,000 miles, our little blue Suzuki left our staff with a more-than-favorable impression of the Suzuki brand. With an as-tested price of only $21,749, our XL-7 was fully equipped with a 2.7L V-6, manual transmission, pushbutton 4WD (with low-range), body-on-frame construction, power everything, a rocking seven-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, alloy wheels, and body-colored bumpers and moldings with chrome accents. About the only options left off were an automatic transmission, leather seats and the third-row seating. We were also impressed with the outstanding build quality and good looks that often had people guessing it was a much more expensive vehicle, especially when you consider the 7-year/100,000-mile warranty included roadside assistance and warranty-repair courtesy vehicle.

Over the course of the test, the logbook was filled with comments surrounding the tossable nature of the XL-7 and how much fun it was to drive on pavement. Kudos also went out to the XL-7's exceptional fuel economy and smooth nature. The only universal criticisms leveled at the Suzuki were the limited amount of travel for the front suspension and the need for a sixth cog for interstate cruising.

Off-pavement, the Suzuki excelled in the hard pack and sand, but when traversing deep ruts or mud, we often found the limited front articulation and low undercarriage worked against the Suzuki. While the XL-7's running gear and foundation are certainly rugged enough to be up to the task of four-wheeling, the pavement-oriented mission of the XL-7's tires and body kept it on the road for most of our test. Obviously severe 'wheeling is not the forte of this Suzuki, but we'd love to see what a lifted XL-7 on even 31s would be capable of.

Our only problem area was an airbag light that illuminated on the dash, which was easily remedied by a new seat sensor.

With the Suzuki heading back home, it leaves us with a gap to fill, as the XL-7 was a favorite for weekend getaways with the kids, which is what Suzuki had in mind for this vehicle all along. If your small family is looking for an inexpensive 4WD SUV with a ton of features and seating for five or seven, we wholeheartedly recommend the fuel-efficient XL-7. It'll get the family to wherever it needs to go, whether that's school on a snowy day or down a two-track to a treasured camping spot. And, it'll do it efficiently and without breaking a sweat-or the bank.

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

Miles to date: 17,483
Miles since last report: 2,534
Average mpg (this report): 21.2
Test best tank (mpg): 23.0
Test worst tank (mpg): 14.4

No maintenance this period
Problem areas: Airbag sensor

Hot: The Suzuki XL-7 is a good vehicle in its own right, but when you figure in the value, the amount of features you get for the money, and the quality of materials, the XL-7 is a great vehicle. The V-6/manual transmission combination made for driving pleasure and the large cargo area swallowed up plenty of camping gear.
Not: The open rear differential, street tires, and limited front articulation of our tester hampered the XL-7's off-pavement prowess, while the lack of a sixth gear caused the little V-6 to sound busy on the highway. Notably, our significant other appreciated the low step-in height, but we wish the XL-7 was a little taller.

* "The odometer says 'Hello' and 'See you' whenever I start it or turn it off."
* "The chassis feels very stiff, even after 16,000 miles."
* "You have to rev the engine to get the most out of it."