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JUST FOUR FUN (some text hidden)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Introductionword count: 97
The Suzuki Grand Vitara is a serious four-wheel drive that has struggled to rid itself of the wide-wheel and bodykit image Vitaras were saddled with in the early nineties. In many ways Suzuki themselves didn't help its cause by introducing a frivolous three-door soft-top version, invoking the spirit of what many people consider the worst car in recent history, the Suzuki X-90. These associations do a fine car no favours. Find a good used Grand Vitara and you'll have a reasonably stylish 4x4 that will embarrass many more 'established' off road favourites when the going gets muddy.
Modelsword count: 14
Models Covered: (3 dr soft top, 3/5 dr 4x4 [1.6,2.0, 2.5, 2.7 petrol,2.0 diesel)
Historyword count: 210
The Grand Vitara is a more serious proposition than its junior sibling and upon launch in April 1998 offered a five-door body with a 2.5 V6 engine, then a unique feature in the junior 4x4 market sector. Five months later, the turbo diesel option was introduced, with a 2.0-litre capacity in the same body shell. The range remained unchanged until May 1999, when the GV2000 Soft Top was launched. This used a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, and had three doors and a rather ungainly profile. The range was completed with the launch of the three-door estate variant in March 2000. This handsome model offered the larger dimensions that buyers in the market for vehicles such as a Honda HR-V or Toyota RAV-4 weren't getting from the standard Vitara. Like all Grand Vitara models, it boasted a rugged ladder-framed chassis and low-ratio gearbox, which bestowed superior off road capabilities. Early in 2001, both 3 and 5-door versions got a minor facelift and a trim upgrade. The 3-door got a new 1.6-litre engine option, while the 5-door gained a better turbo diesel engine and a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol variant. The long wheelbase 2.7-litre XL7 seven seater variant debuted at the end of 2001 followed in April 2002 by a five seater model.
What You Getword count: 469
There's a vague division in the market for four-wheel drives at the moment. 'Proper' off-road cars such as Range Rovers or Toyota Land Cruisers have tough ladder-framed chassis which are far more rugged than those that use a car-based monocoque arrangement, such as the Toyota RAV-4 or the Honda CR-V. If the market were divided into those two camps, things would be easy. Unfortunately you get vehicles like the Land Rover Freelander, with its serious name and off-road pretensions which are monocoque bodied, and vehicles like the Suzuki Grand Vitara that seem quite lightweight, but boasts a full ladder frame and low-range gearbox. In truth, the Suzuki is a great deal more accomplished and no-nonsense than many would believe. The five-door versions have sold far more than the soft-top and newer three-door hardtop version, and makes an interesting case for itself. Equipment on the both five-door versions includes a CD player, electric windows, central locking, powered mirrors and an adjustable steering wheel, but air-conditioning and ABS were extras. Given that asking prices for the V6 significantly undercut rivals such as the Freelander, this makes the Grand Vitara a value used buy. There have been no short cuts on the safety front either. Proof of this can be seen by the fact that Suzuki immediately meets the latest stringent USA model year crash standards; the Freelander needs modifications to do so. Twin airbags are standard of course, as is the now almost compulsory high-level rear stop light. The three-door models may have sold less, but in many ways are more interesting. Badged in this country as GV2000 models, they are identically priced and specified, but the two body types are built in different factories. The Soft-Top is made in Suzuki's Canadian plant (a joint venture with General Motors) while the Estate comes from Japan. The front section of the Soft-Top's canvas hood - above the front seats - can be folded back or removed separately if required, enabling the driver and front seat passenger to enjoy open-top motoring targa-style. If you want to go the whole hog, the rear section has been designed to be unzipped and folded down to create a full Cabriolet-style 4x4. Be warned however, it's not a quick job. Once you're roofless, however, the car does become a very flexible load carrier thanks to 50/50 split rear seats that can be independently folded for loading versatility or `somersaulted' forward to provide maximum storage. The Estate's load area is equally flexible. The rest of the 3-door interior is described by Suzuki as 'fashionable yet functional'. Functional would be the pertinent word; grey plastic abounds but it all works well enough. There's certainly plenty fitted as standard; a radio/CD player with remote control, power steering, front electric windows, power mirrors, central locking, twin front airbags and tinted glass.
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