A GRAND ADVENTURE? (some text hidden)
By Alan Taylor-Jones
Introductionword count: 120
With the Suzuki Vitara these days more a road-biased Crossover than a true 4x4, maybe it's time to reflect on the much more rugged Grand Vitara that preceded it. Launched in 2005, it was extensively facelifted in 2009 before being tweaked for the final time in 2013. It's the post-2009 models we're going to look at here, cars that gained an 'SZ' tag and continued the Grand Vitara's approach of delivering a cheaper price than many key rivals while offering much more capability off the beaten track. A range of petrol and diesel engines, along with the option of three or five doors, mean plenty of choice for the prospective buyer. Often overlooked, it's a reliable and talented used buy.
Modelsword count: 12
(3/5dr compact 4x4 1.6, 2.0, 2.4 petrol, 1.9 diesel [SZ3, SZ4, SZ5])
Historyword count: 257
Despite Suzuki's small car successes, you tend to think four-wheel drive when considering this enduring brand. The reasons why have much to do with this car, the Grand Vitara. Vitaras have been sold here since 1988, with the Grand Vitara taking over in 1998, but they were always pretty crude agricultural-feeling things until this second generation Grand Vitara took over in 2005. This model replaced the old version's separate ladder chassis underpinnings with a more modern monocoque approach, so the car was lower, lighter and much better to drive. And that was important for it at last enabled this Suzuki to be properly considered as a cut price alternative to pricey Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V-class compact 4x4s. All right, so it wasn't quite as accomplished on the road but it remained much better off it. Instead of shedding body parts and getting stuck in extreme conditions, buyers could expect this tough Grand Vitara to stick by them, courtesy of its rugged build and the five-door model's proper low range gearbox, a rare thing in this class of car. That was good but potential buyers still wondered whether this car would be as reliable where they actually needed it to perform - on the tarmac. The lack of grunt from the petrol 2.0-litre most people wanted and the absence of electronic aids like stability control told against it. Hence a package of 2009 upgrades that, along with a smarter look, brought ESP and a torquier 2.4-litre petrol engine - creating the 'SZ'-badged car we're looking at here.
What You Getword count: 332
While Suzuki ditched the need for the clunky 'separate chassis' design approach with this car, they still beefed the monocoque up with a couple of long steel reinforcements and kept some proper offroad kit. So yes, it can do the business in the mud but it's too heavy to handle like a Golf. Unlike the 'on demand' all-wheel drive systems of its rivals, the Vitara was a proper four wheel drive SUV, with a low range gearbox to help it crawl along at incredibly low speed and a locking centre differential to help when things get slippery. While not unstoppable, Grand Vitaras are much more capable than most rival models: there's a reason you'll see plenty in the countryside. Only three-door models got the 1.6-litre petrol powerplant, while both three and five-door variants can be had with the 2.4-litre petrol or 1.9-litre turbodiesel units. From the outside, the Grand Vitara doesn't scream 'look at me' but is handsome in a boxy yet muscular way. Unlike many other manufacturers, Suzuki didn't beat the styling with the ugly stick come facelift time either. No seven-seat option was ever available, though that did mean plenty of room for luggage and people in the five-door bodystyle. Rear headroom can be a bit tight though. As you would expect from a Japanese marque, reliability is excellent. Inside, interiors got progressively better with the post-2009 SZ models, with both perceived quality and spec levels improving throughout the life of this version. True, the cabin features some hard plastics, but the underlying quality is good, making for a hard wearing cabin. The three door-only SZ3 trim comes with remote central locking, air conditioning, electric front windows and stereo controls on the wheel. The plusher SZ4 spec adds bigger wheels, tinted rear windows and front fog lights, while the five-door only SZ5 flagship trim includes leather seats. There are plenty of other options, including various trinkets to jazz up the exterior appearance and a touchscreen Bluetooth stereo with sat nav.
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Category: Crossover or SUV 4x4s
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