Make / Model Search

Car reviews - Suzuki - Grand Vitara - V6 Sports 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Value for money, excellent packaging equals a spacious and comfy cabin, handsome styling, adequate on and off the road, eager V6, stupendously easy to live with
Room for improvement
No Tiptronic-style auto shift, no cruise control, V6 thirst, no diesel engine option, ride quality, lacks driver involvement, wide turning circle

7 Apr 2006

AFTER the phoenix-like rise of the once-dowdy Swift, maybe it's up to Suzuki to finally build an exciting compact SUV.

And here's its chance. The new Grand Vitara - the third to wear the badge that sired the SUV craze back in 1988 - is a significantly better vehicle than its predecessor.

It ticks all the right boxes if you are after a compact yet surprisingly spacious station wagon with refined road manners and impressive off-road capabilities.

Think of it as a smaller, wieldier Toyota Prado (albeit one with only five seats and no diesel option for now) and you're on the ball with a Suzuki that's pretty much right on the money.

It certainly looks like a (slightly) shrunken mid-sized SUV, with its Range Rover-style clamshell bonnet, blunt nose, big headlights, bigger tail-lights, enormous wheelarches and (heavy on inclines) swing-out rear door that houses the de rigueur spare wheel.

Suzuki deserves credit for getting the proportions pleasantly spot-on, if not for originality - some see original Vitara, others the superseded Toyota RAV4.

The interior too is a success - most obviously at just how spacious and comfortable the Grand Vitara is, accommodating five average-sized adults with consummate ease.

Never mind the broad and supportive front bucket seats and perfect driving position.

It's the rear quarters' ample leg, shoulder and headroom offerings that will clinch the deal for many family buyers. Suzuki says it's roomier out back than the visibly longer Nissan X-Trail. Only very tall folk will find cause for complaint.

Plus the rear backrest reclines, while the whole split-fold ensemble tumbles forward quickly and easily to reveal a vast empty cargo space. Too bad the back seats don't fully remove like the RAV4's.

A solid and secure parcel shelf shows the world how it should be done though, while storage slots are plentiful throughout the cabin. And access via all doors couldn't be less impeded.

Beautifully clear instrumentation with Lexus-style illumination, strong ventilation via simple and obvious console controls, and a lovely-to-hold steering wheel, complete with a remote-audio facility (but no cruise control unfortunately), are further Grand Vitara features likely to reel prospective buyers in.

It's also a cinch to see out of - aided by huge Mickey Mouse-like external mirrors, deep side windows and rear headrests that fall flush with the backrest when not in use - that make it a piece of pizza to park.

Now remembering that this is a post-Swift Suzuki, the cabin ambience and detailing is very New Japan, with smart black and matt metallic-like trim mostly finished in hard yet hard-wearing plastics.

It appears well-made, squeak-free, pretty kiddie-proof and ably cocooned from the outside world.

But don't expect Volvo XC90 or VW Touareg-like luxury, style or ambience. They wouldn't have big ugly switch blanks bang in the middle of the centre console to remind you every day that there are better equipped Grand Vitaras out there.

Another gripe is a useless 'kilometre-per-litre' readout high up on the console where it is almost impossible to read safely on the fly. It could at least be in 'litres per 100km.'

Regardless, clearly Suzuki spent much time figuring out how to make the interior as family-friendly as possible. And this is all achieved with the usually room-robbing 4WD gear lurking underneath.

As an all rounder then, you'd happily invest in a Grand Vitara over any of its rivals on accommodation grounds alone.

But it's not much fun to drive.

Beginning with a clean sheet of paper, the quiet Japanese giant decided to focus on improving the on-road driveability of its venerable SUV, so injected plenty of resources into the engineering department.

And despite retaining a semblance of the old model's ladder-frame chassis for improved off-road abilities, Suzuki has implemented a new construction method that integrates this into a monocoque body design.

If you drive an old Grand Vitara, the differences on-road will delight.

Now the body, chassis, steering and suspension work as one, to make you feel as if you are cornering a well-sorted car and not a wobbly Black Forest cake.

The powered steering system - though no paragon of communication - now feels better connected to the front wheels, offering fairly sharp handling, linear control through corners and a heightened sense of roadholding and security.

And it doesn't fall into a heap if you drive the Suzuki hard or enthusiastically through bends either, thanks to a nice feeling of weightiness to all the controls.

A tight U-turn will reveal a sudden heavy build-up and clunkiness in the steering - an inevitability of the separate chassis treatment - but it's still well within reason.

So you'd pick this over a Nissan X-Trail or Honda CR-V here, if not the distinctly more-car like Mitsubishi Outlander or (especially) RAV4.

However, there is a downside to the Grand Vitara's newfound dynamic aptitude.

In attempting to merge the usually mutually exclusive good handling with go-anywhere abilities, it seems Suzuki has set the suspension too hard for the ride to be satisfactory on anything other than ultra-smooth bitumen.

Uneven roads transmit shocks and thumping noises far too regularly for comfort, meaning that passengers are too aware of the racket going on below.

It's a surprising oversight in a category where you're at least cosseted as well as stupefied by the dynamic experience. Suzuki definitely needs to spend more time figuring this dilemma out.

Australia was especially targeted with the 2.7-litre V6-engine five-door wagon tested here in five-speed automatic guise.

And they make quite a decently powerful pair - although on paper the 135kW of power at 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque at 4500rpm output isn't any great shakes.

Perhaps it's a combination of the GV's relative lightness (1640kg), revvy V6 (which really comes alive above 3000rpm and will happily haul right up to the red line with no fuss) and smart, swift gearing.

But... of course this will adversely affect fuel economy. Just how much depends on how heavy your right foot is.

Spirited urban, and some country driving (the Suzuki feels quite at home cruising quickly and quietly on our roads) depleted the 66-litre tank sooner than expected. Barely 400km could be eked out of it.

What this vehicle deserves is a Tiptronic-style sequential-shift automatic, which may better engage the bored driver and perhaps even improve fuel economy as a result.

Yet even without it there's a level of mechanical refinement missing from most other rivals simply because of the peachy V6 - even if the ride is too hard and turning circle too large.

Despite its tough construction, the latest Grand Vitara goes, steers and stops as a modern 4WD wagon should, feeling neither cumbersome nor heavy.

When you factor in the fact that the Suzuki has a reputation for off-road ability (not tested here), it offers an extra facet of 4WD motoring that most of its car-based compact SUV rivals can't compete with, especially for the price.

But the Grand Vitara is the first of a flurry of new offerings in this segment, and within the next 24 months most of today's competition will be consigned to SUV history.

Its dull driving experience may see the Suzuki fall behind more than the rest of what is an otherwise well-rounded family wagon deserves.

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

GoAuto can help you buy a new Grand Vitara

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires


This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only

Grand Vitara pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here