Suzuki Grand Vitara

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Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4

Road Test

Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4

Driven October 2008

Additional Info

As far as warning stickers go, the one below the handbrake in the Suzuki Grand Vitara, detailing exactly what you should do to prevent the car from rolling away when it's parked, is sinking to a new level of stating the bleedin' obvious.

Still, at least it's something remarkable about the car. Gives you a talking point. Because virtually every other aspect of it, bar the fact that you can lock the transmission in low range, is distinctly unremarkable.

The car has recently been face-lifted and given a new 2.4-litre petrol engine as part of the work, but neither transform it. We've just spent a good 10 minutes in the office with new and old pictures lined up against one another, and we still can't spot the differences. OK, so now there are indicators in the wing mirrors, but that's about it.

The new engine is a development of the 2.0-litre petrol, and power is up by 27bhp to 166bhp. Suzuki is also claiming lots of improvement in NVH levels - it's still not quite as silky as a BMW four-cylinder, but you can rev it more easily than the old car because it stays smoother up to the red line. A new design of timing chain, more noise insulation and thicker glass (you gain an entire half millimetre extra in the side windows) all help to keep it quieter.

There's enough torque here to make 50-70mph acceleration reasonably acceptable. Only having five gears isn't a disadvantage. But it's all barely average - there aren't any distinguishing features on the car. And it's also a petrol engine, which is a far less natural match for this type of vehicle than a good diesel.

Its off-road potential is impressive, if irrelevant. Yes, there's a low range setting and, yes, the ladder frame adds a lot of strength and rigidity to the chassis, but it comes at the expense of a comfortable ride. Other SUVs seem to flow better. The Chelsea Tractor crew would swap off-road ability for a comfy ride in an eye-blink. Will it tow my trailer? Will it mount a kerb? These are the vital questions that need answering, and the Vitara's honest, genuine off-road versatility wins it no points.

And that's the problem with the Vitara. Venture off-road, and it isn't at all average, but everywhere else, where most will use it, it sadly is.

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