Review after 3 months

Here's my opinion of the Grand Vitara (SQ Series) after 3 months of ownership. I've also included various thoughts during my decision making process.

How did I choose the Suzuki Grand Vitara

So why did I choose this particular car ?
I wanted a 4wd.
It must not be underpowered and reasonably fuel efficient.
It must be the appropriate safety equipment (Airbags).
It has to be reliable and have low running costs.
I wanted a car big enough for 1-2 people
and luggage for a couple of weeks travel.
It had to be able to cope with long distance
travel in pretty harsh climates.
It also had to be reasonably easy to drive and comfortable over long distances.
It also had to be able to go off-road beyond the simple dirt track.

So what is it :
Suzuki Grand Vitara Sports (wide-body) 3dr SWB.

So why this car above all else?
Besides meeting the criteria set out above:
The primary reason : Priced well.
Secondary : Well equipped
Third : Looked tough.

The decision making process

There where other vehicles that I considered before the final decision was made on the the Grand Vitara. Some where brand new and some where 2nd hand or used models and some where Grey Imports some where literally quite weird. Also note that specifications and equipment I mention will vary according to country.

As there where so many to choose from it became obvious that I had to be more selective.  Bear in mind that some of the reasoning is relative and personal in nature.

Firstly, all the cars that could seat more than 4 people where disregarded.   Essentially they where too big for me.  This was hard choice, as the CRV and Pajero, Challenger and Surf where sitting pretty.

Next, any cars which did not have the required powered accessories where also dropped. Unfortunately this included all the Utility vehicles. 

Of which some where really quite nice.

The final list included :
Mitsubishi Pajero SWB,
Mitsubishi iO SWB,
Honda HR-V SWB,
Suzuki Grand Vitara SWB
Suzuki Jimny.

The list didn't surprise me because, honestly the larger models where very large.

The normal Pajero SWB was first to go because in 2 months I failed to find one in reasonable condition that was priced appropriately.  (They are not available new in Australia anymore.)  If the car was in good condition the price was equivalent to a new model of some of the other models.

The Suzuki Jimny was next to go.  It was way too small and not powerful enough.   It is also way to hard riding for a comfy long distance drive.

The HRV was next although it was a tough choice.  The car was nice to drive, quiet and well built however remembering the 4wd criteria it was sadly dropped.

The RAV4 almost made it but even before
the test drive something went terribly wrong.

The doors wobbled when opening and closing. 
Tried a few other versions and it was the same.
Other things that made the RAV lose contention

was the lack of underbody protection. 
Sure I may not need it, but it is peace of mind when travelling. However in the end it the the price that was the real killer.  You had to purchase what they called a cruiser pack to even get powered windows.
Regardless, Air-Conditioning is optional. 
Admittedly, it looks good inside and felt comfy
for the model with all the options however
nowhere near the $3000 above the Grand Vitara.

The smaller Pajero iO was next to go.  It had no side body protection and no models to look at in the showrooms. 
I consider side body protection essential as I detest the other car doors leaving an impression on mine and the scratches you get when visiting various tree lined roads.  Needless to say if the side cladding where included it would have been at the top of the list.

So there you have it, in my opinion the Suzuki Grand Vitara met my particular requirements better than the others.

Click on the various monthly reviews buttons for my opinion on the various ownership issues with the GV.

This review is for the officially imported Australian model 2002 Suzuki Grand Vitara Sports (Wide) 3dr with a 2.0 litre DOHC 16 valve with separate High/Low range transfer case with 4WD and auto locking front free-wheeling hubs.  There are so many other variations worldwide so take that into account when reading.  The good thing though is that all the models share the same components so can be compared.

As expected the engine on the Grand Vitara (SGV) was very tight ! The tightest I’ve experienced. Mind you I’ve had many Hondas since my last Suzuki. That last Suzuki I had was the infamous Swift Gti !

The tight engine for those who, the SGV is their first new car, means its reluctance to rev. The gearbox was likewise tight requiring conscious effort to shift and it was notchy. I only drive manual cars so if you got an automatic this comment doesn't apply. It’s one of the few gearboxes I’ve experienced with a direct connection to the gearbox, so you can feel the cogs and stuff. Most of the cars I had previously where front-drivers so the gear changes where feelings where filtered.  The automatic is definitely the better option if your driving involves mainly running round in the city.

However I am glad to report that the engine by about 1000k's has loosened and revs easier with every drive. Likewise the gearbox is also getting much easier to shift. As the engine frees up, I have also noticed that performance has improved considerably. To be honest it felt very sluggish for the first few hundred Km. It's not a Hayabusa but its not slow either.

The engine is torquey throughout the rev range. It gets better after 3000rpm certainly more conventional car like, with a renewed urge. Below 3000rpm torque rules, which is the way it should be for a 4wd. Acceleration times ? My Grand Vitara is still way too new to contemplate. At a guess its just as fast of the lights as the others but in-gear times are clearly superior.

The engine can be heard working, however it is subdued until entering the higher rev range just like a normal car. Again this is relative as a normal car has considerable different meaning to different people. It is generally on part with a Honda Civic except for higher front wind noise. Regardless, the SGV's engine is smooth meaning that there is no vibration through the steering wheel or seats at idle. When cruising at legal speeds the engine fades into the background. Fuel consumption has been between 10-11 litres for every 100kms. Which is fair enough considering it’s a new engine etc…

The ride comfort is good for this type of vehicle. It also inspires confidence, not having to avoid the large numbers of road imperfections, drain holes and so forth. Bumps which you feel in normal cars is absent in the Grand Vitara. However on the larger bumps there is some choppiness afterwards. I attribute that to my version's short wheelbase. The high seating means I can see further ahead but not block the view of other drivers too much. The seat base is reasonably firm, good if you have a big butt, but gets too flat if you have a smaller one. There is a standard lumber support lever which is great on longer drives. The height adjustable seat is also a great feature. Not forgetting the tilt only adjustable steering. However reach adjustability would be a great addition.

The interior. My biggest complaint is the type of material used in the car. It really should be a better grade or up to date grade. It looked fine in 1998 but showing its age in 2002. Mind you until recently the other manufacturer’s models were’t any better. Esp the steering wheel needs a nicer looking model. The instrumentation still looks Ok but could do with an update.  Mind you the car is put together very well, and no rattles or squeaks. But make sure the spare tyre is screwed tightly to the holder.  

With that said the NEW 2003 interiors look great. It's all up to date and you know what, it addresses every negative aspect about the old one.  It looks better than the CRV and RAV4 if you want to know what I think. See for yourself.

The standard CD stereo (a Clarion) does not look very good but it does the job.   It will play CD-R and CD-RW discs. The speakers are paper ones and a weird 15-16 centimetres.  It comes with 4 speakers.  It sounds livable with CDs and less so with the radio as with most standard car stereos these days.  It is reasonably easy to remove and replace with a double DIN unit or a single DIN and CB radio option.  I have of course completely replaced the standard one with a better model and 5 speakers.   The installation is not hard.  Also the rear speakers grills can be removed without removing the entire rear panels !

Noise levels are reasonably low too ! It's not quiet but its not noisy either. The best part is the lack of obtrusive road rumble or noise.  In normal cars road noise can get pretty loud and annoying, varying with the type of road surface.  Unfortunately the SGV has more engine noise and wind rustle than a normal car.

The handling is different to what I am used to. However the suspension is a nice compromise of compliance. But again due to my short wheel based model it is jiggly on some surfaces. Being a short wheelbase the back does move out if cornering enthusiastically. In normal driving you wouldn’t notice. The car does have a high centre of gravity hence it will lean, but nothing unnerving as the bigger 4wds. The turning circle impressed me greatly quite surprising. Steering is not wooden which is a surprise. You can feel what the road is up to but it is subdued. On the standard tyres in the dry, the wide size means good grip and you can actually use the throttle to control the turning attitude. In the wet the standard tyres are not good combined with the SWB it is better to take it easy. In high winds the car does move about but so does everyone else on the road.

The looks, in all honestly it is a pretty smart looking car for a 4wd. In its 2002 bodywork (far better than the unadorned version) it turns a few heads of other 4WD owners that's for sure.  I don't think its aged to badly. The look is definitely tough, and you wouldn’t be afraid to take it off road. Alloys should really be standard. However I can see the point of view of those wanting steel wheels for a proper beach and 4wd purposes.

Conclusion so far : Its not a normal car, it's a 4wd. 4WDs have different design criteria to meet.  The SGV is a proper 4wd that will go much further into tough terrain than any of them. However to appeal to as many people as possible, there is compromise in its makeup, and the SGV does address them well enough for me not complain harshly.

Not so nice :
Mine does not have a instrument dimmer.
Although you don’t exactly adjust them apart from the once it handy to have, as one friend said for ‘Spotlighting’.
I only got 1 remote locker. - This is really weird.



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This site went live during January 2003.