2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara review By Steven Cole Smith

Suzuki Grand Vitara / Reviews / 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara review By Steven Cole Smith

The market for small sport utility vehicles is among the toughest in the automotive world: So many good products, but only so many buyers. What's a little manufacturer like Suzuki to do?

Offer good performance, handsome styling and an attractive price on its 2008 Grand Vitara, and hope customers find it, that's what.

The test Grand Vitara was a rear-wheel-drive XSport model, slightly nicer and more expensive than the base Grand Vitara, with standard equipment that includes a sunroof, an automatic transmission, an upgraded stereo and alloy wheels. Our test model had a base price of $22,349, with no options -- add transportation, and the sticker read $22,999. That's for our rear-drive model: If you want four-wheel-drive, that price rises to $24,399, including shipping. If you want leather upholstery and even more features, you'll need the Luxury model.

The 2.7-liter, 185-horsepower V-6 is standard on any Grand Vitara, a selling point in Suzuki's favor, as several competitors have four-cylinders for a comparable price. At 185 horsepower, it isn't a particularly muscular engine, but the busy five-speed automatic transmission worked hard to maximize the V-6's capability. Towing capacity is 3,000 pounds.

Fuel mileage is about on par for a V-6 in a vehicle like this: an EPA-rated 17 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway for our test model. Get four-wheel-drive, and highway mileage drops to 21 mpg.

Inside, the Grand Vitara XSport's interior is nothing special -- reasonably attractive dashboard, reasonably comfortable front seats, better-than-you'd-expect rear seats. If you need a third row, Suzuki will happily sell you an XL-7.

Handling is pretty good, though the Grand Vitara moves around quite a bit in a crosswind. The ride is above-average on all but the harshest surfaces.

One of the selling points of the Grand Vitara, particularly the base model, is the long list of safety features, including anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution, electronic stability control, traction control, side and side-curtain air bags and daytime running lights. Also standard: Air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, a decent stereo and power windows, locks and mirrors.

The Grand Vitara's general goodness -- and, I submit, very handsome styling -- makes it a contender in a race filled with strong runners such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson. It's a buyer's market.

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