2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara review

Suzuki Grand Vitara / Reviews / 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara review

The Grand Vitara's current generation made its debut for the 2006 model year, and we weren't impressed overall. Now, with the class of compact SUVs and wagons continuing to evolve and gas prices so high they can barely be seen with the naked eye, I've taken another look at the Grand Vitara and can barely see how it would appeal to any buyer.

The Grand Vitara is designed as an off-roader. Suzuki points out that it uses unibody construction, like a car-based SUV, but it also rests on a heavy-duty ladder frame like a pickup truck or "truck-based" SUV. Compared to the average car-based SUV, the main advantages are usually a higher towing capacity and offroad ability. Well, the Grand Vitara's towing limit is 3,000 pounds, which is 500 pounds shy of the car-based Ford Escape equipped with an optional V-6. As for off-roading, there was precious little of that going on in the SUV's heyday, and now people are less likely than ever to make the sacrifice and haul around the extra weight of a truck platform, dual-range transfer case and other associated heavy-duty hardware. Weight hurts efficiency, and the Grand Vitara definitely pays a penalty, with EPA-estimated mileage figures of 18 or 19 mpg in mixed city/highway driving, depending on the transmission. Top competitors offer four-cylinders with mileage in the 20s, and even the loaded Escape V6 is better than the Grand Vitara by 1 city mpg (revised 2009 Escapes, which will go on sale soon, are expected to improve by another mile per gallon). When equipped with four- or all-wheel drive, practically all compact SUVs can handle more low-traction and off-pavement situations than they'll ever be subjected to, and the Jeep Patriot equipped with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road option steps it up to even higher capability and still delivers a promised 20/22 mpg.

Compact SUV Gas Mileage
Most efficient versions with 4WD and automatic transmissions Base Engine City mpg Highway mpg Combined mpg Ford Escape 2.3-liter 4-cyl. 19 24 21 Honda CR-V 2.4-liter 4-cyl. 20 26 22 Jeep Patriot* 2.4-liter 4-cyl. 21 24 22 Jeep Wrangler 3.8-liter V-6 15 19 17 Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.7-liter V-6 17 21 19 Toyota RAV4 2.4-liter 4-cyl. 20 25 22 *Without Freedom Drive II Off-Road option; package reduces mpg to 20/22/21.

Source: EPA

So in exchange for the Grand Vitara's low fuel economy you get so-so towing capacity and capability for the kind of off-roading practically no one does. That's already a tough equation to overcome, and in looking for other reasons to own a Grand Vitara, I mostly found annoyances.

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