The Inside

There are aspects of the interior that I like, including the overall design. The materials in my test Grand Vitara XSport were pretty good quality, which couldn't be said of Suzukis just five years ago. The windows are also pretty tall, which gives an airy feel. The driver's seat has a manual height adjustment, and the steering wheel tilts but unfortunately doesn't telescope. The interior dimensions are competitive if a bit shy in backseat headroom. At 6 feet tall, I fit comfortably back there, with decent legroom. The floor is relatively flat, and the backrests recline, but the only means of adjusting them is a handle atop the backrest — a process that's not exactly comfortable, even if the result is.

In time I started getting annoyed by little things, like sun visors that don't extend; when you swing them to the side, there's an awful lot of unshaded window. I also noticed that the backlighting intensity of displays and gauges isn't uniform, to an extent that, when dimmed, one display would become illegible before another. The center storage console is relatively small, and there's no 12-volt accessory outlet inside (though there are two outside). There's also no auxiliary input to patch an MP3 player into the stereo; once you have this feature, which many new cars do, you never want to be without it. Surrounding the gear selector on my test car were prominent button "blanks," reminding me that there were available features I didn't have.

In terms of the rear view, I've definitely seen worse, especially in SUVs with tail-mounted spare tires, but this one does block the low view, and the D-pillar is quite wide.

Standard on the XSport and Luxury, the SmartPass keyless-access system allows you to unlock the doors and start the engine without removing the transmitter from your pocket. I'm a fan of this feature, but Suzuki's has an annoying quirk: After I pushed the button on the rear swing gate, first unlocking and then opening it, the cabin doors remained locked and their exterior buttons no longer worked. The only way to unlock them was to take out the remote and push its unlock button — or to close the cargo door then try again. If this circumstance seems unlikely, imagine that you go to put something in the hatch and your passenger tries to get in the car. It only has to happen once to frustrate, and it happened to me twice in one week.

The current-generation Grand Vitara hasn't been crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety features include front and side-impact airbags for the front seats as well as side curtain airbags that protect front and rear occupants in the event of a side impact. Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard — always good to have, especially on an SUV and even more so on an off-roader.

See also:

Seat Belts and Child Restraint Systems
WARNING: An air bag supplements, or adds to, the frontal crash protection offered by seat belts. The driver and all passengers must be properly restrained by wearing seat belts at all time ...

Vehicle Loading and Towing

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) (if equipped)
The tire pressure monitoring system is designed to alert you when one or more of the tires on your vehicle is significantly under-inflated. A Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) sensor containi ...

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