"Competent on- and off-road and well-priced, the Suzuki Grand Vitara is a useful budget 4x4."
If you want a competent 4x4 but you are on a budget then don't miss the Suzuki Grand Vitara. The styling is handsome and it's good to drive, while the interior is well put together and as attractive as the exterior. Unlike many similarly sized 4x4s, the Grand Vitara possesses some genuine off-road ability, so it can cut it in the rough stuff. The downsides are that it lacks refinement and the petrol engines are very thirsty.
Two petrol engines are available - a 1.6-litre with 105bhp and a 2.4-litre with 164bhp. The former is underpowered and needs to be driven hard to get the car moving. The 2.4-litre engine is more responsive, but expensive to run. The 1.9-litre DDiS turbodiesel engine is by far the best of the bunch with 127bhp - it's smoother and more economical than the petrol alternatives and delivers good performance. The manual gearbox is a bit of a let down though, as it's lever feels heavy and clunky when changing gear; the 2.4-litre petrol engine is the only one available with an automatic option. Four-wheel drive and a low range gearbox help the Grand Vitara tackle tricky surfaces off-road.
This is the Grand Vitara's Achilles' heel, as it doesn't do comfort or luxury particularly well. The 2.4-litre engine isn't too gruff, but the other engines are really quite noisy - especially the 1.6-litre petrol, which makes quite a racket. Road and wind noise are also particularly obvious, while the ride is very firm, so you notice rough road surfaces.
The Grand Vitara was awarded a four-star Euro NCAP rating. Safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution and front, side and curtain airbags. The interior quality is good and Suzuki has made big progress in this area. The Grand Vitara didn't appear in the 2010 Driver Power reliability survey, but Suzuki came 25th out of 27 manufacturers overall in the JD Power survey, so it will be looking to improve.
Suzuki's Grand Vitara offers 398-litres of boot space with the rear seats in place and 758-litres when they're folded down in the five-door model, which isn't bad for a compact car. The boot opening is quite tall and wide too, which makes loading easy. The three-door version isn't as practical, as it offers only 184 litres of space with the rear seats up and 516 litres when they're folded down. A storage space beneath the boot floor is handy for hiding valuables though.
Value for money
Value is one of the Grand Vitara's strongest points. It's very well priced and even stacks up well against fellow budget rivals from Kia and Hyundai. Power steering, electric windows and mirrors, automatic air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, remote central locking, a CD stereo with wheel-mounted controls and roof rails are all standard.
The 2.4-litre engine is pricey to run as it offers only 32.1mpg and emits 205g/km of CO2, so you're looking at £245 for the annual tax disc. The 1.6 is better, but not much - it returns 34.5mpg and 195g/km, so road tax will cost £235 a year. The diesel is definitely the best bet with 41.5mpg and 179g/km (£200 per year). Insurance groups range from 22 to 23, which is about average.