Suzuki Grand Vitara

The cute Swift supermini may well be making inroads into the supermini market, but for Suzuki there's one new car which is even more vital - the Grand Vitara 4x4.

With sharp looks, a high-quality cabin and superb off-road ability, the new Grand Vitara is a vast improvement. It may not be as fun to drive as rivals, but the comfortable ride and spacious cabin make amends, while the 2.0-litre petrol engine is a flexible unit - and the diesel should be even better. Toyota and Honda should be very worried.

The cute Swift supermini may well be making inroads into the supermini market, but for Suzuki there's one new car which is even more vital - the Grand Vitara 4x4.

Off-roaders are becoming an important part of any maker's range, but for Suzuki they're crucial. Launched in 1998, the current Grand Vitara is showing its age. And with Honda's recently revised CR-V selling well - plus new versions of the Toyota RAV4 and Daihatsu Terios imminent - competition is getting stiff in the compact SUV class.

Which is why a new Grand Vitara will go on sale early next year - and Auto Express was the first UK magazine to take the wheel of a European-spec model.

As you can see from the pictures, the new car is more aggressive than before, with sharp, angular lines, bold headlights and a large grille replacing the curves of its predecessor.

It's longer, taller and wider, too, so there's much more space inside, while the boot is a decent size and is accessed via a split tailgate. Interior quality and design is excellent, rivalling the best from Nissan and Toyota. As with the outgoing machine, the Grand Vitara will be available as a three and five-door - although there won't be a seven-seater version of the latter.

Under the bonnet, the three-door gets a 93bhp evolution of the current car's 1.6-litre petrol engine, featuring variable valve timing, while the five-door has a 140bhp 2.0-litre petrol or a 129bhp 1.9-litre Renault-sourced turbo-diesel. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard; a four-ratio auto is optional.

Our test model was powered by the 2.0-litre petrol unit. Using a clever variable induction system to make the most of the 183Nm of torque, this engine feels lively, with lots of low-rev punch. But it gets harsh at high revs, and with economy of only 31mpg, we think the diesel will be the best for UK buyers.

As for the chassis, all Grand Vitaras are fitted with Suzuki's new four-wheel-drive system and a clever monocoque construction, incorporating a separate ladder frame element for extra rigidity. While designed to offer a good compromise of on and off-road ability, the Grand Vitara favours mud-plugging. It rides smoothly on tarmac and is comfortable, but suffers more body roll than a RAV4 or a CR-V, and the steering isn't as sharp. In the rough, though, the car has no trouble coping with difficult ter-rain, bounding over obstacles easily.

Prices have yet to be revealed, but expect to pay around £17,000 for the 2.0-litre petrol five-door. That's more than for the outgoing car, but less than Toyota's RAV4. Factor in its considerable all-round ability, and the Grand Vitara looks certain to be a big hit for Suzuki.

Most Popular

New Suzuki S-Cross 2021 review
Suzuki S-Cross - front
Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SUV

New Suzuki S-Cross 2021 review

The all-new Suzuki S-Cross is excellent value for money and good to drive, but it’s slightly utilitarian interior won’t appeal to all buyers
25 Nov 2021
Lexus LC Coupe and Convertible gain chassis upgrades for 2022
Lexus LC 2021 - front
Lexus LC

Lexus LC Coupe and Convertible gain chassis upgrades for 2022

Lexus says mechanical tweaks have made the LC more comfortable and improve its handling
26 Nov 2021
Dacia Sandero Stepway: long-term test review
Dacia Sandero long termer - front
Dacia Sandero Stepway

Dacia Sandero Stepway: long-term test review

Final report: Jacked-up Dacia Sandero hatch wins hearts and minds of Dawn’s family
26 Nov 2021