Suzuki Grand Vitara

Good to drive, well built and ruggedly styled, Suzuki's Grand Vitara is a massive improvement over its predecessor

On sale now, the five-door DDiS is the pick of the Suzuki Grand Vitara range. Its diesel engine isn't the most refined, but the spread of power and punchy delivery suit the 4x4. With increased hauling potential as well as decent on and off-road ability, the well specified and keenly priced Suzuki could be in the running for class honours.

An oil-burner is now available with five-door Grand Vitara models, priced from £16,499. Suzuki expects this addition to bring in an extra 2,500UK buyers every year, so Auto Express headed out to a very wintry Austria to put the new model through its paces both on and off-road.

Under the bonnet, the Grand Vitara uses the same 1.9-litre diesel engine which features in the Renault Megane and Laguna. Start the ignition, though, and it's immediately obvious the unit is not the most refined on the market. Even at low revs, there's a significant degree of diesel clatter.

Other complaints include a stiff clutch and a notchy five-speed manual gearbox. Yet on the move, the 1.9-litre common-rail diesel really suits the car, producing a healthy 127bhp. More importantly, an impressive 221Nm of torque is available from only 2,000rpm.

As a result, the Suzuki pulls keenly in every gear, while on the road it's noticeably swifter than the 0-60mph time of 13.2 seconds would suggest. In fact, the diesel complements the Grand Vitara far more than the 2.0-litre petrol alternative. As well as being better to drive, the oil-burner offers improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions, while towing capacity is up by 200kg to two tonnes.

And for off-roading, the Grand Vitara makes even more sense. The unit is ideal for hauling the 4x4 over hills, while its strong engine-braking helps to control descents. On really tough terrain, drivers can electronically lock the 4WD transmission, while a low-ratio gearbox provides even more grip.

The DDiS costs £850 more than the petrol version, but it's money well spent. With lower fuel bills and better residuals, many drivers will find that the diesel variant is the cheaper model to own in the long run.

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