Suzuki Grand Vitara

Can facelift for ageing SUV give its younger rivals worry lines?

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

A minor facelift and tweaked engine line-up do little to hide the fact that the Grand Vitara still lags some way behind its rivals. Its low price and decent off-road ability are not enough to compensate for the soft and undulating ride on tarmac, as well as the rattly engine and over-eager handling. While Suzuki has improved economy and CO2 emissions, we’d rather it had spent its time and money resolving more fundamental flaws in the Grand Vitara’s design.

The ageing Grand Vitara has been given a new lease of life! The Suzuki’s off-road prowess was never in doubt, but now the firm hopes it will have street cred to match thanks to new engines and revised looks.

In profile, the Suzuki keeps its boxy outline, while a fresh grille and bumper have added 30mm to the front overhang, and give the Grand Vitara a more muscular look. Other changes include door mirrors, indicators and 17-inch alloys as standard.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Grand Vitara

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Joining the engine line-up are a new 105bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and a 127bhp 1.9-litre diesel. We drove the latter, and although the power output is unchanged from the oil-burner it replaces, the intercooled, turbocharged diesel unit’s fuel economy has climbed to 40.4mpg – a 2mpg gain. Emissions are down, too, by 5g/km CO2 to 183g/km.

As with its predecessor, the diesel engine lacks refinement, particularly from start-up, and although Suzuki claims that the new unit is smoother, it still feels very agricultural. As a result, vibrations feed through the gearknob and quickly become tiresome.

However, it does have plenty of punch, especially from low revs. And despite taking a sluggish 12.8 seconds to travel from 0-62mph, it does feels significantly faster.

Despite its four-wheel-drive set-up the Vitara doesn’t feel as sure-footed as some of its rivals. Overly sensitive steering and super-soft suspension mean it’s hard work keeping the SUV under control on more demanding roads.

Inside, despite feeling basic, the cabin looks smart and has good levels of equipment. Buyers can expect to find air-con, a CD player and remote central locking as standard.

The display unit in front of the steering wheel now shows you vital information too, such as fuel consumption and mileage.

The high driving position offers a great view of the road and, with lots of head and legroom in the back, there’s also more than enough space for two tall adult passengers.

As budget off-roaders go, the updated Grand Vitara isn’t bad – just don’t expect luxury or a refined driving experience for your money.

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