Car Reviews – 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Test Drive

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It’s Boxy, But It’s Good.

I liked the Suzuki Grand Vitara. A lot. In fact, had our budget not had to change at the last minute we’d probably be driving a 2010 one right now. When GM had their issues, due to a partnership that was now defunct, Suzuki had to discontinue their 7-seater (the XL-7) and start making the Grand Vitaras four cylinders instead of six. The price of the Grand Vitara is significantly less than its competitors, and as you’ve probably gleaned from our Car Reviews,  I really fancy the jeep-ish feel.

Read on for Mr. HBWT’s full review!

Review and Test Drive Of The 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara:

-Traditional square 4X4 styling
-Lockable 4WD

-Interior cabin space
-stiffer driving experience

I will preface this Grand Vitara review by coming out right away and saying that I have a soft spot for Suzukis – with much of this affection borne out of my idolization of a Suzuki Samurai my friend’s brother had in the mid ’80s. I think this affection is much like my 6-year-old’s love of Smart Cars – they kind of look like something kids could drive – a bigger adult version of the ride-on cars you can buy at Toys R Us. Though only a mere distant cousin of the much smaller (and tippier) Samurai, the GrandVitara still has enough of the older Suzuki styling in its DNA to make it an admirable relative.

A member of the compact SUV class, the Grand Vitara has stiff competition in the CRV, Rav 4, and Escape to name but a few. But what is nice about this vehicle is that it has some key features that help it stand apart, and the main one is the price. A fully loaded Grand Vitara comes in around the base models of its main competitors, and is only a few thousand more than its own base version which is a really welcome attribute. I have raved in other articles about the difference between base and loaded models, with a variety of power plants, transmissions, and interior appointments that make these vehicles seem like two different models – with tens of thousands in price difference which I think is, well, hooey and somewhat of a scam (bring you in on the low price base, and sell you on the loaded model for mucho dinero).

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Compact, And Easy To Drive

Our Grand Vitara was the JLX-L, top of the line, with all of the necessary creature comforts minus the navigation screen (which I am not married to seeing as how my iPhone does many of the same features). The interior cabin is comfortable, with ample room in front and a nice layout for all of the controls. A stand out feature, rare in this class, is the switchable 4WD with the option to lock the 4WD and you are even able switch the transmission to neutral (for those towing this vehicle behind a motor home and not having to add the mileage to the odometer). I doubt the towing issue will ever come up for us as both myself and the wife are committed hotel patrons but the option is nice to have.

The trade off in the interior of the Grand Vitara is that, while there is ample room up front, it definitely does not have the interior space in the 2nd row and cargo area that its main competitors do. And, like the Rav 4, it does have the car-door style tailgate that I don’t mind (see the Rav 4 review) but can see how it can be a pain if you are often parallel parking in the city.

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Look At That S Car Go!

The drive of the grand Vitara may also be a matter of taste – I really enjoy the boxy styling  (it looks like a little 4WD should) but can see how the sexier swoops of the Mazda and CRV can appeal as well. And it not only looks like a boxy 4WD, I found it really felt like one too with a rather stiff ride and a less than nimble footprint. Perhaps as a hangover from our Jeep I was not put off by this aspect (Corinne actually liked it). Fuel economy for the 4 cylinder was comparable to the CRV and Rav 4 at approx. 11.5L/100KM in the city which is entirely acceptable. This would have actually been a top pick for us used but unfortunately the older models (pre 2010) have a V6 that was reasonably notorious for being poor in the fuel economy department, which for a vehicle this size is a shame.

The Grand Vitara is not the sexiest compact SUV, nor is it the most fuel efficient, roomiest, or gadget laden.  But it was a nice to drive, has classic SUV styling, and at the price fully-loaded is markedly less than its competition but shares most of their features and creature comforts. I must say, though, if it came with an option that included a vinyl soft top covered in Metallica stickers like the Samurai of old that would also be cool.


Like I said, had our budget requirements not changed, we’d probably be in a 2010 or so Suzuki Grand Vitara right now. I liked that you sit high up. The kids’ car seats were easy to install. It was easy and fun to drive. And, while I’m a little ashamed to admit this, driving all these brand-new, fully-loaded cars has spoiled me a little. I liked the fact that we could get in a Grand Vitara fully-loaded – though it’s really the leather seats that I’m kind of all about right now. We still could have managed an older one, but the less efficient V6 kind of broke the deal. The four cylinder in the Grand Vitara was probably the peppiest of all the fours we drove.

Next up is kind of a departure for us, the 2013 Ford Flex!

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