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Suzuki Grand Vitara

The gritty cute-ute.

The burly Grand Vitara combines off-road ability — long a Suzuki hallmark — with reasonable refinement. A ladder-frame-reinforced unibody and optional four-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case ensure mudding credibility, and the independent suspension improves on-road handling. From behind the wheel, however, one gets the sense that the Grand Vitara might be a vehicle from the 1990s: cheap plastics, a noisy powertrain, a rough ride. The Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 have far smoother engines and better ride quality, but the Grand Vitara beats them off-road, where it is overshadowed perhaps only by some Jeeps. A 3.2-liter V-6 was dropped from the lineup for 2011 and replaced with the 2.4-liter in-line four, because of a “heightened interest in on-road efficiency,” according to Suzuki. For 2013, the Grand Vitara gets a mild front face-lift, new seat upholstery, a more integrated navigation system, and a few other minor tweaks. Still, the Suzuki SUV is just barely a legitimate choice in the popular cute-ute category, even despite its high content (including a standard navigation system with voice activation and Bluetooth), numerous standard safety features, low price, and strong warranty. The Grand Vitara was class competitive — but not class leading — when it debuted in 2005, but it now feels dated.

COMPETITORS

Honda CR-V

Jeep Liberty

Mitsubishi Outlander

Toyota RAV4

new for 2013

A face-lifted front end now sports a smart-looking grille with two black horizontal bars. The interior gets new seat fabrics and a two-tone color scheme, as well as a new navigation system and standard Bluetooth. New aluminum wheels and paint colors (gala bronze and bison brown) are available, and some trim levels get chrome-trimmed sideview mirrors with turn-signal repeaters.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Front, front side, and side curtain air bags; ABS; traction and stability control; and tire-pressure monitors are standard.

MPG

CITY 19

HWY 23–26

PRO

Excellent off-road ability

Minor revisions for 2013

Navigation standard

CON

Really showing its age

Vocal, wheezy engine

Base Price Range: $20,799–$26,799

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel

TRIM LEVELS: Grand Vitara, Premium, Limited

BODY STYLE: SUV, 5-passenger

ENGINE: 2.4L I-4, 166 hp, 162 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic

PASSENGER VOLUME: (with/without sunroof) 108.6/111.1 cu ft

CAPACITIES: Towing 3000 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 28.4/70.8 cu ft

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