Suzuki Grand Vitara
2.4 SZ5 Five-Door review
by David Finlay (29 May 2009)
On the face of it, the most recently-launched Suzuki Grand Vitara is the one that appears to make least sense. Until last autumn, the Grand Vitara was available with a choice of 1.6- and two-litre petrol and 1.9-litre turbo diesel engines, but since then Suzuki has added a 2.4 petrol unit to the range, and considering the widespread preference for diesels in the SUV market this seems to have been a quaint decision.
Matters are not helped by the fact that the SZ5 five-door tested here is the most expensive model in the Grand Vitara range, though the £490 premium over the diesel five-door isn't especially large, and since the diesel's advantage in terms of combined fuel economy is less than 7mpg the difference in running costs (bearing in mind the extra cost of buying a litre of diesel) is unlikely to be very significant.
The 2.4 is also considerably more powerful than the diesel - 167bhp versus 127bhp - and correspondingly quicker. It also has an advantage over the 2.0 petrol model, which is still available with automatic transmission. That car has a CO2 rating of 228g/km, but the 2.4 auto manages 225g/km, and that very small discrepancy puts the 2.4 on the right side of a tax threshold which will save you nearly £200 a year in VED payments (though admittedly the 2.0 is nearly £2500 cheaper to buy in the first place).
Another advantage the 2.4 has over the 2.0 is that it is quieter - according to Suzuki figures, 1.6 decibels quieter inside the cabin at 62mph, thanks to reworking of the engine and transmission and the use of extra sound insulation. As effective as all this work has been, it hasn't brought the Grand Vitara's mechanical noise down to a whisper; there is still quite a lot of racket, and in particular the engine sounds strained even under moderately hard acceleration.
For that reason alone the Grand Vitara feels less modern than it looks, and there are other factors which enhance that impression. The ride and handling, for example, are not bad, but they are about what would you assume of a car like this, and there are other SUVs on the market which exceed expectations by some margin.
Like all Grand Vitaras, this one has a four-wheel drive system with a choice of normal and low-ratio modes and a lockable centre differential which is not to be considered on dry tarmac but a useful traction aid if you happen to be going off-road. There was no opportunity during this test to go out into the wilds and see how far I could go without getting stuck, but although the car shouldn't be thought of as a really serious off-roader it will certainly be capable of doing as much dirty stuff as most owners will want it to.
The SZ5 probably has the least off-road potential of the 2.4 models, since it comes as standard with 18" alloy wheels (the others have 16s or 17s) and suitably low-profile tyres which won't be much help in the mud. If you like your creature comforts, though, the SZ5 is the one to go for, since it's the only one fitted with heated leather seats, an electric glass sunroof, High Intensity Discharge headlights, a loudspeaker in the centre of the dash (making seven in all) and twin map reading lights. If you're not interested in any of that, you can go for the SZ4 instead and save yourself just short of £1500.