Vehicle Tested: 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 Litre Five-Door
Price as tested: $32,990
- Automatic Transmission
- 17-inch Alloy Wheels
The Brief: Suzuki's revamped Grand Vitara is a vehicle for the closet adventurer. Our brief was to hit the highway, find a mountain and get bogged lost.
The Verdict: The Grand Vitara quickly won us over. Bogging it on a mountain, in the rain, in the middle of...well nowhere... that was our fault.
THE HISTORIC gold mining town of Walhalla is about a two hour drive from Melbourne, sitting at the base of a deep gorge at the ?gate? to Victoria?s high country. Its historic buildings line the single street, one deep, while houses further up precariously dot the steep eastern escarpment.
North of Moe, the Walhalla region provides the car enthusiast with an appealing selection of driving roads.
If it?s sweeping bitumen mountain roads that you want, then head through Erica to the Thomson River Reservoir. If switchbacks and hairpin bends are more your style, then take the road into Walhalla itself.
Or, if your thrills are to be found off-road, then head beyond the Thomson Reservoir and take your pick: there are numerous 4WD-only mountain tracks, fire trails and mountain streams to choose from.
No matter which way you head, the mountain scenery will continually stop you in your tracks ? that?s guaranteed. We like the area so much that we?ve made Walhalla a regular base for our TMR road tests.
Our first foray was in the TRD HiLux, second cab of the rank was the new Suzuki Grand Vitara soft roader. We picked up a 2.4-litre automatic five-door base model Grand Vitara from Suzuki on an overcast Friday afternoon, and, three up, hit the road to Walhalla on a rather un-seasonally wet Saturday morning.
Suzuki has given the Grand Vitara a mid-life makeover, and the result is a handsome machine. Clean lines, a ?clamshell? style bonnet and spot-on proportions combine with the optional 17-inch alloy wheels to bring us arguably the best looking vehicle in its class. The styling is clever as well, as it neatly disguises the Grand Vitara?s compactness.
There's an all new 2.4 litre four-cylinder under the bonnet (replacing the previous model's 2.0 litre) boasting 122kW and 225Nm, giving a 19kW and 42Nm boost to performance and tractability.
The power and torque boost is good news as Suzuki has persisted with a four-speed automatic (you need to buy the 3.2-litre V6 to get a five-speed auto).
It's a minor shortcoming however as the flexible new four-pot almost covers the missing ratio (most noticeable is the gap between 1st and 2nd), only ever sounding ? and feeling - overworked when the right foot was hard up against the firewall, and the engine heading north of 5,000rpm.
In day-to-day driving though, most will find the 2.4 litre is a smooth and capable performer.
What was immediately apparent was that this Grand Vitara just felt right. Oddly for an SUV, there is a sense of balance about the way the front end works. It feels responsive on road, certainly better, and more ?car-like? than we were expecting from the Grand Vitara?s dual-purpose set-up.
On the winding mountain roads heading up to the Thomson River Dam, the Grand Vitara was not greatly troubled when pushed hard into corners, exiting in a balanced and composed manner. For a 'boxy' soft-roader that is.
Push too hard and it will eventually understeer, signalling its time to back off a little, but that's hardly what this car is about. On the bitumen at least, Suzuki has done a good job of tuning the Grand Vitara?s suspension.
Before this update, the Grand Vitara arguably lost out to some of its competitors in the engine refinement and power stakes, but it held the high ground when it came to '4WD-ability'.
SUVs are inherently a compromise between a useful (but limited) off-road ability and on-road performance and we were determined to test the Grand Vitara both on and off the black top. Did Suzuki now have the combination right?
The rain that had been with us since we left Melbourne had settled into a persistent light drizzle as we crossed the dam wall and headed further up into the mountains. The overnight rain was a concern. For the first time in years there had been a widespread overnight soaker and there was plenty of water pooled alongside the road.
Our test Grand Vitara was fitted with the optional 17-inch alloys and road tyres (not dual purpose), so we?d have to be careful exactly where we headed off the road. Finding a suitable uphill gradient, we engaged 4WD low and set-off up the track.
Despite the slippery conditions, the Grand Vitara?s reasonable 200mm of ground clearance and genuine low-range gearing enabled it to crawl gently up the undulating trail, and we soon crested the ridge successfully.
Skirting around the inside face of one of the massive valleys in the region, the corrugated road was tough going for the Grand Vitara.
With a suspension setup clearly leaning to black-top use (where ninety-nine percent of Grand Vitara owners will spend their time), and with a relatively light weight compared to larger 4wds, the Grand Vitara wanted to bounce over the corrugations, rather than soak them up. The answer was to reduce speed, and enjoy the stunning scenery.
The Pheasant Creek track, so named after the lyrebirds in the area, heads off the main mountain road and down into the valley below. It was firm enough up top, it was a track we knew, so we thought we'd head down and 'have a bit of a look'. We knew we would have a shallow creek to cross if we went all the way down, followed by a shortish steep ascent.
After this the gradient was less severe and winding our way out of the valley would be a doddle, or so we thought. There was just one steep section expected on the other side, but the rain was holding off, and were feeling confident.
The first 300 metres down were a breeze, the Grand Vitara?s low range keeping the show in check. The next 50 metres however proved to be a completely different ball-game.
We crested a drain embankment at the start of a particularly steep section and, suddenly aware that the track conditions on the other side were unexpectedly worse, but too slow to react, we hit a sodden steep patch of red clay and slid 20 metres down a wheel-rutted pinch.
As if on cue, the heavens opened.
Within minutes, the Pheasant Creek track?s wheel ruts were running a torrent and we were stuck in a slippery glue-pot.
With the rain pelting down, there was little that we could do but sit inside the Suzuki and wait for the weather to pass. It at least gave us the chance to have a good look at the accommodation.
As with all models in the Suzuki range, the interior of the Grand Vitara is functional, attractive, well put together and perfectly comfortable for up to four adults. But its compact dimensions work against it for rear seat accommodation and luggage space.
With the rear seat located between the rear wheel wells (rather than just in front), the space available across the rear bench is fine for two adults, but a little tight for three.
The rear, seat-up ?boot? space is also compromised, but adequate for the small family and able to swallow the weekly groceries.
Thankfully, after an hour or two, the rain did eventually ease enough for us to pull ourselves a little way back up the trail, close enough to get an easy winch out (that's what mates are for when you're off road).
Rather than push our luck in what had become appalling conditions, we made a beeline for the Walhalla Hotel and over a very welcome beer, debriefed the drive.
The Grand Vitara is a very good steer on the black-top, with its new 2.4-litre engine proving to be quite adequate to the task. It's not too big or thirsty and is a capable light-duty soft-roader, ultimately limited only by its road tyres and ride height.
The only issue that cropped up during the period of the test, was a rattle that we put down to the rear door-mounted spare tyre and 5,000kms at the hands of unsympathetic motoring journos - much like ourselves.
The Grand Vitara is a very easy compact SUV to like and recommend. It is a smart buy for folks looking to mix the urban commute with some weekend adventure or just a good dose of practicality.
Look-out for our Grand Vitara 3-door and Grand Vitara Prestige V6 reviews, coming soon.
Special thanks to Norm and Rhonda from the Walhalla General Store and Richard and Graham for hauling us out of the mud.
THE LAST WORD
"It drives as good as it looks. Suzuki has breathed new life into the Grand Vitara with new styling and a new larger 2.4-litre engine. The Grand Vitara's proven off-road ability now has the power to match, and take the fight to its compact SUV soft-roader rivals".
- Polished on-road dynamics
- Rugged good looks
- Off-road ability
- Smooth and refined 2.4-litre engine
- Smart looking, well laid out interior
- Only a 4-speed automatic
- Ride quality on corrugated roads
- Rear seat suited to three children not three adults
- Boot space only adequate
|Engine type:||2.4 litres, 4 cylinders variable valve timing/camshaft|
|Bore/Stroke:||92.0mm x 90.0mm|
|Maximum power kW @ rpm:||122 @ 6,000|
|Maximum torque Nm @ rpm:||225 @ 4,000|
|Transmission type:||5-speed manual / 4-speed automatic|
|Drive type:||Full time 4-mode (4H + 4H Lock + 4L Lock + N)|
|Transfer ratio (high):||1.000|
|Transfer ratio (low):||1.970|
TYRES & WHEELS
|Tyres (width / profile):||225 / 70 (opt 225/65)|
|Wheels:||16" steel (opt 17" alloy)|
|Fuel tank capacity:||66 L|
|Consumption L/100km:||8.9 manual / 9.9 auto|
|CO2 emissions g/km:||212 manual / 234 auto|
|Overall length:||4,500 mm|
|Overall width:||1,810 mm|
|Overall height:||1,695 mm|
|Turning circle:||11.0 m|
|Ground clearance unladen:||200 mm|
|Ramp breakover angle:||19?|
|Number of doors:||5|
|Rear seat down; to lower window:||758 L|
|Rear seat down:||1,386 L|
|Braked:||Auto 1,850 Man 1,700 kg|
- Power steering
- Steering wheel leather covered
- Tilt adjustment
- Cruise control
- Power windows
- Remote power locks
- Climate control,
- with particle filter
- Seat upholstery fabric
- Driver?s seat height adjustment
- 12v power outlet
- Remote fuel flap release
- CD Player, MP3 Capable, 4 Speakers
- Steering wheel mounted audio controls
- Headlights halogen
- Electric adjustable door mirrors
- Rear window washer/ wiper
- Roof rails
- Front, Side and Curtain airbags
- Anti-lock braking system(ABS)
- Electronic brake distribution(EBD)
- Brake assist system (BAS)
- Vehicle Stability Control(ESP)
- Traction control
- Front seat belts 3-point ELR, with pre-tensioners
- Rear seat belts 3x3-point ELR
2.4-litre 5-door 5 speed manual - $29,990
2.4-litre 5-door 4 speed automatic - $31,990
2.4-litre 5-door 5 speed manual (17-inch alloys) - $30,990
2.4-litre 5-door 4 speed automatic (17-inch alloys) - $32,990 (As tested)
Honda CR-V - from $31,990
Jeep Patriot - from $29,990
Kia Sportage - from $30,990
Mitsubishi Outlander - from $31,890
Nissan X-Trail - from $31,990
Toyota RAV4 Cruiser - from $31,990
Volkswagen Tiguan 125TSI - from $33,990