Friday, June 15, 2007

2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Suzuki Grand Vitara 4x4


The new Grand Vitara is far sleeker than the previous one, with crisp lines that recall the latest from Land Rover. Nothing eye-catching, just thoroughly tasteful. Nicely integrated fender flares are the only sign of the rugged structure that lies beneath the pretty sheetmetal.

The sleek lines conceal just how much the Grand Vitara has grown. Wheelbase is up by half a foot and overall length by nearly a full foot. As a result, it's now about the same size as a Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty, and significantly larger than a Hyundai Tucson. The Honda and GM compact SUVs are larger still, but not by nearly as large a margin as before.

Inside the new Grand Vitara looks far more upscale than the old one, although cloth trim could stand to look less pedestrian. The instrument panel is styled much like those in the Acura TL and Subaru Legacy, with satin-finished trim running down each side of the center stack and then around the shifter. The switchgear also resembles that in the most recent $30,000 Japanese cars. The main thing that gives away this SUV's $20,000 price is the lightweight feel to the doors common to Asian cars in this price range.


The view from the comfortably contoured driver's seat is much like that in other compact SUVs. Meaning only the shortest drivers will feel any need to use the manual height adjuster. You're clearly sitting much higher off the road than in a car. But getting in and out isn't difficult, even without running boards.

The rear seat is mounted even higher than the front seats. As a result, as in a Ford Escape thigh support is better than you'll find in 90 percent of the sedans on the road today. The increase in wheelbase went entirely into the rear passenger compartment; compared to the previous Grand Vitara rear legroom has grown by over half a foot, to 37.2 inches. A Honda CR-V or Chevrolet Equinox offers even more rear legroom, but 37 inches is plenty for all but the largest adults. Especially given the high cushion. Shoulder room is also in midsize sedan territory, so a third adult will fit but won't likely be comfortable.

The rear seat reclines and includes a center armrest. As in most SUVs, the cushion is a bit on the flat side, but overall comfort seemed good. Assuming the headrests are raised. As in many SUVs these days, the headrests dig into the shoulder blades when fully lowered. This enables the seat to be folded without removing them.

Cargo volume is 24 cubic feet with the rear seat up, and 69 with it folded. Both numbers are around the compact SUV average, and enough for all but the largest items. Last year's Grand Vitara topped out at a much less useful 50 cubic feet. As in the 2005, the spare tire is mounted on the side-opening tailgate, so it does not rob interior space.

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