Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.6 VVT 3 door

October 2005

picture of car from the front

Sharp styling marks out the new Grand Vitara


Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 7Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 7Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 7Car safety


  • Modern, attractive SUV styling
  • Interior looks expensive and classy
  • Respectable off-road ability
  • Good driving position and visibility


  • 1.6-litre engine is only adequate
  • Rear accommodation and luggage space is compromised
  • Brand image still a sticking point with some prospective buyers
  • No longer a bargain basement option

One of the most popular SUVs, the original Suzuki Vitara was one of the first models to take hold in the segment. Now there are dozens of competitors, Suzuki's new Grand Vitara is available in both three and five-door form. With a fresh design and chassis, it's aim is to build on the success of previous generations.

From the outside, the new Grand Vitara makes a strong first impression. While subscribing to the typical SUV bodyshape, it has an appealing modern look that sets it apart from its rivals. Distinctive details like the chrome effect rear lights and the clamshell bonnet are unusual and give it a great deal of appeal. The five-door version is arguably more attractive, with an extended roofline and a more upright rear.

A key difference with this Grand Vitara is the adoption of a monocoque chassis design, whereas the previous version and several other SUVs use a simpler ladder-frame chassis. As well as improving body rigidity it has benefits for ride and handling and noise insulation, improving refinement and comfort for passengers. It also benefits crash protection, without seriously damaging its off-road ability. Three-door versions have a simple, selectable four-wheel drive system without a central differential lock, yet it still provides good off-road ability.

The 1.6-litre VVT engine is matched to a five-speed gearbox, and although the slick gearshift makes light work of changing gear, the petrol unit has modest power and torque outputs, resulting in laboured progress at times. Although 2.0-litre petrol and 1.9-litre diesel engines are also available, these are only compatible with the five-door version, which may put some buyers off. The Grand Vitara uses multi-link suspension at the rear compared with a live axle on the old version, and this means much-improved ride quality as well as more consistent handling.

Another area where the Grand Vitara is impressive is the interior. Smart details like deeply dished instruments with classy illumination and chunky air conditioning controls add a classy feel to the cabin. Good quality fabrics and leather on the steering wheel also help, with only the occasional use of thin plastics counting against the newcomer.

Our verdict on the Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.6 VVT 3 door

In a highly competitive market where value for money and image count for a great deal, the Grand Vitara has a lot to offer. Although prices have increased fractionally over the old model, it improves on its predecessor in all areas and has the style inside and out to attract a lot of new buyers.

Costs rating 7

The running costs for the 1.6-litre VVT three-door model should be very acceptable, thanks in part to a respectable economy figure. The initial purchase price is competitive, with only the relatively high CO2 emissions rating likely to worry someone running the Grand Vitara as a company car.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 7

The interior of the Grand Vitara has numerous storage areas, generous door pockets and cup holders, with a useful centre armrest between the rear seats also with storage compartments. Boot space and rear legroom on the three-door version is relatively small however, and it is unlikely that the luggage area could accommodate the needs of four passengers. Headroom for both front and rear passengers is good however, with good legroom and elbowroom in the front also.

picture of car from the rear

Chrome effect rear lights are a stylish addition

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

The Grand Vitara's layout is clear and easy to use, as well as attractive. The instruments have smart back lighting, while the air conditioning controls work well and feel high quality. The controls on the steering wheel are easy to use also, and most of the controls on the centre console are of a good size, well spaced and satisfying to use.

Comfort Rating 7

Passengers in the Grand Vitara can relax in decent comfort, particularly those in the front. Rear seat passengers have the ability to recline their seats. The ride quality is mostly good, although the height of the car does magnify larger bumps, but most of the time the Vitara is a comfortable car to travel in.

Car security
Security Rating 7

Fitted as standard to the Grand Vitara are deadlocks, freewheeling lock cylinders and an immobiliser. The rear luggage cover helps to hide and valuable items, while the boot also has an extra hidden storage compartment under the floor.

Car safety
Safety Rating 7

The Grand Vitara uses a monocoque chassis design instead of the ladder-frame type used on the previous vehicle, and this should make a substantial improvement to crash performance. Isofix child seat mountings are fitted to the rear seats; six airbags are standard on all models, as is ABS and seat belt pretensioners for front seat passengers. The front bumper has also been designed to reduce injuries in the event of a pedestrian impact.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

The Vitara's main appeal comes from its easy driving style. The high-set driving position gives excellent visibility, while the gearbox, brake and clutch are smooth, progressive and easy to operate. The steering is similar, providing enough feedback but always remaining light and accurate. Despite the Grand Vitara's height, it remains reassuringly stable when driven at speed, while also providing respectable ride quality. The 1.6-litre VVT engine delivers respectable performance on paper, but on the road it feels a little short of power. The engine needs to be revved quite hard to deliver decent progress, and although it remains smooth it becomes noisy at high revs.

picture of car interior

Attractive interior has a good mix of quality materials

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 6

Small children can be accommodated in the rear seats with ease, although the relatively small boot may still be an issue. Otherwise family buyers would be better off with the five-door version, with much improved rear accommodation and boot space.

First car appeal
First car Rating 7

The only factor that detracts from the Grand Vitara's appeal as a first car is the inevitable loss of roll resistance from driving a tall vehicle. In other respects its good looks, economical engine and light controls would make it a very good car for a first time driver.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

First impressions of the Grand Vitara are very good. The exterior looks sharp, modern and attractive, and stepping into the cabin it feels like a good quality vehicle thanks to the design and standard of the materials. Some of the plastics used in the centre console feel a little thin and insubstantial, but the overall impression is a good one. The appealing design inside and out is a big boost to the Vitara's image, which should make it a more desirable car and attract a wider range of buyers.

Accessibility Rating

The high ride height of the Grand Vitara will make it more straightforward for many people to gain entry, although shorter passengers will need to slide across the seats in order to get comfortable. Access to the rear seats is also decent, although some buyers might benefit from selecting the five-door version. Access to the load area is through the side-hinged door with a load floor at a good height.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

All Grand Vitara models are fitted with a radio/CD player as standard, with remote controls mounted on the steering wheel spokes. It provides respectable sound quality with a clear display for the radio station or CD track. It also has clearly marked, well-sized buttons, all mounted high in the dashboard for easier operation.

picture of car in detail

Five door version benefits from extra interior space

Colours and trim

A simple grey woven pattern on the seats blends well with the dark colours in the rest of the cabin, giving a classy feel. Elsewhere the Vitara uses dark plastics and fabrics, although the large glass area prevents it becoming gloomy. The vast majority of plastics used inside are of high quality, with sections finished in a metal colour increasing appeal.


The lofty driving position is a big benefit when parking the Grand Vitara, with excellent visibility to the front and to the side. At the rear, the chunky pillars do create blind spots, but the near-vertical rear window does make it easy to judge distances. Large door mirrors and light controls also contribute to the Vitara's ease of use.

Spare wheel

Full size spare wheel mounted on outside of rear tailgate.


Range information

Three engine options - 1.6-litre petrol (105bhp), 2.0-litre petrol (138bhp) and a 1.9-litre diesel (127bhp). Five-speed manual fitted to all engines with option of four-speed automatic gearbox with 2.0-litre petrol engine. Trim levels are dependent on body shape; the three-door is available as VVT and VVT+, whereas the five-door is one trim only, equivalent to the three door VVT+.


Alternative cars

Toyota RAV4 Popular choice thanks to reliability, good value and attractive shape

Hyundai Tucson Excellent value for money, reasonable on-road performance

Honda CR-V Good engines and robust build but starting to date

Land Rover Freelander Ageing and expensive but excellent off-road

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October 2005