December 2012

Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDiS SZ5 5dr

Fresh new look helps lift the Grand Vitara's kerb appeal

December 2012

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5 stars


  • Accurate steering has plenty of feel
  • Despite off-road bias Vitara remains composed through corners
  • Good level of storage space in the cabin
  • Switchable 4x4 system good for saving fuel when not off road


  • 1.6 petrol engine option lacks sufficient pulling power
  • Ride quality could be better
  • Poor rear visibility
  • Engine and wind noise can be a problem at speed

The Grand Vitara remains very much a bread and butter car for its maker, Suzuki. Surrounded by a growing number of lifestyle-orientated compact SUVs, the Grand Vitara continues to offer a full-on 4x4 experience for buyers who need more than a token level of all-terrain capability. This latest model sports some subtle, yet welcome improvements.

A mainstay of the Suzuki range, the Grand Vitara is charged with competing in the burgeoning compact SUV market. Unlike its many rivals, the Vitara range is capable of off-roading without getting you stuck. The engine range might be modest - two petrol, one diesel - but overall experience is a competent one.

In a move to maintain its competitiveness, this Vitara range boasts some noticeable exterior design changes as Suzuki aims to keep the car fresh-looking and modern. Grille, bumper and headlights receive the most attention at the front, with the return of the tailgate-mounted spare wheel at the rear.

Inside, cabin materials have been upgraded and the flagship variant gains a combined audio and navigation touchscreen unit - something that's appearing in an increasing number of rival models. Other important changes include efficiency tweaks to the diesel engine option and new alloy wheel designs.

Irrespective of the changes, although they are most welcome, the Grand Vitara remains a niche model at a time when an increasing number of buyers are switching from family hatchbacks to SUVs. Not for ability, though, but for looks and desirability reasons. As such, many will view the Vitara's driving dynamics as compromised, but this is to miss the point as the car's strengths lie in its ability to combine ease of use day-to-day with genuine off-roading skills.

Our verdict on the Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDiS SZ5 5dr

While this refreshed Grand Vitara benefits from a raft of minor improvements, it is important to remember competition in the SUV segment is considerable. The overall package is both stylish and good value for money. However, some of its rivals boast higher levels of kit and on-road refinement. That said, if you need a solid off-roader and a daily driver in one affordable package, the Grand Vitara should be on your shopping list.


If you wish to keep costs down you'd be advised to opt for diesel power for all the obvious fuel economy reasons. That aside, the Vitara range is well equipped and priced competitively, ensuring value for money at the point of sale.

Space and practicality

With its relatively long wheelbase the Grand Vitara offers plenty of space inside. Boot space is ample, and can be expanded by tumbling the rear seats forward. There are a number of useful storage areas throughout the interior, and the tailgate opens wide to reveal a large and flat load deck.

Controls and display

The Grand Vitara's main instruments are comprehensive and easy to read. Most of the controls on the centre console are of a good size, well spaced and easy to use, while the car's steering and manual gearshift offer plenty of assistance and accuracy respectively.


Front seat passengers both have good leg and headroom, plus there is plenty of legroom for rear occupants. However, while ride quality is mostly good, the Grand Vitara's height means all but minor bumps can be magnified, and road noise can be a problem at high speeds.

Car security

The Grand Vitara features the usual and expected roster of security measures such as immobiliser, freewheeling key cylinders and deadlocks, child-proof rear door locks, a steering lock, visible VIN and an internal fuel release flap. The luggage cover in the rear and lockable glove box should also serve to deter prying eyes.

Car safety

As well as ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, the five-door model's differential lock and low range transmission signals all the safety benefits of a four-wheel drive system for on and off-road duties. Meanwhile, all Grand Vitaras are fitted with front, side and curtain airbags. Isofix child seat anchors are also present in the rear.

Driver appeal

The Vitara's gearbox, brake and clutch are smooth, progressive and easy to operate. The steering is light and accurate, and the Vitara remains reassuringly stable when driven at speed. Off road the four-wheel drive system is easy to engage. The 1.9-litre diesel engine delivers respectable performance, and proves more flexible than the petrol variants.

Family car appeal

The five-door version is a good place to start if you value space and practicality. Combined with solid towing and off-roading abilities, the Grand Vitara would make an excellent vehicle for family holidays and outdoor activities.

First car appeal

The Vitara might be considered a little on the large side for a novice driver, however the lofty driving position is an advantage. It's not particularly fast and should prove reasonably economical to run, although a supermini would be a lower cost alternative.

Quality and image

First impressions of the Grand Vitara are good. The improved exterior looks modern and attractive. Smart details like deeply dished instruments with classy illumination and chunky air conditioning controls add an attractive feel to the cabin. Overall the design is a boost to the Vitara's image, which should make it a more desirable car.


Occupant access to both front and rear seats is very good in the five-door version. Meanwhile the side-hinged door provides excellent access to the load area, and the load floor itself is at a good height.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

For all bar the flagship model there's a conventional radio/CD player offering reasonable sound quality. Buyers of the SZ5 variant gain a more versatile colour touchscreen boasting combined audio and navigation functions. The result is a pleasingly easy to use and modern experience.

Colours and trim

Premium-looking exterior colours do much to enhance the Vitara's appeal. Inside, the revamp has resulted in improved seat fabrics and trim materials, also doing much to boost the car's visual appeal.


The Vitara's raised driving position and large door mirrors are a benefit when parking. The near-vertical rear window makes it easy to judge distances at the back, although the spare wheel cover can sometimes obscure your vision. Fitment of reversing sensors to aid parking could be recommended to compensate for this.

Spare wheel

A space saver wheel is mounted on the exterior of the tailgate.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.6-litre (105bhp); 2.4-litre (166bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.9-litre (129bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, four-speed automatic transmission. Trim levels: SZ3, SZ4, SZ5.

Alternative cars

Kia Sportage Better driving experience than many of its direct competitors

Subaru Forester Tough, reliable, comfortable alternative that is more of a high-rise estate car

Toyota RAV4 Versatile, family-friendly, provides an almost car-like ride

Nissan Qashqai Another high-rise, faux SUV. 4WD is optional, but ample refinement and space is standard

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