2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara X-SportPosted on May 20th, 2006
Suzuki’s flagship sport-utility vehicle combines great value and fuel economy.
By Nina Russin
Rising fuel prices are good news for Suzuki: a manufacturer known for small, peppy vehicles that get great gas mileage. Last fall, Suzuki unveiled the new Grand Vitara compact sport-utility vehicle, with a new six cylinder engine, five-speed automatic transmission and available four-wheel drive.
This year, a new X-Sport package offers buyers many of the comfort and convenience features included in the luxury model at a friendlier price. It includes automatic transmission, a six-disc in-dash CD changer with MP3 interface, XM satellite radio, keyless entry and start, power windows, doorlocks and heated side mirrors, roof rails, and privacy glass.
The X-Sport lacks the leather seats, wood trim, sunroof and 17-inch wheels on the fully loaded model, but for $2000 less, that’s a sacrifice many buyers should be willing to make.
The test car was the X-Sport model with five-passenger seating and four-wheel drive. The new 2.7-liter engine produces 185 horsepower and almost as much torque, making it ideal for merging into highway traffic and doing the quick lane-shifts often required in urban traffic.
The five-speed automatic transmission comes with a gated shifter that allows the driver to downshift into two lower gears. It is buttery smooth and downshifts nicely to produce power when needed.
It also enhances the engine’s fuel economy: the four-wheel drive version averages 19 miles-per-gallon around town and 23 on the highway. Steering is responsive at all speeds, and the fully-independent suspension provides a compliant ride.
The available four-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case is capable of true off-road driving, which we tested last year in the mountains outside of Vancouver, Canada. However unlike some compact SUVs, the Grand Vitara feels solid at speed, with the ride and handling of a passenger car.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability program, front, side and side curtain airbags.
Redundant stereo and cruise controls on the steering wheel allow the driver to stay focused on the road.
All five seating positions have supportive comfortable seats with enough hip and leg room for most adults. The standard cloth upholstery on the X-Sport is attractive and frankly, more practical for those of us who live in hot climates. The manual adjustments are easy to figure out and use. A standard tilt steering wheel makes it easier to enter and exit the driver’s seat.
Plenty of cargo space fore and aft
The center console includes two large cupholders , and a bin that can hold compact discs or small electronic devices. The lid of the bin is padded and slides forward to act as an armrest. There are two, 12/volt power outlets on either side of the gate shifter.
The automatic temperature controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. Both front doors have standard map pockets with bottle holders. A lid on the rear of the armrest flips down to reveal two addition cupholders for the second-row passengers.
The sixty-forty split rear seat has three-point seatbelt harnesses in all three seating positions. Both sections of the seat collapse and tumble forward. A lever on the seatback collapses the seat, while a loop at the base of the seat releases the latch that holds the bottom in place, allowing the seat to tumble. Both operations are simple and quick.
The extended cargo area is easily large enough to hold a bike (possibly two) with the front wheels removed. There are four tie-down hooks on the cargo floor, and a there is a small storage bin under the floor as well. The jack for the spare is located in a panel to the left. There is a pocket in the rear door large enough to hold a first aid kit or more tools.
The cargo area houses a third 12-volt power point, located on the right wall. The spare is mounted on the rear gate under a hard cover. The gate opens sideways, making it easy for people of all heights to use. A standard tonneau cover conceals the cargo area when the second row seats are in place. Standard roof rails come in handy for carrying large cargo when there are more than two passengers.
Nimble yet solid performance
The X-Sport‘s arrival coincided with an early blast of heat: daytime temperatures averaged in the low hundreds for the week. Despite the black cloth interior, the climate control system cooled the vehicle off quickly. The vents are easy to direct to cool off all of the passengers.
The arrival of summer heat here always makes drivers more aggressive. I was grateful for the Grand Vitara’s quick steering response and nimble cornering, especially when driving through rush-hour traffic. Visibility is excellent all the way around the vehicle. There are no obvious blind spots.
Suzuki has made its 7-year warranty even more attractive to buyers by extending it up to 100,000 miles, and including 24-hour roadside assistance. Buyers receive free courtesy cars while vehicles are being repaired: the warranty is fully transferable.
Buyers who are looking for a compact sport-utility vehicle that’s tough enough for the trails and comfortable enough to commute in should think about the Suzuki Grand Vitara. It’s a refined, peppy vehicle with a lot of luxury and safety packed between its walls. At just under $23,000, the Grand Vitara X-Sport is a great value for people with active lifestyles.
Likes: Excellent fuel economy and performance, both on and off-road. Comfortable, well equipped interior with a spacious, versatile interior. The second row seats are easy to collapse and tumble out of the way.
Dislikes: Cheesy graphics on the spare tire cover make the car look cheap. The keyless ignition system uses the same ignition lock as the standard system. A start button would have made the system easier to use.
Base price: $19,199
Price as tested: $22,699*
Horsepower: 185 @ 6000 r.p.m.
Torque: 184 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 r.p.m.
0 to 60: N/A
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/23 m.p.g. city/highway
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