Although the 1.6 is disappointingly sluggish, the 2.4 is fairly gutsy, and the best of the lot for pulling power is the 1.9 diesel, with useful mid-range grunt. Sadly, the manual gearbox is heavy and clunky; however, an automatic 'box is optional with the 2.4 petrol. Every model has permanent four-wheel-drive, but diesel and 2.4-litre models also have selectable low gear ratios to aid off-road progress.
The firm suspension limits body movement, so the Vitara remains composed through corners. Good grip and well weighted steering also help. The downside is an unforgiving ride, which never settles. It’s even choppier in the three-door car.
This is one of the Grand Vitara’s weak points. All but the 2.4 engine are noisy, particularly at speed, although the 1.6 is the worst offender and the diesel isn’t too bad. Road noise is also a problem, and there’s an irritating amount of wind noise on the motorway.
The Grand Vitara is cheaper to buy than its Nissan and Honda rivals, but it doesn't hold its value as well. Running costs are on the high side, too - it's expensive to service and attracts comparatively high insurance ratings, while even the diesel isn't particularly frugal.
You don’t get any soft-touch plastics, but the cabin is solidly built, and the materials all feel like they’ll stand up to hard use. The Grand Vitara wasn't included in last JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but as a brand, Suzuki finished too close to the bottom of the table.
Front, side and curtain airbags are fitted in all models, and stability control is also standard. The diesel and 2.4-litre petrol models now have rear disc brakes (which the earlier models didn't), and efforts have been made to improve pedestrian protection at the front of the car.
The dashboard is sensibly arranged and has big, bold switches, while visibility is good. The trouble is the steering wheel only adjusts up and down – not in and out – so some drivers will struggle to find a comfortable seating position.
The five-door is more practical than the three- door, but it’s still one of the smaller SUVs, so a six-foot rear passenger won’t enjoy sitting behind a similar sized driver. The boot is nothing special, either, and it has a side-hinged door, which can make it tricky to load up if someone parks behind you or if you're towing. The rear seats tumble forward should you need extra load space, but they stack behind the front seats instead of laying flat, so the space isn't especially long.
All models come with alloy wheels, front electric windows, climate control, remote central locking and a CD player with steering wheel-mounted controls. SZ4 trim adds rear privacy glass, a CD changer and upgraded stereo, larger alloy wheels and front foglamps.
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The Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDiS SZ5 has our favourite engine in the range, but it's a shame it's only available with this expensive trim.