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#16

in 2011 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $9,672 - $13,368
Original MSRP: $19,199 - $24,849
MPG: 19 City / 26 Hwy
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2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Most critics feel the 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara's performance around town is simply adequate when compared to class leaders. However, as one of the cheapest off-road SUVs on the market, it's a great choice if you're looking for an inexpensive vehicle to hit the trails.

  • "Grand Vitara exhibits marked body lean but good grip in fast corners. The steering is nicely weighted and the turning circle is commendably tight. Firm, easy-to-modulate brakes provide good stopping control." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Its unibody features built-in ladder frame, which, during a highway sprint, revealed a bouncier ride than one might expect from vehicles in this class, but it's far from an overly rough ride." -- AutoWeek
  • "We tested the 4WD version with the noticeably more spirited V-6. Above average energy and exceptional control in snow. But on dry, uneven roads, the suspension tends to jiggle. And, if traveling in steerage, leave your knees at home." -- Chicago Tribune

Acceleration and Power

The base Grand Vitara comes with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 166 horsepower. Base models come with a manual transmission, while Luxury and Premium upgrade to a four-speed automatic. Reviewers say the engine is adequate, but wish the automatic had more than four gears.

According to the EPA, the 2WD Grand Vitara nets 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway with the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission or 19/25 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission. These ratings are on the low side for the compact SUV class. However, they're quite high when compared to other off-road SUVs. For a more fuel efficient option, consider the Subaru Forester. It achieves a 21/27 mpg rating while providing extra comfort for on-pavement ride and more powerful engine options.

  • "Around-town acceleration is adequate. The 4-cylinder feels peppy from a stop, but highway passing can take patience. The automatic transmission is alert and responsive, though it could benefit from an additional gear or two." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Smooth for its size, this...engine has more than adequate power, giving the Grand Vitara a surprisingly lively feel, mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission." -- Road and Track
  • "First and foremost is the new 166hp 2.4-liter engine offering, which we found to be very capable at tackling rugged and rocky terrain in our time behind the wheel." -- Gear Diary
  • "Although down 18 hp from our V-6 tester, the vehicle's four-cylinder engine actually feels quite peppy. Merging on the freeway and climbing hills requires only modest throttle input, as does passing on the freeway. Picking up my brother and his luggage did little to slow it down. What hampers the Grand Vitara more than the engine, though, is the old-school four-speed transmission. In most situations it's not a problem, but if you hit an incline on the freeway, things get ugly." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

While they praise its off-road abilities, test drivers have some complaints about the Grand Vitara's highway and around-town ride. For a more comfortable on-pavement ride, consider the Subaru Forester, which costs about $1,200 more but has a much smoother ride than the Grand Vitara. The Grand Vitara is available in two- or all-wheel drive, the latter of which is available in two configurations. Single mode all-wheel drive is meant for wet and snowy weather, while four-mode all-wheel drive has a locking differential and low-range gearing that makes it suitable for taking on rough terrain. Premium models have single mode all-wheel drive while Limited models have four-mode.

  • "We wheeled the new GV over some rocky trails in the hardscrabble hill country, including some fairly technical stretches of grille-deep water crossings, rocky wash-outs, and steep hill climbs of loose dirt, and it handled pretty much everything we could throw at it." -- Four Wheeler
  • "On-road handling is fair, the steering somewhat vague." -- Motor Trend
  • "Sure, the Grand Vitara Luxury offers a sunroof and leather seats, but it also has a body that shakes in more ways than Dairy Queen, dull responses to all driver inputs, and an exhaust note that progresses from merely thrashy under low load to full-on passive/aggressive bristly at full throttle." -- Car and Driver
  • "Ride quality is quite firm and reminds us of a pure truck. But only the bigger bumps and ripples find their way to the passenger compartment." -- Motor Week
  • "Grand Vitara's ride is helped by a laudably solid-feeling body structure. Models with the 17-inch tires have good control. Luxury V6 versions have 18-inch and a much firmer ride with occasional banging and crashing over bumps." -- Consumer Guide

Next Steps: 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara

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