in 2012 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $12,242 - $15,745
Original MSRP: $19,649 - $25,399
MPG: 19 City / 26 Hwy
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2012 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 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara's performance around town is simply adequate compared with 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.

  • "For the in-town commute or cross-country adventure, we've been very pleased with our long-term exposure to the Grand Vitara. Its integrated unit body and reinforcing frame provide a solid platform for the suspension, and the all-independent suspension is well-controlled for the segment." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "There's moderate road, bump, and wind noise. The latter increases markedly above 65 mph. The engine groans during acceleration but is quiet at cruise." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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 five-speed manual transmission and all other trims get a four-speed automatic. Most reviewers have tested Vitara models with the automatic transmission, and aren’t impressed with it. The engine is adequate, but lacks power on the highway, and the automatic transmission is outdated compared with other models in the class that have five- and six-speed automatics. The Vitara’s redeeming quality is its off-road capability, which helps it handle the occasional trip beyond the pavement with ease.

The Grand Vitara has low EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for the class. Two-wheel drive models with the manual transmission average 19/26 mpg city/highway, and two-wheel drive models with an automatic transmission get 19/25 mpg. Fuel economy decreases to 19/23 mpg with optional four-wheel drive.

  • "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
  • "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. No manual-transmission models have been made available for testing." -- Consumer Guide
  • "With but one engine there's but one descriptive. The standard in-line four is both straightforward and non-descript. It is the same 2.4 liter four that powers Suzuki's Kizashi sport sedan, but in a lower state of tune for what Suzuki thinks is its more pedestrian application. We'd beg to differ, given the GV's less aerodynamic stance and 3,600 pounds. The engine does, however, achieve an EPA rating of 26 highway with its 5-speed manual, a respectable figure in its category." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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

Overall, test drivers think the Vitara offers a good balance of maneuverability, stopping power and off-road capability. Reviewers who do give negative criticism say the Vitara isn’t as nimble as it could be and wish there was less body lean.

  • "Grand Vitara exhibits some 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
  • "This platform, however, shouldn't be confused with ‘nimble,’ although its athleticism will outshine those more conventional off-roaders. It's the blend of attributes that impresses, with reasonably precise steering, a fairly tight 36-foot turning circle and reasonable isolation from road and wind noise." -- Kelley Blue Book

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