NEW SUZUKI GRAND VITARA
By Stuart Johnston
Suzuki has reintroduced the Grand Vitara model to its line-up with an all-new model that in most respects is bang on target in filling the top slot in its South African cross over SUV line up. The Grand Vitara nameplate returns after an absence of a few years, and it is understood that it will essentially replace both the Vitara and the Vitara Brezza as Suzuki’s representative in the urban-SUV market.
Fans of the very well-received Brezza will be pleased to know that there are some very familiar elements to the new Grand Vitara, namely the use throughout the five-model range of the proven 1,5-litre motor known by Suzuki as K15 series. In the first four models the 77 kW K15B engine is used in the bigger car, offering 138 Nm of torque, and this is offered in either five-speed manual or four-speed automatic form in GL or GLX trim levels. The range-topping Grand Vitara Hybrid AllGrip uses the K15C motor, which is very similar except it is endowed with a mild form of hybrid technology, with a special starter motor that converts to a generator to supply energy to an additional lithium-ion battery.
This engine uses a higher compression ratio than K15B engine at 12,0:1, and Suzuki claims it lowers fuel consumption on the Grand Vitara from 6,0 litres/100 km to 5,6 litres/100 km. But as the engine is profiled for economy, maximum power is slightly down at 75,8 kW and torque also marginally down at 135,8 Nm.
This engine is only available on the top model which features all-wheel-drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system features an economy mode for normal tar road use where it operates in front wheel drive, but with all-wheel-drive on demand in case of slippage.
A Sport mode offers a sharper throttle response and revised grip through electronic intervention on the brakes, for optimum cornering adhesion, while in Snow (or Mud) mode the AllGrip operates in all-wheel-drive. For serious off-road work there is also a central diff lock function which provides fixed 50-50 power distribution to the front- and rear axles.
The new car is built in India, and this is testimony to the excellent production standards that Suzuki is achieving for its models sourced from the subcontinent. In fact, the Grand Vitara, while being an all-Suzuki design and engineering development, is manufactured at the Toyota Kirkloskar factory in India, as part of the on-going Suzuki-Toyota model-sharing alliance. The bodywork doesn’t feel especially solid when you are opening or closing the doors, but it is extremely well put together.
So how does the Grand Vitara perform? Well, for those older fans who valued the powerful V6 versions of the previous Grand Vitara, it would be prudent to point out that with between 75 and 77 kW of naturally aspirated power, this latest Grand Vitara is by no stretch of the imagination a performance vehicle.
Owners will delight in the very attractive appearance with mildly squared-off flared wheel arches, slant-eyed LED lighting clusters and a distinctive clamshell bonnet fronted by a trapezoidal diamond mesh grille. An array of funky colours are on offer and our primary test car on the launch had a dual-tone option of Arctic White with a black roof that looked really modern and classy.
The neatly styled and trimmed cabin offers plenty of leg- and headroom for five adults, although I feel the boot is only modestly sized at 310 litres. A full-sized spare is offered, which is sensible for South African conditions.
As it stands, arguably the most impressive aspect of the all-new Suzuki Grand Vitara line-up could well be its pricing, with prices starting at R339 000.