"Purchased my 2003 4WD with 5K miles late in 2004. Was looking for a low mileage RAV4 or CRV, but dealers wanted too much money for them. Got this almost new truck for about $9000 less than the sticker price, largely due to low consumer demand as compared to the Honda and Toyota. Turned out to be a great buying decision.
This is a real truck with a ladder frame, not a more carlike unibody frame. The ladder frame offers a firmer ride, but is less prone to flexing and twisting when the going gets tougher off-road. It also has real 4WD with a transfer case,as compared to most vehicles that give you AWD. The advantage here is to select the amount of traction assist you need. I use 4WD high when traveling in snowy conditions on the road, and have the ability to select 4WD low for tough off-road challenges. If you live in an area that sees much snow, do not cheap out and get a 2WD Grand Vitara. When in 2WD, this is a rear wheel drive vehicle- again more like a truck than a car, but the short wheelbase makes it a "tail wagger" when the roads are slick. Shifting into 4WD during these conditions offers an immediate and dramatic improvement in control and handling. If you want to cut some nice doughnuts and fishtails, find an empty parking lot, select 2WD and spin to your heart's content!
I have now owned this truck for about five years and it has 44K miles. It has needed no major repairs of any kind, although the AC quit working. Not in a rush to fix this, as we have had a cool summer in the Midwest, and my typical commute is pretty short- just 4 miles to work when I don't ride my bicycle. I have replaced the front brake pads once, and just purchased new tires. Nothing else in the way of maintenance besides oil changes. If you get a 4WD, change the transfer case oil every 20 to 30K miles, and it should stay bulletproof.
The V6 is not a super powerful engine, but is enough to get the job done. Others are claiming about 23 mpg from their GV's, but I typically see about 18 around town.
I added a trailer hitch about a year ago and sometimes pull a small utility trailer with my GV. The total weight of trailer and payload has probably not been more than 1800 lbs, and the truck has no complaints about the added workload. If you intend to tow anything heavier, get a transmission cooler installed and you will be okay for towing almost anything!
Although I thought I wanted a Honda or Toyota, the experience with my GV has been all positive. I will not hesitate to buy another, but at 8K miles a year they may quit making 'em before I am ready for a new one. I would certainly recommend this truck to a friend."
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