By KBB.com Editors
The junior member of Suzuki's appealing sport utility vehicle lineup, the compact 2009 Grand Vitara provides a comfortable, versatile and very livable alternative to a conventional station wagon or crossover utility vehicle – and has the power and mechanical capability to complete its mission on or off the road. Available in base, Premium, XSport and Luxury trim, this slick Suzuki offers room for five, a generous assortment of standard features plus the choice of rear- or full-time four-wheel drive, and wraps it in one of the longest and most owner-friendly warranties in the business. It needs all of that to compete in one of the toughest and most heavily populated markets, a segment where it must take on everything from the Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty, Mitsubishi Outlander and Saturn VUE to the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4.You'll Like This Car If...
Those seeking a combination of practicality and capability in a vehicle that's easy to drive, easy to live with and doesn't cost a fortune in gas should find the 2009 Grand Vitara well worth a look. The availability of the 4-Mode full-time four-wheel drive system adds even more all-season and on- and off-road appeal to the mix.You May Not Like This Car If...
Buyers who demand a premium level interior with such options as navigation may be happier with the Honda CR-V. Those who expect a high resale value when it comes time to trade in their cars won't be happy with the Grand Vitara's middle-of-the-pack ranking.What's New for 2009
Along with a revised front end, the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara touts two new engines: a 2.4-liter four cylinder and a 3.2-liter V6. Interior improvements include illuminated steering wheel controls, a sliding feature added to the center armrest and sun visors and improved ventilation and audio controls.Driving It Driving Impressions
Rear-drive or four-wheel drive, the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara has a solid feel, thanks to its integrated body-frame construction that combines the best of unitized design with supplemental full length and width structural rails. Its compact size and fairly tight 36.0-foot turning circle makes maneuvering easy even in relatively tight confines. Tire drone and wind noise do get a bit more pronounced on rougher roads and at higher speeds, but overall isolation levels are livable if not best-in-class. Standard stability control and anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution give the Grand Vitara a confident character regardless of the number of wheels being driven. Hard cornering does elicit some body roll, but not an excessive amount; after all, it's not a sports car. The supplemental low-gear range gives four-wheel drive versions impressive off-road capability, although the additional weight does impact on-road performance and fuel economy.Favorite Features
Optional 4-Mode Full-Time Four-Wheel-Drive
The Grand Vitara's versatile 4-Mode full-time four-wheel-drive system features a locking differential with 4HI, 4HI and 4LO lock modes and incorporates a locking center differential to help tame everything from slick pavement to rocky trails. It also has a convenient "neutral" setting that permits easy flat-towing, such as behind a motor home.
Available SmartPass Keyless Entry System
A feature normally found on more expensive vehicles, the available SmartPass system lets you leave the key/transmitter in your pocket or purse and lock and unlock the Grand Vitara by pushing a button on the door handle and start or stop the engine by turning a switch on the steering column.
The Grand Vitara's tastefully designed cabin complements hard-plastic trim elements with numerous soft-touch surfaces. Cloth upholstery and silver plastic accents on the base, Premium and XSport are replaced by leather and faux wood in the Luxury model. All boast legible instruments, logical control layouts and three 12-volt power points. The comfortable front seats provide good lateral support while the seatbacks of the 60/40-split rear bench offer adjustable reclining and room for two six-foot adults or three kids. Flipping and tumbling both sides to their forward position increases cargo capacity from 24.4 cubic feet to 68.9 cubic feet (marginally less with the optional sunroof).Exterior
The Grand Vitara applies traditional SUV styling cues to a scaled-down package with just the right rounding of contours to yield a clean and contemporary appearance. Up front, its black mesh grille and lower front air-intake inserts are punctuated by a prominent chrome Suzuki logo, while the large right-hinged rear tailgate mounts a full-size spare tire in an available lockable hard-shell case. A large upright glass area ensures good driver sightlines, and well-sized doors, plus a big swinging tailgate to simplify loading of people and cargo. Purposefully bulged fenders house 225/70 all-season tires fitted to 16-inch steel wheels on the base model and aluminum rims on the XSport, while the top-line Luxury model has 225/65 tires on larger 17-inch alloys.Notable Standard Equipment
All 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitaras include a generous set of standard features. Even the rear-drive base model with a five-speed manual transmission includes power windows, locks and mirrors, 16-inch wheels, automatic digital climate control, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, tilt steering wheel and automatic headlamps. The Premium adds privacy glass, a spare tire cover, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls and on four-wheel drive models, heated side mirrors. Step up to the XSport or the leather-trimmed Luxury model and you gain a five-speed automatic transmission Hill Descent Control and Hill Hold Control, upgraded audio package with six-disc CD changer, power sunroof, roof rails, SmartPass keyless entry and starting, fog lamps, alloy wheels and more. On the safety front, Electronic Stability Program ,anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags are standard across the lineup.Notable Optional Equipment
Beyond the specific feature enhancements included in each of its three trim levels, Grand Vitara factory extras are relatively few. Base model buyers can opt for the automatic transmission, hard-shell spare-tire case and a cargo cover while the 4-Mode full-time four-wheel-drive system is available on all Grand Vitaras. Key dealer-installed options include Bluetooth wireless connectivity, XM Satellite Radio and an iPod integration kit.Under the Hood
A new 2.4-liter four cylinder is added to the lineup, offering improved fuel economy and a lower base price. The 2.4-liter produces 166 horsepower and earns an impressive 26 miles per gallon highway when teamed with the standard five-speed manual transmission. The XSport and Luxury models are powered by an all-new 3.2-liter V6 engine that makes 230 horsepower, an increase of 45 additional horsepower over last year's 2.7-liter V6. Despite the increase in power, the new V6 delivers better fuel economy estimates in both city and highway driving. Both rear-drive and four-wheel drive models can tow up to a 3,000-pound trailer.
2.4-liter in-line 4
166 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
162 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (RWD, manual), 19/25 (RWD, automatic), 19/25 (4WD, manual), 19/23 (4WD, automatic)
230 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
213 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (RWD), 17/23 (4WD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara starts at just over $19,000 for a base model and approaches $24,000 for a two-wheel drive V6 model. A fully loaded Grand Vitara tops out around $28,000. Those are extremely competitive numbers for a V6-powered SUV in this class given the features that each version offers – including Suzuki's seven-year/100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty. It's a slightly different story when it comes to holding onto that value over time. While Grand Vitara residual percentages only marginally trail competitors like the Ford Escape, Kia Sportage and Mitsubishi Outlander they fall significantly below those of the current king of this mini-hill, the Honda CR-V, and are also well down to the Nissan Rogue, Saturn VUE and Toyota RAV4. As with others in this segment, four-wheel-drive incarnations of the Grand Vitara fare slightly better in residual value over time than their rear-drive counterparts.