By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/10/2012
*Important Note: Please be aware that Suzuki has filed for bankruptcy protection and is shutting down its car business in the U.S.
The 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara can get lost in the compact SUV segment. Competitors such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 sell in droves, while Suzuki's lone SUV is often missed. Though given a mild facelift this year, the GV still relies on a rather dated powertrain and can struggle to compete in this hot segment of the market. Yet the GV is not without its merits. Its starting price below $21,000 makes it one of the most affordable of the few compact SUVs that are genuinely capable off-road. And the 4-Mode 4WD system on the Limited model is especially good with low-range gearing that helps it in the rough and a flat-towing mode that's perfect for RV owners.
If you want a small and affordable SUV that's rear-wheel drive (RWD), or one that offers low-range gearing in 4-wheel drive (4WD) for better off-road capability, the Grand Vitara could be it.
Realistically, the Grand Vitara lacks the power, fuel economy, sophistication and dealer-network support of competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. And if serious off-roading is your thing, a Jeep Liberty or Nissan Xterra might suit you better.What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Suzuki Grand Vitara gets a modest facelift, with a new grille and fascia, as well as some new interior materials and colors. The navigation and infotainment system also gets some upgrades.
Suzuki's Grand Vitara is a suitable partner for short commutes or longer journeys, especially if off-pavement excursions are involved. The GV's unusual integrated unit body with reinforcing ladder frame creates a rigid platform, and its 4-wheel independent suspension feels well-controlled. Athletic it's not, and with only one engine option good for just 166 horsepower, it's near the bottom of its class in terms of sheer power output. The GV does have precise steering and a relatively tight turning radius of 36 feet, which means better access to parking spaces and fewer 3-point turns. One of the Grand Vitara's high points is the 4-mode 4-wheel-drive system in top-of-the-line Limited model – it makes the little SUV surprisingly adept at rolling through snow, mud and rocks.Favorite Features
4-MODE FULL-TIME 4WD
Available only on the high-line Limited version of the Grand Vitara, this system stands out among the current crop of small SUVs and "soft-roaders" because it has low-range gearing in the transfer case – something usually reserved for serious-duty off-road vehicles.
Every trim level of the Grand Vitara comes with an integrated touch-screen navigation system that also relays traffic information, gas prices, flight times and other useful, up-to-the-minute information.
The 2013 Grand Vitara has a pleasant, functional interior that can seat up to five in its two rows. The cabin design is not overly exciting, but neither is it complicated. Cloth seating is standard, with leather available in Limited versions. Hard plastic remains, but gauges and dials are easy to read and the large rotary controls for the audio and climate systems are easy to manage, even with gloves on. Fold-and-tumble rear seats help create plenty of space for cargo or large, awkward items.Exterior
Suzuki's 2013 Grand Vitara has traditional SUV looks: Boxy, confident and exuding strength. It has some sharp angles – especially in the new front end – that stand in contrast to the curvy looks common on many other small SUVs. The vehicle features 7.4 inches of ground clearance, giving it a purposeful look as well as real off-pavement capability. An old-fashioned swing-out rear door can make loading cargo a hassle if parked on the curb in a tight space. Sixteen-inch steel wheels are standard on the base model, with 16-inch aluminum-alloys on the Premium trim, and 18-inch alloys on the Limited.
The biggest surprise about the 2013 Grand Vitara is that even base models come with an upgraded touch-screen navigation system that is an asset for not just finding the best route to your destination, but for obtaining movie times, the weather forecast and more. All GVs also come with automatic climate control, automatic headlights, keyless entry and 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/satellite radio.Notable Optional Equipment
Most options for the Grand Vitara are bundled with trim levels. Premium trim models add cruise control, Bluetooth and available full-time 4-wheel drive. Top-of-the-line Limited Grand Vitaras have a power sunroof, leather seats, a premium 7-speaker audio system with subwoofer, and 18-inch wheels. Limited models are the only versions available with the excellent 4-mode 4-wheel-drive system.
Since dropping the V6 option after the 2010 model year, the Grand Vitara offers a single engine choice: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Though adequate for a vehicle of this size and weight, there is no escaping the fact the Grand Vitara's engine and 4-speed automatic transmission are only barely competitive in the class. Base models are linked to a 5-speed manual transmission (and RWD only), earning a respectable 26 mpg on the highway. Two 4-wheel-drive systems are used, a conventional full-time version on the Premium trim level and the more capable and sophisticated 4-Mode 4WD, with low-range gearing, on the Limited.
166 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
162 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg (manual, RWD), 19/25 mpg (automatic, RWD), 19/23 mpg (automatic, 4WD)
A base 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara with rear-wheel drive and manual transmission starts at $20,799. A Premium model in RWD (automatic only) runs $23,199, and a Limited, $25,299. Specifying 4-wheel drive adds about $1,500. A top-of-the-line Limited model with 4WD and a good selection of accessories can push $30,000. At these prices the Grand Vitara is competitive, but not the screaming deal it used to be. The base Subaru Forester and the Mazda CX-5, for a couple of examples, are only about $1,000 more, while the ever-popular and better-equipped Honda CR-V starts just over $23,000, as does the Toyota RAV4. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers in your area are paying for the Suzuki Grand Vitara. Down the road, the Grand Vitara's resale value will be among the lowest in this segment, a reality that's made worse by Suzuki's U.S. bankruptcy and the fact that the company has decided to stop selling cars in the States.