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2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara

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2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review


KBB Expert Rating: 5.1

The Suzuki Grand Vitara can feel like an orphan in the compact SUV segment. While competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Hyundai Tucson sell in droves, Suzuki's lone SUV often falls off buyers' radar – if they even know about its existence in the first place. Without significant updates since 2006 and its reliance on an outdated powertrain, it's easy to see why the Grand Vitara is in this predicament. Yet the GV is not without its merits. The 2012 Grand Vitara has a starting price below $21,000 and remains among the few compact SUVs that are capable off-road, especially when equipped with a 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system that has low-range gearing. The Suzuki Grand Vitara is also a friend to RV owners, since certain models can be flat-towed.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you want a small, relatively inexpensive SUV that's rear-wheel drive (RWD) or offers low-range gearing for better off-road capability, the Grand Vitara might be worth a look.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The Grand Vitara lacks the power, fuel economy, sophistication and dealer network of competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage. If serious off-roading is your thing, a Jeep Liberty or Nissan Xterra might suit you better.

What's New for 2012

Only minor changes are in store for 2012 Grand Vitara models, including a slightly modified tailgate design (that nixes the spare tire on some models) and upgrades to the navigation system that include voice recognition and information such as traffic and weather updates.

Driving the Grand Vitara
Driving Impressions

Suzuki's Grand Vitara is a suitable partner for short commutes or longer journeys that involve off-pavement excursions. The GV's integrated unit body and strong ladder frame create a solid platform,...

... and its 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 power output. Technically the Mazda CX-5 has less horsepower but, unlike the Grand Vitara, that small SUV is a hoot to drive. The GV does have precise steering and a relatively tight turning radius of 36 feet, which means better access to parking spaces and less of those embarrassing 3-way turns. One of the Grand Vitara's few high points is the 4-mode 4-wheel-drive system in top-of-the-line models. The system makes the SUV suitable for rolling over snow, mud and rocks.

Available only on the highest-trim (and thus most expensive) 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. Low-range gearing is usually reserved for serious off-road vehicles, as it helps them traverse steep, rugged terrain.

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.

2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Details

The 2012 Grand Vitara has a pleasant, functional interior that can seat up to five in its two rows. The cabin is not overly exciting, but neither is it complicated. Large dials make it easy to turn up the air conditioning or dial down the volume when that annoying commercial comes on the radio. Cloth seating is standard, with leather available in Limited versions. Hard plastic remains, but gauges and dials are easy to read. Fold-and-tumble rear seats help create plenty of space for groceries or for hauling home that flat-screen TV.


Suzuki's Grand Vitara has traditional SUV looks: Boxy, confident and exuding strength. The vehicle's sharp angles stand in contrast to the curvy looks of modern crossovers, but still hold up relatively well in the half-dozen years it's been since the GV was redesigned. The vehicle features 7.4 inches of ground clearance, decent for off-roading but well short of the 8.7 inches found on the Subaru Forester. An old-fashioned swing-out rear door can make loading cargo a hassle if parked in a tight space. Base and Premium models come with 16-inch wheels, while Limited versions ride on larger 18-inchers that help sharpen the vehicle's handling.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The biggest surprise about the 2012 Grand Vitara is that even base models come with a 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 head lights, keyless entry and 4-speaker AM/FM/CD/satellite radio. All new Suzuki autos come with a transferable 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

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 Grand Vitaras in Limited trim have a power sunroof, leather seats, premium 7-speaker audio system with subwoofer and 18-inch wheels. Limited models are the only versions available with the 4-mode 4-wheel drive system.

Under the Hood

Since dropping the V6 option after the 2010 model year, the Grand Vitara retains just one engine choice: A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 166 horsepower; this engine is now among the least-powerful in the segment and further shows its age by being connected to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Base models are linked to a 5-speed manual transmission that earns a respectable 26 mpg on the highway.

2.4-liter inline-4
166 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
162 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (RWD, manual), 19/25 (RWD, automatic),
19/23 (4WD, automatic)

Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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