This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the reports.
Pics by suzuki@motorpics
Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday December 29, 2010
It doesn't shout: "look at me!" by any means. One could in fact be forgiven for dismissing it as just another compact SUV unless the big, chromed S (for supervan?) in the middle of its grille tweaked your curiosity and prompted a second look.
Even once inside, a fairly conservative mostly-black interior with very little flash, a pretty plain-jane six-CD sound system and nice-enough black leather upholstery might do little to make you reach for your chequebook. Until you look more closely at the rotary dial on the dash, that is. It's marked "N, 4H, 4HL, 4LL," telling you that this is more than your usual soft roader with on-demand 4x4 and lots of PR hype. You realise it just might be able to deliver and it does, with its diesel stable mate walking off with two Australian "best compact SUV" awards, for two years in a row. The three petrol versions available here, were named its closest competitors by the way.
In common with many others, the Grand Vitara is a monocoque design with McPherson struts, coil springs, hydraulic dampers and anti-roll bar in front and a multi-link configuration with coil springs, dampers and anti-roll bar at the back. What is not common is the built-in ladder frame chassis keeping things firm and upping its credibility.
So what is a compact SUV? The easy answer is that it's about a foot shorter than "full size" but still has decent head- and legroom in the rear, a 398 litre boot that expands to 758 litres when the 1/3:2/3 seatbacks are laid down and up to 1 386 litres when the rear chairs are folded and tumbled all the way up against those in front. A sideways opening rear door reveals a very usable cargo space with a pullout cover, a stash box under a loose, carpeted board and four rings that make it easy to lash cargo in place.
Compact also means that ground clearance and approach, departure and ramp over angles are not as radical as on certain others, so the Landies, 'Cruisers and Jeeps of this world have little to fear. It's pretty competent about the farm, though and it does well on sand dunes (been there, done it). Toys it does have include switchable ESP, a downhill crawl button and an uphill anti-rollback feature.
Safety kit includes front, side and curtain airbags, head restraints on all five seats, side impact protection beams, a collapsible steering column and a rigid passenger safety cell. All five chairs have inertia reel seat belts, with those in front featuring pretensioners and force limiters.
There are ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), while a sophisticated ESP stability system that includes traction control, uses an array of sensors measuring wheel speed, vehicle velocity, yaw angle and steering angle to determine the attitude and state of control of the vehicle. The ESP system is automatically switched off when 4L-Lock is selected.
Performance is perfectly adequate without being exciting, but that's not what you buy an SUV for, is it? Zero to 100 km/h happens in just less than 10 seconds and it goes on to a maximum of 194, which is quite enough to get you into trouble with the law. Apart from the Chevrolet Captiva, there are very few other SUVs with unblown petrol motors around 3,2 litres capacity, so comparisons are difficult. Factor in that they all cost more without offering significant fuel savings and there's little point.
The five-speed automatic 'box is willing and does its job well, even though it's a little old fashioned, without the full manual override one expects nowadays. Instead of being able to select all gears in sequence, one has a choice of "4" for maximum fourth, "3" for no higher than third and "Lo" for the first two gears only.
Street bandits like their cars to be "sleepers" - dynamite hidden in ordinary looking bodies with the engine capacity deleted. In its own way, the Suzuki Grand Vitara might also be considered a sleeper - a pukka SUV hidden in soft roader clothing, ready to tackle some pretty radical bundu whenever its owner chooses.
Price: R387 900
Engine: 3 195 cc quad cam V6, 24 valve
Power: 165 kW at 6 200 rpm
Torque: 284 Nm at 3 500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 9,8 seconds
Maximum speed: 194 km/h
Fuel index: 12,6 l/100 km
Tank: 66 litres
Ground clearance: 200 mm
Approach/departure/ramp over angles: 29/27/19 degrees
Warranty: 3 years/90 000 km
Service plan: 6 years/90 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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