2001 Suzuki Grand Vitara Reviews and Ratings

JLX 4D 4WD

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2001 Suzuki Grand Vitara
Mitch McCullough, Editor-in-Chief

Introduction
Suzuki used to be among the few manufacturers of small sport-utilities. It's now a crowded field, with the recently introduced Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Escape, and Mazda Tribute, along with the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Today, consumers have a lot of choices.

Suzuki's Grand Vitara still shines when it comes to serious off-road driving as it's equipped with a two-speed transfer case, body-on-frame construction, and a suspension designed to go off road. The Santa Fe, Escape, Tribute, and the redesigned Toyota RAV4 do not offer the type of equipment for real off-pavement adventures.

Together, Suzuki's Vitara and Grand Vitara are available with four- and six-cylinder engines. There are two-door convertible and four-door wagon body styles, with either two- or part-time four-wheel drive. Changes for 2001 are minimal, and include redesigned front and rear bumpers, a new stereo system with larger, easier to manipulate controls, and a few more standard interior features. Model Lineup
Suzuki offers a full line of mini sport-utilities, from the entry-level two-door Vitara JS with two-wheel drive and a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine to the loaded Grand Vitara Limited with four doors, four-wheel drive, V6 and automatic transmission. In between is a line of four-door models with four- and six-cylinder engines.

Suzuki's nomenclature uses an X to denote four-wheel drive, so JX and JLX models come with four-wheel drive. Generally, four-wheel drive adds $1,000 to the bottom line. An automatic transmission also carries a $1,000 price premium.

The least-expensive model is the $13,899 two-door Vitara JS. It comes with a convertible soft canvas top with a plastic rear window. It's powered by a 1.6-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine that produces 97 horsepower to drive the rear wheels. Two-door JLS and JLX trim levels come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 127 horsepower. They also come with air conditioning as standard equipment.

Four-door Vitara models start with the $15,599 JS. All Vitara 4 Door models come standard with the larger 2.0-liter engine.

Grand Vitaras start at $18,399, and include a 155-horsepower V6.

The top of the line model is the $22,999 Grand Vitara Limited, which includes a hard cover for the external spare tire, privacy glass, fog lamps, leather upholstery, and a choice of either stark white or black exterior colors, plus gold badging. Walkaround
The Grand Vitara sits high off the ground. This stance, along with its body cladding, gives it a more rugged appearance than the other small utilities. The Grand Vitara appears fairly large, but it's slightly smaller than the wagon-like Honda CR-V.
Interior
Getting into the Grand Vitara is easier than climbing into the bigger utilities. Once there, the driver has a commanding view of the road. From the driver's seat, that great view is clouded only by a couple of minor quirks. The steering wheel offers a good range of tilt adjustment, but it is angled slightly upward from the bottom. The front seats offer good support, but are a bit on the narrow side. Last year's tiny stereo controls are replaced this year with a larger unit that's much easier to use.

Grand Vitara offers plenty of passenger and cargo space. There's enough headroom for a cowboy hat. Rear-seat legroom is good, considering the Suzuki's smaller proportions, and the seats seem to work better than those in front do.

There's a sizable cargo area behind the rear seats; flipping them forward reveals a huge cargo capacity. The Grand Vitara's rear door swings out to the right, like a Toyota RAV4, which is not ideal for curbside loading. We would have appreciated a cargo cover to hide packages from roving eyes.

Warm gray plastics and tweedy seat covers in the Grand Vitara look durable and pleasing. Suzuki has a reputation for vehicles that come tightly screwed together, and our Grand Vitara gave us no reason to doubt its quality. The paint was lustrous, and the body-on-frame chassis produced no squeaks and rattles. Driving Impressions
The V6 engine is responsive; a small tip of the throttle and the Grand Vitara lunges forward. The Escape and Tribute offer more power with their 200-horsepower V6, but the CR-V (146 horsepower), and the RAV4 (148 horsepower) have less. While bricklike aerodynamics and a hefty curb weight take the edge off as speeds rise, the Grand Vitara's 160 pound-feet of torque makes for responsive performance in city driving. With four valves per cylinder, the V6 revs smoothly and builds power quickly. Peak torque arrives at 4000 rpm, peak horsepower at 6000 rpm. Yet the Grand Vitara JLX+ can get 19 mpg in the city, 21 on the highway.

The five-speed manual gearbox shifts smoothly with a light and direct feel. The tall shift lever with its rubber accordion boot is one of the few reminders that you're driving a truck. The clutch pedal engages a little high in its travel, but the pedal effort is light, so it works well in stop-and-go traffic.

Suzuki has done a great job of making the Grand Vitara's body structure strong and rattle-free. It seems sturdy enough to take serious on- and off-road punishment. Yet the Grand Vitara is fairly quiet, without a lot of rolling noise from the drivetrain or suspension. The engine and transmission have a slight whine that grows as speeds increase, but it barely requires the driver to speak up.

Given our druthers, the Grand Vitara's steering is the first thing we'd change. Off-roaders need some play on center to absorb kickback from large bumps. But perhaps the Grand Vitara has a bit too much of that play. On the road, its steering slack is noticeable, and takes some attention to keep on the straight and narrow.

Suzuki's available four-wheel-drive system comes with a low range for extremely heavy muck. The full-time all-wheel drive systems from Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, and Subaru do not offer a low range. The Grand Vitara is surprisingly capable off road, thanks to nearly eight inches of ground clearance and a short wheelbase. Summary
Suzuki's Grand Vitara is a very solid effort. Sophisticated for a small truck, the Grand Vitara offers cabin room for four adults in comfort, a simple four-wheel-drive system, and a snappy V6 engine.

Weekend thrill seekers who need a tall wagon to ferry kayaks to remote places will groove on the Grand Vitara. But it also serves well for those who simply want an all-purpose vehicle with a strong dose of SUV flair.

Grand Vitara works best as an economy commuter for active outdoors people. Monday through Friday it can squirt between bigger SUVs with the nimble responses of a compact sedan. On the weekends, it can be stuffed with outdoor gear.

Model as tested
Grand Vitara JLX+ 4WD ($20,799)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Hamamatsu, Japan
Destination charge
480
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
13899
Price as tested
21279
Options as tested

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Vitara 2 Door 2WD JS ($13,899), JLS ($15,399); 4WD JX ($15,499), JLX ($16,999); Vitara 4 Door 2WD JS ($15,599), JLS ($16,599); 4WD JX ($17,099), JLX ($18,099); Grand Vitara 2WD JLS ($18,399), JLS+ ($19,599), Limited ($21,799); 4WD JLX ($19,599), JLX+ ($20,799), Limited ($22,999)
Safety equipment (standard)
standard: dual airbags, three-point front and rear outboard seat belts, two-point rear center belt standard; optional: ABS
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.5-liter V6
Transmissions
5-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, alloy wheels, power mirrors, power steering, intermittent wipers, anti-lock brakes, power window and door locks, AM/FM cassette and CD players with four speakers, cruise control, remote keyless entry

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.5-liter V6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
155 @ 4000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
19/21
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/drum with ABS
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P235/60R16
Suspension, rear
solid axle

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.9/50.7/41.4
Head/hip/leg room, rear
39.6/46.8/35.9

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
44.7
Wheelbase
97.6
Length/width/height
164.6/70.1/68.5
Turning circle
34.8
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
1500
Track, front/rear
59.1/59.1
Ground clearance
7.5
Curb weight
3197


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