2003 Vitara New Car Test Drive
In a world of urban SUVs, the Suzuki Vitara offers real off-road capability. It's equipped with a two-speed transfer case, body-on-frame construction, and a suspension designed for the dirty stuff. Most of the other utilities in this class (Santa Fe, Escape, Tribute, RAV4) do not offer the equipment needed for real off-pavement adventures.
Vitara is powered by a four-cylinder engine and comes in two-door convertible and four-door wagon styles.
Grand Vitara features a spunky V6 and comes with the wagon body only. For 2002, Grand Vitara's aluminum V6 engine is improved with more power and quicker throttle response.
Suzuki streamlined the Vitara lineup for 2002. All models are available with two-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive.
Vitara models are powered by a 127-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
Vitara Two-Door models come with air conditioning and a soft canvas convertible top with a plastic rear window. Vitara Two-Door models are short overall (152 inches) and are built on a short wheelbase (86.6 inches). The entry-level model is now the Vitara Two-Door 2WD JLS ($15,599). The two-door 4WD JLX retails for $16,999. (Throughout the Suzuki lineup, an X in the nameplate means four-wheel drive and an extra $1,200-$1,400 to the bottom line.)
Vitara Four-Door models are 10 inches longer (163 inches) and are built on a longer wheelbase (97.6 inches). Four-door models have a wagon-style body with a permanent steel top and are available in one trim level, the JLS ($16,799) and 4WD JLX ($18,199). Vitara Four-Door models are powered by the same 127-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
Options are limited primarily to an automatic transmission ($1,000) and alloy wheels ($500) for both Vitara and Grand Vitara.
Grand Vitaras are powered by a 2.5-liter all-aluminum V6 producing 165 horsepower. They are built on the same 97.6-inch wheelbase as the Vitara Four-Door and are essentially the same length (164.5 inches).
Grand Vitaras are available in two trim levels: the 2WD JLS ($18,599) and 4WD JLS ($19,799), and the Limited models. ABS is an extra-cost option ($500) for the Grand Vitara JLS and JLX.
Limited ($21,799) and Limited 4WD ($22,999) models comprise the top of the Grand Vitara lineup. Limited models come standard with leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a tilt-and-slide sunroof, fog lamps, ABS, and alloy wheels. They come in Polar White or Black Pearl paintwork enhanced by gold badging. The automatic transmission is standard. Heated seats ($300) are available for the Grand Vitara Limited 4WD.
Suzuki also builds a similar, but longer-wheelbase (110.2 inches) model called the XL-7 that offers three rows of seats. (See separate review of the Suzuki XL-7 at newcartestdrive.com.).