A Grand strategy; The latest incarnation of the pioneering Suzuki Vitara gives motorists a choice between a soft-roader or a full-on off-roader, writes IAN DOW.
WHEN the new Suzuki Grand Vitara arrived in showrooms yesterday, it marked the beginning of the latest chapter in the history of one of the pioneers of the SUV revolution.
The first Vitara was launched in 1988 and introduced the concept of compact SUVs to the motoring public.
It proved instantly popular and was only replaced in 1997 - by the Grand Vitara.
The latest model is the third generation of a model range that has sold 100,000 in the UK and millions around the world over the past 17 years.
Available in three and five-door body styles, it is all new from the ground up with more interior space and improved performance both on and off the road.
Under the skin, the Grand Vitara has moved away from the traditional ladder chassis used in many SUVs. Instead it benefits from the greater rigidity of a new monocoque chassis with a built-in ladder frame.
Reflecting the demands of buyers, Suzuki have adopted two subtly different philosophies for the three and five-door models.
While the three-door model has permanent four-wheel drive, it doesn't have a centre differential lock and so has been designed as a soft-roader. Of course, it still provides all the safety benefits Factfile Model: Suzuki Grand Vitara Engine: 1.6 and two-litre petrol; 1.9-litre diesel Power: 105 to 138bhp Economy: 30.1 to 36.7mpg combined Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles Price: pounds 12,699 to pounds 16,449On sale: Now (dieselmodels later this yearof a four-wheel-drive system on-road plus useful levels of traction on gravel tracks.
The five-door model offers a differential lock and low range as part of its full-on SUV credentials. Four different modes of drive are easily selected using a dash-mounted rotary switch.
The all-new independent suspension means it offers comfort and crisp handling on the road, while happily plugging the mud off-road.
There is a choice of three engines: two petrol and one diesel.
The new 105bhp 1.6-litre petrol has variable valve timing and delivers 32.5mpg on the combined fuel cycle, while the 138bhp two-litre ups the performance for a very small additional cost at the pumps.
The intercooled and turbocharged diesel engine returns 36.7mpg and has serious load-lugging ability with a nicely flat torque curve that peaks at 221lb ft.
With its sleeker new look and prices starting from as little as pounds 12,699, the new Suzuki Grand Vitara should sell well
SLEEKER LOOK:The introduction of a monocoque chassis has allowed designers to lower the overall height of the Grand Vitara while retaining good ground clearance and headroom