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Suzuki is still coming to four.

The 4x4 market in Britain has seen many and varied types of vehicle elbowing for attention in a very crowded marketplace.

One manufacturer that has certainly made its mark is Suzuki which pioneered the lightweight 4x4 in Britain some years ago with its neat SJ series of vehicles.

But the real pivotal model for Suzuki in the all-wheel-drive world was the Vitara which rapidly grew into the Grand Vitara.

Now the Grand Vitara in its latest form offers surprisingly good opposition to other models of its kind and even has a nibble at the Land Rover Freelander.

Suzuki has been very much on the case with the Grand Vitara recently providing it with a much better interior and powertrain.

It is offered with either 1.9 diesel or 1.6 and two-litre petrol engines and a choice or five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

There is nothing gimmicky about the Grand Vitara, it offers a no-nonsense simple SUV that has enduring appeal in the UK.

For what it is it is well equipped with alloys, air con, electric mirrors and front windows, CD player and front/ side airbags but there is no leather trim, sunroof, parking sensors, cruise control or electronic stability control.

Some people may cock a snoot at the Grand Vitara and say that it is not a full-blown 4x4 but a cheaper school-run machine. Not so. I have carried out some amazing off-road treks in Vitaras and Grand Vitaras and each time the vehicle proved it could cope with a lot of rough country without complaint.

In one situation some years ago the vehicle flexed so much on a tortuous off-road route that a rear window popped out. But the Vitara still kept going which says a lot.

The two-litre petrol engine seems well suited to the vehicle and has a lot of pull. In a way the price is paid with the five-speed manual gearbox which is somewhat low geared, taking its bite out of the fuel economy readout. Better flexibility is given from the five-speed automatic which is an extra.

For a 4x4 this vehicle is very easy to park thanks to a generously sized windows. Driving qualities are surprisingly good but the fuel consumption on the two-litre manual could be better.

Facts and figures

Make: Suzuki

Model: Grand Vitara 2.0 5dr

Price: pounds 15,675

Mechanical: 140bhp, 1,995cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving all four wheels via 5 speed manual gearbox

Max speed: 109mph

0-62mph: 12.5 seconds

Combined mpg: 31

Insurance group: 14

CO2 emissions: 220g/km

BiK rating: 31%

Warranty: 3 years/ 60,000 miles; 6 years anti-rust
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 9, 2006
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