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An aging mini SUV increasingly outdistanced by the competition.
Standard V6, distinctive looks, low-range transfer case on 4x4 models.
Harsh suspension, unimpressive brakes, cramped rear seats, lack of cargo space.
Available Grand Vitara Models
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For 2002, the Grand Vitara's model matrix has been simplified. The JLS (rear-wheel drive) and JLX (four-wheel drive) share most equipment, and the Limited Edition is available with either drive system. Hoping to better match the competition, Suzuki upped the V6's power for 2002, improving acceleration and throttle response. In terms of equipment, all Vitaras get the LATCH child seat system, 4WD vehicles now have heated side mirrors and optional heated seats, and the Limited Edition trim gains a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Wrapping things up, Suzuki is now offering 24-hour emergency roadside assistance and towing for the duration of the vehicle's warranty to increase customer satisfaction.
With a title that sounds more like a sprawling Spanish estate than a mini-SUV, the Grand Vitara is Suzuki's well-equipped entrant into the rapidly growing mini-ute segment. Based on the four-door Vitara, the Grand Vitara is aimed at customers looking for a mini-SUV that includes all the amenities usually reserved for sport-utes in the more expensive midsize class. An extensive list of standard features comes with every Grand Vitara, the only options consisting of a four-speed automatic transmission, antilock brakes, alloy wheels and four-wheel drive.
For 2002, there are three different trim levels: JLS, JLX and top-of-the-line Limited. The JLS (two-wheel drive) and JLX (four-wheel drive) come with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, micron air filtration, a CD-equipped audio system and comfy front bucket seats. In previous years, Suzuki offered JLS+ and JLX+ versions. These have been discontinued, and their respective options such as ABS and alloy wheels are now stand-alone options. The Grand Vitara Limited builds upon this impressive list of features with a standard four-speed automatic, leather seating, ABS, a cassette player, deep-tinted glass and a monochrome paint scheme.
All Grand Vitaras come with a V6 engine rated at 165 horsepower (10 more than last year) and 162 pound-feet of torque. Although this may have been a class-leading engine a few years ago, the mini-ute segment has spawned gutsy new entries such as the Jeep Liberty and Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute twins. These new competitors make the Grand Vitara's powerplant merely average. The Suzuki's suspension is a MacPherson strut design up front and a five-link coil-spring design in back that delivers a controlled ride off-road, but we consider it a little harsh on the highway.
Grand Vitara does offer a low-range transfer case and stout body-on-frame construction for traction and durability, but without a strong source of motivation, it's hard to consider the Grand Vitara a formidable off-road machine. Add that to its lack of rear seat room and minute amount of cargo space and you begin to see why the Grand Vitara pales in comparison to its more modern colleagues. Of course, most mini-ute buyers aren't looking for a Baja racer or wannabe Suburban anyway, leaving the Grand Vitara, with its extensive standard feature list and competitive price, a relevant competitor even amongst more worthwhile competition.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.