What's New for 2006
For 2006 Suzuki has fully redesigned its Grand Vitara compact SUV. For the new Grand Vitara, Suzuki abandoned the truck-based platform of the previous versions and built it on a more carlike frame, although it's reinforced to allow for some off-road duty. The Grand Vitara now has a fairly deluxe interior and uses little of the previous version's cheap-looking plastic.
The latter years of the 1999 to 2005 Suzuki Grand Vitara were not particularly bright. While this compact SUV did offer decent off-road ability, it lacked the increasing amount of refinement and finesse found in newer vehicles such as the CR-V and RAV4. Those compact SUVs wouldn't handle much more than a gravel road in terms of off-road character but they had what most buyers wanted: a smooth ride and adequate interior space without the fuel gulping and parking hassles of a full-size truck.
Suzuki has clearly been paying attention as the fully redesigned 2006 Grand Vitara offers features, styling and quality on par with the top compact SUVs. Not content to let Kia and Hyundai take the value spotlight, Suzuki also priced the Grand Vitara competitively and included the company's stellar 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. For 2006, there is no longer a Suzuki Vitara; that four-cylinder model has been dropped and all Vitaras are now Grand Vitaras. All come standard with a V6 and the two top trim levels offer an improved four-wheel-drive system.
Despite the low base price, the new Suzuki Grand Vitara offers plenty of features as standard. Items like micron air filtration, tinted rear windows, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, keyless entry, stability control, and ABS are all included in the sub-$20,000 base model. But the real deluxe features are included on the XSport and the Luxury Package models. Most notable is the SmartPass system that allows you to enter and start the Suzuki SUV without ever handling a key. The XSport also adds a five-speed automatic and fender flares. The top-of-the-line Luxury version with leather, sunroof, 17-inch wheels and HomeLink add a few thousand dollars to the price but the value is still reasonable when comparing to a fully loaded CR-V.
The new interior of the Grand Vitara is far beyond anything we've seen from Suzuki in terms of style, materials quality and luxury. The dash incorporates nice textures and flowing lines, and the gauges are housed in an attractive three-circle fashion with each ring surrounded by faux aluminum trim. The center stack is also bordered by simulated aluminum trim and the stereo controls especially feel more upscale than expected. The seats are comfortable for long drives, but the cloth seats feel a little comfier than the leather. However, the leather used on those seats is very soft. Overall, the Grand Vitara's interior looks and feels more like something out of the $30,000 segment rather than a budget-priced Suzuki SUV. This is probably the first Suzuki that has Honda and Toyota glancing over their shoulders.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Suzuki Grand Vitara, a four-door compact SUV, is offered in four styles: base, Premium, XSport, and Luxury. Base models come well equipped with items like 16-inch wheels, automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless entry, full power accessories, a MP3-compatible CD player and steering wheel-mounted controls. To this, the Premium style adds alloy wheels an in-dash CD changer and the XSport adds a standard automatic transmission and a remote "SmartPass" keyless engine-start feature. The top-line Luxury style includes leather seating, 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, heated front seats and wood grain trim.
Powertrains and Performance
The Suzuki Grand Vitara is powered by a 2.7-liter V6 making 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is standard on the base and premium models and a five-speed automatic is optional. Luxury and XSport versions have that automatic as a standard feature. Four-wheel drive is available for each style.
Standard safety features on the Grand Vitara include stability control, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, side curtain airbags for front and rear outboard passengers and front side airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Grand Vitara's new interior is one of the best-looking we've seen in any Suzuki. The dash incorporates nice textures and flowing lines, and the gauges are housed in an attractive three-circle fashion with each ring surrounded by faux aluminum trim. The center stack is also bordered by simulated aluminum trim and the stereo controls especially feel more upscale than expected. With the rear seats lowered, there's 68.9 cubic feet of cargo room available.
The 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara now rides on a unibody frame which gives it a more carlike ride. Even at highway speeds the interior remains quiet and there is little wind or road noise. Suzuki wanted to retain some of the old Grand Vitara's off-road prowess so it built a ladder frame into the structure and as a result it does tackle rutted trails and steep dirt roads with some of the old truck's flair. The standard V6 is quiet and powerful enough, although we suspect a hardier engine would result in less downshifting while traveling in mountainous areas.