Full 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara's standard navigation system gets a number of new features, including a Google search function, 3D maps and speed limit info for major roads. Bluetooth hands-free cell phone compatibility is also now available as an option on the Premium trim level. The V6 engine has been dropped.
In every crowd, there are always a few individuals who stand out while the rest tend to blend into the background. Unfortunately for Suzuki, the 2011 Grand Vitara is one of the latter. That's not to say that there's anything dramatically wrong with this compact SUV. It's just that the Grand Vitara tends to be overshadowed by its more high-profile competitors and doesn't offer enough compelling reasons for us to recommend it.
On the upside, the 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara comes with a long list of standard features that you'd normally expect to pay extra for, such as automatic climate control and a navigation system. An attractive price, a 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and an available four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case -- a rarity in this segment -- are other notable pluses.
Other than these distinctions, however, the Grand Vitara is simply outclassed by compact crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox and Honda CR-V. For not that much more money, the Equinox offers a more practical interior and an available V6 engine, while the CR-V delivers a higher level of refinement.
There are also other top small crossovers to consider, such as the 2011 Kia Sportage, 2011 Subaru Forester and 2011 Toyota RAV4. Realistically, all of the above will likely provide a more satisfying ownership experience. But for buyers who are focused on value or looking for a compact crossover SUV with a higher level of four-wheel-drive capability, this Suzuki is worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara is a compact crossover SUV that is offered in three trim levels: base, Premium and Limited. Standard features for the base model include 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, automatic climate control, full power accessories, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a trip computer, an integrated Garmin navigation system and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player.
The midrange Premium trim level includes all of the base model's features and adds a four-speed automatic transmission, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors (4WD models only), cruise control and an upgraded navigation system with real-time traffic, a Google search function, 3D maps and speed limit info for major roads. Optional on four-wheel-drive models are 16-inch alloy wheels.
Pop for the Limited model and you'll also get 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, a sunroof, roof rack side rails, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats, fake wood trim and a seven-speaker premium audio system. Bluetooth is optional on all but the base models.
Powertrains and Performance
Now that the V6 engine has been dropped, all 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara models are powered by a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that produces 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on base models, while all other versions get a four-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard across the lineup, but Premium models can also be had with a four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case. Limited models are offered with a four-mode 4WD system (4H, 4H Lock, 4L Lock and N) that allows the Grand Vitara to be flat-towed behind an RV without adding miles to the odometer.
In Edmunds performance testing, a rear-drive Grand Vitara required 10.2 seconds to reach 60 mph, a slow time for this segment. Fuel economy estimates for the 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara are average, with automatic 2WD models getting 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined and 4WD models earning 19/23/20.
The 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara's standard safety features include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat side-impact airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the Grand Vitara needed only 110 feet to stop from 60 mph -- extraordinary performance for this type of vehicle.
The Grand Vitara has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) saw it earning four stars (out of five) in frontal-impact protection for both driver and passenger. Side-impact tests resulted in a perfect five-star rating for both front and rear occupants. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Grand Vitara its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test and the second-highest rating of "Acceptable" in the side test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the rest of the vehicle, the Grand Vitara's five-passenger interior is attractive yet somewhat uninspiring. Gauges and controls are well-placed and easy to read, with the exception of the removable navigation system, which requires a bit of a reach.
Though there's a decent amount of room to stretch out here, the Limited model's leather upholstery is actually not as comfortable as the cloth covering on the seats of the base and Premium versions. One other notable shortcoming here is the lack of storage for small items like cell phones and MP3 players. Schlepping larger items shouldn't present any problems, however, thanks to a cargo hold with 69 cubic feet of space with the 60/40-split rear seats folded down. That said, the rear door, which is hinged on the passenger side, does complicate curbside loading and unloading.
While the 2011 Suzuki Grand Vitara makes a decent runabout for commuting and daily errands, a somewhat unrefined ride quality and firm seats make longer trips more unpleasant. The cabin is relatively quiet except at highway speeds, where road noise becomes an issue. The four-cylinder engine only adds to the din as it noisily struggles to move the Grand Vitara with anything resembling gusto. Handling doesn't feel nearly as stable as the compact crossovers from Honda and Toyota, and the overall ride quality isn't as carlike.