Full 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara now has an additional trim level — the Ultimate Adventure Edition — and a new tailgate design eliminates the full-size spare tire from most models.
Standing out in the competitive compact crossover SUV market is no easy task. In this segment, style, utility, the latest convenience features, favorable fuel economy and a reasonable price are all expected. Unfortunately, the 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara doesn't do as good a job meeting these criteria as its competition.
In some aspects, the Grand Vitara still holds appeal. Standard features include automatic climate control and a navigation system; those are usually optional extras for a small crossover. The Suzuki further distinguishes itself with a decent amount of off-road capability and a generous 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
But even these perks can't overcome the Grand Vitara's primary drawback, namely, a weak four-cylinder engine that struggles to either propel it with any authority or achieve top fuel-economy numbers. As of last year, the V6 engine option is no longer available. Points are also deducted for the Grand Vitara's unrefined ride quality.
With this in mind, we think shoppers will likely be happier with one of the many other top-rated compact SUVs. Right in the Suzuki's price range are the Hyundai Tucson and related Kia Sportage -- both are top picks on our list and outclass the Grand Vitara in most respects. The stalwart Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 (both are redesigned this year) are also highly recommended, though they will end up costing a few thousand dollars more than the Suzuki.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara is a compact crossover SUV that is offered in four trim levels: base, Premium, Ultimate Adventure Edition 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 steering wheel, a trip computer, an integrated Garmin navigation system (includes voice commands, real-time traffic and a Google search function) and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The midrange Premium trim level includes all of the base model's features and adds rear privacy glass, heated mirrors (4WD models only) and cruise control. Optional on four-wheel-drive models are 16-inch alloy wheels. The new Ultimate Adventure Edition adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, integrated turn signal mirrors, heated front seats, water-resistant seat upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The range-topping Limited model will get you a sunroof, roof rack side rails, a tailgate mounted spare tire (other models receive a tire inflator), keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery and a seven-speaker premium sound system. Bluetooth is optional on all but the base models.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara is 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 every trim level except base is offered with four-wheel drive. On the Limited, the four-wheel-drive system includes low-range gearing.
In Edmunds performance testing, a rear-drive Grand Vitara required 10.2 seconds to reach 60 mph, a slow time for this segment. EPA estimates for the Grand Vitara's fuel economy are less than the best. Rear-drive models return an estimated 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, while 4WD models return 19/23/20.
Standard safety features on the 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat side 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 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" for side impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Grand Vitara's five-passenger interior is attractive, but looks a bit outdated compared to recently refreshed cabins of its competitors. 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. The navigation screen is also quite a bit smaller than built-in units, making it harder to operate and read.
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 upholstery of the seats in 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, can complicate curbside loading and unloading.
While the 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara makes a decent choice for commuting and daily errands, a somewhat unrefined ride quality and firm seats can become tiresome on longer trips. 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 any level of authority. Handling doesn't feel nearly as stable as the compact crossovers from Honda and Kia, and the overall ride quality isn't as carlike.