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By offering a third-row seat in a compact SUV, the 2006 Suzuki XL-7 answers a question not many people are asking.
Affordable base price, competent on- and off-road handling, available seven-passenger seating.
Cramped second- and third-row seating, dated design, low-grade interior plastics, side airbags not available.
Available XL-7 SUV Models
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For 2006, Suzuki has consolidated the XL-7's trim levels into base and Premium packages.
Suzuki introduced the XL-7 in 2001. Its marketing campaign was aimed at people who didn't want to drive lumbering SUV giants, but needed lots of passenger space. In a crowded segment, the Suzuki XL-7 offers smaller dimensions, an affordable price and the ability to haul seven passengers. Based on the previous-generation Grand Vitara, the Suzuki XL-7 boasts an optional third-row seat. However, we've found the third-row seating to be of dubious value. There's plenty of luggage room with the rearmost seat folded down, but when the third row is in use, cargo capacity is very limited. Also, the mechanism to drop the third-row seating is fussy and awkward. The third row doesn't fold completely flat and it creates "canyons" into which loose cargo items can fall.
The XL-7's longer wheelbase and body-on-frame construction do give it a rugged feel. Plus, the steering and suspension work together to provide predictable handling for a truck-based SUV, though shoppers are apt to find the driving dynamics of car-based SUVs more to their liking. Four-wheel-drive XL-7s are equipped with a two-speed transfer case, however, allowing the Suzuki SUV to handle the rough stuff better than any of its car-based competitors. While the 2006 Suzuki XL-7 does offer seven-passenger seating and a reasonable price in a small package, it doesn't match up well with its segment competition. Compact SUVs like the Escape, CR-V and any number of other car-based SUVs are more refined and/or have more off-road capability. And if you really need three rows of seating in a compact package, we suggest looking at a small minivan like the Mazda5 or Caravan, either of which offers a more practical solution to this problem.
The four-door Suzuki XL-7 is available in one trim level. The five-passenger base model is well equipped with power door locks and windows; remote keyless entry; heated mirrors; cruise control; automatic climate control; daytime running lights; an adjustable center armrest; a six-speaker stereo system with an MP3-compatible CD player; and tinted privacy glass. The seven-passenger version adds a two-person third-row seat plus rear air conditioning. The Premium package adds running boards, leather seating, foglights, a power sunroof, a seven-speaker audio system with in-dash CD changer and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
All Suzuki XL-7 models are equipped with a 2.7-liter V6 engine that produces 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. Fuel economy ratings are 17-18 mpg for city driving and 22 mpg on the highway -- about average for a truck-based compact SUV. Towing capacity is a respectable 3,000 pounds. Buyers have a choice between two-wheel drive and a part-time four-wheel-drive system with a dual-range transfer case.
The XL-7 comes standard with antilock brakes and a tire-pressure monitor, but neither side airbags nor stability control is available. NHTSA has not conducted crash tests on the Suzuki XL-7. In 40-mph frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the IIHS, the XL-7 earned a "Good" score (the highest possible).
Equipped with the optional third-row seating, the Suzuki XL-7 can pack in seven passengers. It's not until you start shopping larger SUVs (with their larger price tags) that you'll find this feature. However, due to the smaller dimensions of this Suzuki SUV, legroom is very tight in both the second and third rows and there's little room for cargo with all the rear seats in use. With its third-row bench out of the way, the XL-7 offers up to 43.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the second-row seats. Folding these seats opens up 75.1 cubic feet of space.
The 2006 Suzuki XL-7 handles competently on- and off-road. Ride quality is decent for a truck-based SUV, but car-based SUVs have more refined road manners. The 185-horsepower V6 provides some initial off-the-line grunt, but it gets wheezy at higher engine speeds, particularly when climbing highway grades.
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