Used 2002 Suzuki XL-7 Review

By offering a third-row seat in a compact SUV, Suzuki answers a question not many people are asking; but if yo're one of them, the XL-7 is worth a look.

what's new

For 2002, the XL-7's 2.7-liter V6 engine has been upgraded to produce more power. Inside, all XL-7 models have gained features such as the LATCH child seat system, improved cargo floor design and new upholstery. All Standard and Plus models now offer optional ABS brakes, while the line-topping Limited Edition's interior gains woodgrain trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Suzuki offers 24-hour emergency roadside assistance and towing for the duration of the vehicle's warranty to increase customer satisfaction.

vehicle overview

Suzuki's initial advertising campaign for the Grand Vitara XL-7 featured a colossal Ford Excursion as a supporting cast member. The message to the target audience? You shouldn't have to drive a 7,000-pound truck just to enjoy the comforts of a versatile interior or the convenience of third-row seating.

Nor should you have to spend well over $20,000 to get dimensions greater than those of a Ford Escape, Isuzu Rodeo, Mitsubishi Montero Sport or Toyota 4Runner. And actually, the exterior of the XL-7 measures just smaller than a Jeep Grand Cherokee's.

The XL-7 is based on the Grand Vitara, but it has a 12.6-inch-longer wheelbase, allowing Suzuki to offer it with a third-row split-folding seat. While this is a good idea on paper, we've actually found it to be of limited usefulness now that we've been able to spend more time with the vehicle.

There's plenty of luggage space with the rearmost seat folded, but it all goes away when the third-row seat is in use. Also, the mechanism to drop the seats is fussy and awkward, and the load floor is not flat, creating "canyons" into which cargo can fall. Legroom is in short supply for third-row passengers, though people sitting in front or in the second row fare better.

One of the benefits of the XL-7's longer wheelbase is that it absorbs rough spots on pavement better. We enjoy how well the Suzuki communicates road feel to the driver, and the steering, chassis and suspension all work together in harmony to provide predictable handling. When the going gets tough, the four-wheel-drive model's two-speed transfer case allows for capable hill climbing.

A 2.7-liter version of the Grand Vitara's 2.5-liter V6 powers each XL-7. For 2002, the engine makes 183 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, a gain of 13 hp and 10 lb-ft compared to last year's engine. The XL-7 is available in four trim levels, in either two- or four-wheel drive, with a manual or an automatic transmission.

The Standard model is equipped with power door locks, mirrors and windows; remote keyless entry; cruise control; air conditioning (with micron air filter); daytime running lights; adjustable armrests for both front seats; a first aid kit; and tinted privacy glass. The XL-7 Plus adds rear air conditioning vents and a fan speed dial, a stereo with an in-dash CD player and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Touring models come standard with four-wheel ABS, an automatic transmission, a CD/cassette player combination, a sunroof and a rear spoiler. And if you do splurge on a Limited model, you'll get all of the above, plus leather seating.

The Suzuki's interior is durable and serviceable, but dominated by cheap-looking hard plastics. All models offer a relatively meager array of safety items, including only second-generation front airbags, rear-door child safety locks, child seat-tether anchors and antilock brakes on selected trims. For the market Suzuki is trying to capture, side-impact airbags, at least as an option, need to find their way into this SUV.

While there are better small SUVs on the market, none of them offer third-row seating. If you need this feature and don't want to part with $30,000 (or more) for a vehicle that guzzles fuel, considering a Grand Vitara XL-7 is worth your time.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.