Think Small, Live Large
Trail testing the Suzuki Vitara 4x4
The Suzuki Vitara (the 4 cylinder 2.0 litre-engined units; V6's are Grand Vitaras) is something of a mystery machine. It's built on a robust, 4WD platform complete with body-on-frame construction, solid axle rear wheel drive, and low-range transfer case. Yet it looks and drives more like a soft-roader than an off-roader. It's even cute, darn it.
But make no mistake: this dog can hunt. Suzuki's long heritage of building small, reliable, and capable trail rigs that just happen to make small, reliable, and capable daily drivers is unmatched. Which is why the 1999-2005 Vitara had/has a lot to live up to: being small, but living large.
This Vitara is essentially the last true Suzuki 4x4 that we in North America are likely to see. The current generation (2006-) V6 Grand Vitara (gone is the 4 cylinder option) is of reinforced uni-body construction and is a lot more car-ish than truck-ish. And since it's unlikely Suzuki will ever bring the Jimny, aka. Samurai, to North America again (thanks, Consumer's Union) the Vitara could be the last of a dying breed.
The Vitara we used in this trail test was the five-door 2.0 litre 4 cylinder model with the 5 speed manual transmission, factory limited slip rear differential, and recently added BFG All-Terrain tires. Other than the tires, it was completely stock. We chose the 2.0 litre Vitara over the V6 Grand Vitara because it offers the best combination of simple off road functionality (no power windows or door locks, plus factory rear LSD) and fuel economy, a consideration that's becoming more important with each oil price convulsion.
To find out how the Vitara performed in our trail test, read on:
Suzuki Vitara Trail Test: Part II | Part III
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