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Published on January 21st, 2012 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Used 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review

When the Suzuki Vitara first hit the market in 1990 it was a revolution ahead in design and from against the then utilitarian looking SJ410. Its real competitors were not born yet and with hardly any real competition it sold well at a time when soft SUV’s were not a big hit with Malaysian. The first to arrive were the 2 (3 door if you count the rear hatch) and the a few years later the 5 door version arrived to take on the competition that started gaining market share. The some year later in 1998 the Grand Vitara arrived with more kit and a higher asking price which reduced its purchase viability.
The Suzuki Grand Vitara purports to embrace both the compact concept with the two other major players in the segment, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The Grand in the name came with the new V-6 engine, first in the class. It’s a compact wagon like vehicle with a 4WD system, displacing 2.0 liters, but with its double-overhead-cam design and multi valves, it easily makes enough thrust to give its host the best power-to-weight ratio in the class. The genetic inheritance is obvious, although the new bodywork had a more muscular, bulging appeal, and the Grand Vitara’s new interior looked much less on-the-cheap than its predecessor’s did.
In addition to the Grand Vitara, there was still the standard Vitara, whose distinguishing characteristic was its 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine and in later years a similar 2-liter V6, which made it more comparable to the other cheaper offerings from Korea. The Grand came as a four-door only. Refined it really was not, but it delivered the goods with about 148 horses. Those output figures are what Honda (126 hp) and Toyota (127hp) should have provided in their offering however this still did not deter huge sales from grey dealers.
Despite its 97.6-inch wheelbase and compact 164-inch overall length, the Grand Vitara provides ample room up front for six-footers. It could even manage with the driver’s seat pulled forward a couple of notches to accommodate a tall rear-seat passenger. Two could manage in the back; three would be stretching a point, unless they were kids. With the rear seat up, cargo capacity is a bountiful 21 cubic feet; stowing the seat by simply folding it down more than doubles that.
Both the rear headrests and the tailgate-mounted spare detracted from rearward vision somewhat and this makes mall parking a hassle. The Grand Vitara has more than a foul-weather 4WD capability. With its part-time mechanically-actuated 4WD mechanism, a two-speed transfer case and eight-inch minimum ground clearance, it’s ready to off-road. I think a more sophisticated full-time 4WD setup might benefit more people, but at least the machine can shift into 4WD on the fly at speeds up to 62 mph. All this however hardly comes to test as most are urban dwellers who never venture off road.
On nice highway surfaces, ride quality is reasonably good and a lot depend on the tyres fitted. Off road tyres will be noise and bumpy whereas road tires are the best as most owners will never even drive on the grass pavement. Shock isolation is good as long as the suspension is in good condition and not tired from years of abuse, however the busy-ness of the suspension can be annoying and the pitching motions inherent in a short-wheelbase design is tiresome. Running hard over rough surfaces you will easily find the limits of the springs and shocks. Handling is crisp and predictable, and the 34.8-foot turning circle is suggestive of how maneuverable this Suzuki is. The brakes are ventilated discs front, drums rear. Antilock is standard on the V6 models. Similarly loaded machines from Honda and Toyota would cost thousands more, so the Suzuki Grand Vitara come across as a bargain with a selling price almost RM15-25K cheaper. Shop wisely and you pick a well looked after urban used example from as low as RM20,000 and a mint condition low mileage unit should fetch RM24,000.


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