Suzuki is certainly the little automotive company that could. Their innovative small cars and compact yet roomy SUVs more than hold their own in today’s fiercely competitive automotive scene. Now, for 2006, comes a totally redesigned Grand Vitara compact utility. And once again it’s a case of small acting big.

It’s been seven years since Suzuki introduced the Grand Vitara compact SUV. And while it has developed a devoted following, the Grand Vitara has badly trailed rivals Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in both sales and modern engineering. To put things right, Suzuki has rethought and rebuilt the 2006 Grand Vitara from the floor to the roof. Out is the tough but clunky pickup-truck body-bolted-to-frame concept, and in is a very rigid full-frame welded to a unibody design. The suspension is simple MacPherson struts up front, with a new independent multi-link design in the rear, all supported by 16- or 17-inch wheels.

Power is from a larger 2.7-liter twin-cam V6 with new variable induction. It makes 185 horsepower, 20 more than last year’s 2.5, and 184 pound-feet of torque, which also doubles the tow rating to 3,000 pounds. 

The 2.7 pushes its ponies first through either a standard 5-speed manual or our tester’s optional 5-speed automatic transmission, and then to either rear wheel or full-time 4-wheel-drive. On pavement, our Grand Vitara 4X4 automatic carries an EPA fuel mileage rating of 19 city/23 highway. We saw a good average of 22 miles-per-gallon in our mixed test loop.

Turning to our test track, the Grand Vitara sprints to 60 in 9.0 seconds. The full quarter mile takes 17 seconds at 82 miles-per-hour. Like previous Suzuki 6s, the 2.7 feels a little flat off the line, but mid-range effort is substantially stronger than its predecessor. Shifts are smooth, and the whole drivetrain feels solid and well balanced.

On our handling course the Grand Vitara is also one solid, well balanced little SUV. Turn in is quick, with only moderate front end push, though the standard electronic stability program engages rather abruptly. Ride quality is quite firm and reminds us of a pure truck. But only the bigger bumps and ripples find their way to the passenger compartment. Noise control is much improved.

Braking is by front discs and rear drums with standard ABS and electronic brake force distribution. Still, stops from 60 were a little long at 135 feet but with excellent stability. The new Grand Vitara has grown. Wheelbase is up 6.3-inches to 103.9, length up nearly a foot, and width just over an inch. Still it takes up less pavement than a CR-V.

All of that added length goes inside, which also boasts far better quality and ergonomics. Controls and gauges are large and efficient. Standards include automatic climate, cruise, CD/MP3 stereo, keyless entry, and power locks, windows and mirrors. Plus, front side-impact and front and rear head curtain airbags.

The front bucket seats are wide and well padded. Leather and heat are included in the Luxury package. There is over a half-foot more rear seat leg room. So, it’s now adequate for most adults. Cargo room is a big 24.4 cubic feet with the seat backs up, and a far bigger 68.9 with the rear seats folded.

Grand Vitara pricing, however, isn’t big at all, starting at $19,594 for a 2-wheel-drive manual transmission, and tops out at $24,994 for a 4X4 automatic with the Luxury package. A 7-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty is included.

So, there really is very little that is small about the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. A big effort from a small company that continues to surprise and make big impressions with us. But the new Grand Vitara is so improved that it deserves a much bigger slice of America’s super competitive compact SUV market. 


  • Engine: 2.7-Liter Twin-cam V6
  • Horsepower: 185
  • Torque: 184 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 9.0 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 17.0 Seconds @ 82 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 135 Feet
  • EPA: 19 City/23 Highway MPG
  • Mixed Loop: 22 MPG

Long Term Updates

Mileage: 4,000

So far we are feeling fine about our compact 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. A big change from its predecessor, the unitized-body Grand Vitara is smartly styled, tightly built, and with a long list of standard features.

Our all-wheel drive Grand Vitara has been with us two months, with 4,000 miles on the odometer. Standard power is a 185-horsepower 2.7-liter V6. While off-line performance is only adequate, it is balanced by fuel economy that has already reached 23.4 miles per gallon. Ride quality is quite firm and reminds us of a pure truck.

While a compact SUV, the interior of our Premium-grade Grand Vitara is comfy and quite useful. Our only beef so far is the cheap-looking dash plugs that instantly say “something is missing.” Still, the Grand Vitara is a small SUV that is already making a big impression on us.

Mileage: 11,000

If you caught our original road test last fall, you know we’re pretty impressed with the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. A huge improvement over its predecessor, the unit-body Vitara is smartly styled, tight, with a long list of standard features. Our all-wheel drive Grand Vitara has been with us for 4 months, and has quickly managed nearly 11,000 miles. It has proven to be sure footed in deep snow, and quiet and stable on interstates. Our staff praises the comfortable interior, the no-nonsense instrument panel, even if it does have a couple of switch-less plugs, and generous, low load floor. Too bad the rear cargo door opens towards the curb. Convenient for Japan but not here.

The standard 185-horsepower V6 is smooth, if a little lacking in guts when passing. Fuel economy for a compact SUV is still pretty good at 20.4 miles per gallon, but it has dropped since last report.

The Suzuki Grand Vitara may not have a lot of frills, but it does deliver a lot of purpose. In a small SUV market where form often overwhelms function, we find the Grand Vitara very refreshing.

Mileage: 13,000

We don’t give an award for most improved vehicle of the year. But, if we did, this year’s winner would likely be the Suzuki Grand Vitara. The now-unit-body 2006 Vitara is smartly styled, tightly built, with a long list of standard comfort features including air and CD-stereo.

Our all-wheel drive Grand Vitara has managed almost 13,000 mostly around-town miles in just 7 months, with reasonable fuel economy of 20.4 miles per gallon of regular gas. The standard 185-horsepower V6 lacks the reserve power of larger SUVs, but it is still a smooth operator.

You sit very upright in the Grand Vitara, and that means excellent outward vision for a party of five. Keeping them safe are standard front side impact, and front and rear side curtain airbags.

High gas prices are prompting many SUV buyers to downsize. But as you consider a RAV4 or CR-V, also give the Suzuki Grand Vitara a long hard look.

Mileage: 15,000

A new design that arrived right on time is the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. Just as truck-like SUVs were loosing favor to car-like crossovers, the Grand Vitara made the switch from perimeter to unitized frame.

Log book comments praise the fun to drive nature of the Grand Vitara. But, those in the second seat think it could be quieter. Our only fault so far is a dome light that works when it feels like it.

Our all-wheel drive Grand Vitara has managed almost 15,000 mostly around-town miles in 9 months, with reasonable fuel economy of 20.6 miles per gallon of regular gas. The standard 185-horsepower V6 lacks the reserve power of larger SUVs, but it is still one smooth operator.

Mileage: 20,000

It’s been almost a year since we took delivery of our 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara compact crossover-utility vehicle. Our 20,000 miles of commuting and traveling in the Grand Vitara has been so uneventful as to be boring.

The only fault was an intermittent dome light but has since been repaired. However, we never get bored of passing gas pumps as this 5-seat unitized utility continues to return almost car-like fuel economy a 20.9 miles-per-gallon on regular gas.

This jives well with its government fuel economy ratings of 18 city and 23 highway. Our staff praises the Grand Vitara’s fun to drive nature. Even when the sound of its 185 horsepower V6 gets a little intrusive.

There are a lot compact crossover utilities on the market today and the Suzuki Grand Vitara is clearly one not to be overlooked.

Mileage: 23,000+

This is the last report on our 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara compact crossover utility vehicle. As typical for Suzuki vehicles, it left us impressed at how well a small and scrappy car company can compete with the giants.

After more than a year of service, and over 23,000 miles, the Grand Vitara delivered nearly fault free operation. Only an intermittent dome light marred its perfect record.

The Grand Vitara stands out as a rare small utility with standard rear-wheel drive. That has a lot to do with its fun to drive nature. Plus, for 2007, all 4X4 models include a locking center differential and Hi-Lo transfer case. So, the Grand Vitara can venture where most of its rivals would fear to tread.

As for economy, its standard 185-horsepower V6 delivered a 20.9 mile-per-gallon average on regular grade. Not bad, but it still falls 10-20% short of its best rivals.

Still, if we were looking for a small utility, the Suzuki Grand Vitara would certainly be on our short list.