Mention Suzuki and you might think of motorcycles, scooters, ATVs, or even marine engines. In other words, just about everything motorized except cars and trucks. But, they make them too, and over the years we’ve found them innovative and extremely reliable, and that includes the Grand Vitara Utility. As we recently found out, updates make it more notable than ever.

After undergoing a complete redesign for 2006, the Suzuki Grand Vitara has carved out a loyal, albeit small slice of the compact crossover utility segment.  With hopes to grow that following, now seems to be the right time for a well-conceived mid-cycle update.

The most significant changes are under the hood. Gone is the sole 2.7-liter V6. In its stead in are two more fuel efficient choices, a 2.4-liter inline-4 with 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Or, a 3.2-liter V6 with 230 horsepower - 45 more than the previous V6 - and 213 pound-feet of torque.  Tow rating stands at a useful 3,000 pounds.

The 2.4-liter gets either a 5-speed manual, or a 4-speed auto, while the 3.2 mates with a 5-speed automatic only.  Power goes to either just the rear-wheels, as with our tester, or to all four. The base 4X4 is full-time high gear only. The optional 4 Mode system adds low range, a locking differential, and neutral setting for flat towing.

On a very dusty test track, our V6 Grand Vitara managed 0 to 60 in 8.6 seconds, about a half second faster than our last test, reaching a quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds at 85 miles-per-hour.  Definitely more grunt than before, but shifts were lazy.

The Grand Vitara’s very rigid full-frame welded unibody structure has been made even stiffer than before, and weight distribution is near 50-50.

As before, the all-independent suspension provides impressive handling.  There is a nicely balanced feel with quick turn-ins and very little body roll.  ABS, stability and traction control are standard.

The brakes themselves are now four-wheel discs, which eliminates the previous model’s rear drums.

In terms of on-road ride comfort, this crossover feels quite refined.  It has the softness of a larger utility.  With respect to its own class, the Grand Vitara splits the difference between the more rugged RAV4 and the cushier CR-V.

But our rear-drive Grand Vitara really blew our minds with its snowy all-condition driving capabilities.  Benefiting from almost 8-inches of ground clearance, it plowed through the white stuff with relative ease.  If our tester had been a 4x4, we imagine it would have been almost unstoppable. Newly available high-end aids like Hill Descent Control and Hill Hold Control are also big pluses for treading fairly serious off-road terrain.

Aesthetically, the Grand Vitara exudes the same brawny stance as before.

The only exterior changes are to the front fascia with a new grille and bumper design;

16, 17, or 18-inch wheels inside oversized fender flares and a broad back-end with full-size spare tire attached complete the Grand Vitara’s muscular appearance.

Inside, the Grand Vitara boasts a familiar cabin with plenty of comfort and roominess.  The refined-looking interior touts well-drawn lines and upscale metallic trim.

The Grand Vitara gains functionality with a number of new updates, starting with softer, upgraded cloth upholstery stretched over well-padded seating.

Also new is a sliding front center armrest, illuminated steering wheel controls, a newly designed climate control layout, and our XSport tester’s upgraded stereo system with 8 speakers and subwoofer.

But it should be noted that the Grand Vitara lacks a built-in navigation system, a rarity for this class.

The rear seat offers ample head, leg and shoulder room for three, and features a 60/40 split fold, while the swing out load door is less convenient than a hatch with all seats down.  There’s a competitive 68.9 cubic feet of space for luggage and cargo.

On the efficiency side, the rear-wheel drive four-cylinder Grand Vitara has Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 19 city/26 highway, while our rear-wheel V6 rates at 18 city/24 highway on regular gas.  We managed a reasonable 23 miles-per-gallon in real-world driving.

The Energy Impact Score for our vehicle is a moderately high 17.1 barrels of oil consumed per year.  It has a Carbon Footprint measuring 9.2 annual tons of CO2 emitted.

Base pricing for the Grand Vitara starts out at a modest $19,249, but climbs to $23,999 with Luxury trim, and you can add $4,000 in options to that.  Still that’s less than a maxed-out CR-V or RAV4.  Plus, Suzuki offers a much better 7 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara remains as one of the unsung heroes of the compact crossover segment, and now it’s even better than before. We hope buyers looking for more than a cute UTE will finally take notice. They won’t be disappointed.


  • Engine: 3.2-Liter V6
  • Horsepower: 230
  • Torque: 213 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 8.6 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 16.6 Seconds @ 85 MPH
  • EPA: 18 MPG City/ 24 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 23 MPG
  • Energy Impact: 17.1 Barrels Oil/Yr
  • CO2 Emissions: 9.2 Tons/Yr