Jul 28 2009 Peter Hayward
Vitara a strong contender off-road
DON'T let the big wheels and tyres many owners fit to their Suzuki Vitaras fool you - they're just for show.
Such massive wheels don't help at all off road unless they're the right mud-plugger rubber and they don't do much for the rather average handling and road holding either.
In standard trim, the Suzuki is a strong off-road contender, even though most never see so much as a muddy field. But do check underneath for damage - just in case.
The Vitara has been top-selling 4x4 in a number of European countries and offers good value second-hand.
But to be honest, unless you really want those chunky looks and the tough off-road stance think carefully.
Most have limited performance, noisy and unrefined engines, an uncomfortable bouncy ride and lower economy than the same size car.
No small off-roader is as comfortable as the most basic car, but some short wheelbase Vitaras bounce occupants around unmercifully on rougher roads.
Reliability is good, but service history is well worth having nonetheless.
All later models come with power steering but a pair of strong arms are needed in the car park for those that don't have it.
Bought carefully they last very well. There is just room for four in the three door, but some five door models have seven seats.
Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.6
Price: Pay £1,800 for an '02 02-reg 1.6 3dr, £3,000 for an '04 54-reg 1.6SE 3dr, or £9,300 for an '06 06-reg 5dr Grand Vitara 1.9 diesel
Mechanical: 92bhp, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 93mph
0-62mph: 12.6 seconds
Combined mpg: 30
Insurance group: 10
CO2 emissions: 193g/km
Main rival: Kia Sportage