Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Ain’t she Grand! Grand Vitara Launch review

LIANA REINERS had a friend whose father used to say that Grand Central Airport is neither grand nor central. The truth is that things or places are often described as grand when they really aren’t. Although the central part doesn’t really apply to Suzuki’s latest new offering, it most certainly is quite grand. She drove it during the recent local media launch.

South Africans got their first taste of the all-new Suzuki Grand Vitara at the 2022 Festival of Motoring, held in August last year. Even then it was clear that it boasted plenty of tech, loads of luxury, and great styling to boot.

It’s been a while since we’ve had the Grand Vitara nomenclature in South Africa. Sure, we’ve had the Vitara and the Vitara Brezza, but now the Big Daddy is back in town and it’s a real treat! The newcomer is available with the choice of two different drivetrain options, including the first-ever mild hybrid petrol-electric powertrain from Suzuki Auto South Africa, three gearbox options and a choice between two- and fourwheel drive.

Yes, the Grand Vitara is the newest model from the partnership between Suzuki and Toyota for the development and production of a range of compact vehicles. It was design-ed and developed by Suzuki and is manufactured in the Toyota Kirloskar factory in India. This is a Suzuki through and through, though – showing all the unmatched traits that has made the brand such a favourite with local buyers.

It looks good!

Viewed from the outside, the new Grand Vitara has a modern interpretation of its predecessor. It is new in every way, with a more sculpted clamshell bonnet, large wheel arches and alloy wheels, and roof rails, but there is definitely a resemblance to the rest of the Suzuki family.

Among the many unique features that make it stand out from the SUV crowd are a multi-level grille with metallic surrounds, three-point LED daytime running lights on either side, and headlamps which are recessed in their own dark polycarbonate surrounds. Below the headlamps is a deeply sculpted lower bumper. The line created by this bumper follows through to the doors and ends at the rear wheels. At the same time, the design of the clamshell bonnet continues into a sharp shoulder line that stretches all the way to the rear lights and across the luggage door to create one seamless shape. At the rear, a thin LED light bar with three-dimensional lights, stretches the width of the car. Reverse and turn signal lights are fitted in a deep, sculpted section at the edges of the lower bumper.

Giving the Grand Vitara additional SUV cred are the 17-inch alloy wheels and roof rails, which are standard across the range.

Luxury and technology rolled into one

Suzuki has positioned the Grand Vitara as its flagship model and once I experienced the interior, I can see why. It’s very comfortable and smacks of luxury. First off, there are plush seats that have been designed especially for this model range. These, along with the suspension system and electric steering, provide for a rather comfortable ride, even over rough surfaces. And believe me when I tell you we encountered our fair share of those on the launch route. The Grand Vitara simply continued to do its thing, undeterred the by potholes, rocks and gravel roads.

The dashboard has been designed with multiple layers to create a sense of spaciousness. In the centre console, a large digital touch screen takes centre stage. On GL-models, it measures seven inches and also hosts the reverse camera. GLX models, have a nine-inch version. The screen shows the panoramic video display from the multiple cameras mounted in the side mirrors, luggage door and grille, while additional driving information – such as vehicle and engine speed, gear selection, the instant fuel consumption figures, vehicle alerts and even climate control settings – is shown on the standard Head Up Display (HUD), right in the line of sight of the driver.

All Grand Vitara models also have keyless access, keyless start/ stop, electric windows, wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, automatic climate control, cruise control, a leather covered steering wheel with remote controls for the audio, cruise and phone features and a powerful audio system. GLX-versions gain a full leatherette interior, wireless charging tray, ambient lighting and additional USB-charging sockets for rear passengers. Also part of this specification package are a panoramic sunroof and additional speakers, including high-end tweeters. Befitting its superior status, the four-wheel drive Hybrid model boasts paddle shifters that allow the driver to shift gears from the steering wheel.

What lurks under the bonnet?

The Grand Vitara is available with the choice of two versions of Suzuki’s K15 engines. The first is the K15B, a naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol unit that delivers 77kW at 6 000rpm and 138Nm of peak torque at 4 400rpm. It uses multipoint fuel injection and variable valve timing to offer the largest amount of torque from low engine revolutions all the way to the torque peak.

The second engine on offer is a first for Suzuki in South Africa; the K15C petrol powerplant with mild hybrid electric power, code named SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki). Clever! It uses a much higher compression ratio than its lesser sibling (12.0:1) and an always-on mild-hybrid system with a power output of 75.8kW at 6 000 rpm and 136.8Nm at 4 400rpm. It works continuously to support the petrol engine to deliver similar power to a naturally aspirated engine across a wide torque band, while dramatically lowering fuel consumption and emissions.

Suzuki’s claimed average fuel consumption figure for this model is between 5.6 litres and 6 litres/100km, despite the additional 125kg of the all-wheel drive system. However, we never even got close to that, averaging between 8 litres and 9 litres/100km during the launch. We did, however, traverse quite the number of passes and rough terrain. To be clear, this is not really a hybrid as we’ve come to know it. At the heart of the system is an integrated starter generator (ISG) that supports the petrol engine under load or hard acceleration. The same ISG-system will harvest kinetic energy when the vehicle is slowed down and push that back into the standard vehicle battery and the additional 12V lithium-ion hybrid battery.

To further save on fuel, this version of the Grand Vitara is fitted with Start/Stop technology and will switch off when stationary. The 12V ISG system will restart the engine when needed.

There are three transmission options available in the Grand Vitara. The two-wheel drive K15B-engined Grand Vitara models have either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission, while the K15C-powered mild-hybrid version has a six-speed automatic transmission with switchable all-wheel drive. Here I need to highlight the fact that the latter model boasts the sixth generation of Suzuki’s AllGrip Select system. In contrast to the version available on the Jimny, this system will automatically switch its power between the various wheels depending on road conditions and driver input.

Despite this automatic operation of the system, it is also switchable from inside the cabin. You can choose between Auto (where the vehicle decides based on road conditions and driver behaviour), Sport (for the best power distribution and grip during spirited driving), Snow (for more muted power delivery in slippery conditions, such as snow, mud or soft sand) and Lock (to keep the power evenly distributed between all four wheels if the conditions require it). We put the Snow mode to the test on a few occasions and it really does do what it says on the box. I must also add that the Grand Vitara offers 210mm of a ground clearance, the same as the Jimny. This will come in very handy as you tackle rough and rocky terrain as we did on the launch.

Plenty of safety features

For Suzuki, safety was a top priority in the Grand Vitara and as such, it offers just about every vehicle safety acronym you can think of. This starts in the vehicle’s design, which includes the newest generation of Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT), to not only absorb crash energy but disperse it along energy channels to prevent the cabin from deforming as far as possible and keep all occupants safe. In addition, all models have six airbags as standard, including side curtain airbags that stretch across the length of the cabin. The entire line-up also features electronic stability control (ESP), ABS brakes with Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Hill Hold Assist (HHA) and rear parking sensors as standard. And let’s not forget that ISOFIX, with both top and bottom tethers, is also standard across the range.

Colour me impressed

I’ve always liked the colour options on Suzuki models. The Grand Vitara is no different. All models can be ordered with the choice of Arctic White, Splendid Silver, Opulent Red, Grandeur Grey, Celestial Blue, Midnight Black and pearlescent versions of Arctic White and Cave Black. There are two-tone options, with a black roof and side mirrors too, available in Arctic White, Splendid Silver and Opulent Red.

Model line-up and pricing

  • Grand Vitara 1.5 GL 5MT: R339 900
  • Grand Vitara 1.5 GL 4AT: R359 900
  • Grand Vitara 1.5 GLX 5MT: R397 900
  • Grand Vitara 1.5 GLX 4AT: R417 900
  • Grand Vitara 1.5 GLX 6AT Hybrid AllGrip: R529 900

*The Suzuki Grand Vitara comes standard with a 5-year/ 200 000km promotional warranty plan and a 6-year /90 000 km service plan. Service intervals are every 12 months/15 000km, whichever comes first.

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