Story by Mark Stevenson, photos by Mark Stevenson and Matthew Guy

Those of you who’ve read my musings elsewhere are probably aware of my familiarity with Suzuki – the soon-to-be-gone Japanese automaker that couldn’t. But, you may not know why I’ve become so close with the niche brand over the years. This Final Drive will explain our relationship. And how I plan to end it.

2004 Suzuki Vitara 2.5 V6
2004 Suzuki Vitara 2.5 V6
2004 Suzuki Vitara 2.5 V6. Click image to enlarge

You see, this 2004 Suzuki Vitara (with its oddball 2.5L V6 that nobody purchased) was a bit of a lifeline for me last year. This particular Suzuki is the fifth one we’ve had in the family since 1992, not counting the rebadged Suzukis that have graced our driveway over the years. The first one, a 1992 Sidekick four-door, was Jay Green in colour (almost black if you weren’t looking at it in angled sunlight) and the first vehicle I drove at the grand age of eight. Two more Sidekicks followed – 1994 Sidekick four-door (with A/C!) and 1996 Sidekick Sport (with a massive 1.8L engine instead of the 1.6L) – which were eventually replaced by a 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara, a truck I drove for my most formative years, in which I grenaded the rear differential before it hit 100,000 km.

It wasn’t just us buying the stylized-S badged trucklets either. My father’s main reason for buying these rigs was their toughness and simplicity. He was always in need of a capable mini-ute to get him in and out of the sticks with minimal fuss. Suzuki always provided a no-nonsense mode of transport for doing just that. Some of his work colleagues had pickups, while others preferred Jeeps. But, soon enough, a microtrend of buying Suzukis caught on with some of his co-workers and his office parking lot was littered with Sidekicks of various colours and trims, seemingly overnight. They were the woodsman’s workhorse. Narrow in body, they could blaze their way down the narrowest of logging trails. And, in long-wheelbase four-door spec, they had enough ground clearance to make sure you didn’t get into much trouble.

My father purchased this particular Suzuki Vitara new in 2004 when they were still a body-on-frame affair. Tough as nails, this little ‘ute has seen more off-road use than most Wranglers. But, after eight years of heavy-duty wear and tear later, the little Zuk-zuk is really showing its war wounds. It only has 211,000 km, yet it feels like 500,000 km. This is absolutely no fault of Suzuki’s, but rather my father’s cavalier attitude toward vehicle maintenance.

Air conditioning broken? Remove the compressor and open the windows.

Power steering not working? Do more arm exercises.

Seat belt won’t roll off the cylinder anymore? Clip a clothespin to it so it won’t roll back all the way.

To say this old Vitara has had a hard life would be an understatement.

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