Test Drive: 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara car test drives suzuki
2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s Website
Suzuki Canada

Review and photos by Michel Deslauriers

Photo Gallery:
2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara

It makes me sad to see a car company such as Suzuki struggle for breathing room in a very crowded market. The brand’s automotive division is pulling out of the US market in order to concentrate on their motorcycle and recreation vehicle activities, but for Suzuki Canada, it’s business as usual, and dealers are stocking up on 2013 model-year vehicles as this is being written.

While brand awareness is an issue, Suzuki Canada has decided to focus its promotional efforts locally, around each dealership, as opposed to national coast-to-coast advertising. In my humble opinion, their limited product lineup and small dealer network doesn’t reflect the competence of their current crop of cars and trucks, and the Grand Vitara is a prime example.

True, Suzuki’s compact SUV is getting old, having been introduced in its present form way back in 2005 as a 2006 model. Visually, not much has changed, yet the 2013 Grand Vitara is the result of constant minor improvements over the years (just as Mike Schlee has found with Suzuki’s SX4 Sedan), the most significant being its powertrain.

The unimpressive, 185-hp 2.7L V6 that initially powered this generation of Grand Vitara was eventually replaced by two engines in 2009 and 2010: a 166-hp 2.4L inline-four with a four-speed automatic, and a 230-hp 3.2L V6 with a five-speed automatic.

However, since most compact SUVs and crossovers are bought with the smaller engine, the Japanese manufacturer simplified the process by eliminating a V6 option altogether during the last few years. The 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara is now only available with the 2.4L engine, which is fine by me.

Along with its 166 aforementioned horses, the four-cylinder produces 162 lb-ft of torque, an output that makes the Grand Vitara a decent performer. Sure, the new Honda CR-V boasts 185 hp, while the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and newly redesigned Toyota RAV4 all rely on 176 hp, but really, the typical buyer won’t have anything to complain about in the Suzuki.

Test Drive: 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara car test drives suzuki Test Drive: 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara car test drives suzuki
2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara. Click image to enlarge

Well, maybe the four-speed automatic deserves a little criticism, not for the smoothness of its operation but for the lack of an extra cog or two. With the cruise control activated on a hilly highway jaunt, the gearbox would downshift into third for about a second and then upshift back into fourth while saying “Oops! Sorry about that.” And at a steady 100 km/h, the engine spins at 2,600 rpm, higher than in its newer rivals.

The 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara is of the old-school, ladder-frame SUV variety as opposed the competition’s crossovers based solely on unibody car platforms. The advantage is that combined with its 4WD system, and despite being equipped with a four-cylinder engine, it can still tow up to 1,360 kg (or 3,000 lb.), which is more than any rival that’s not equipped with a V6 engine, the Ford Escape with its turbo 2.0L engine being an exception.