There is nothing particularly grand about the 2007 Suzuki Grand Vitara--it's a small SUV (more properly called a crossover these days) in the same class as the Honda CR-V and the Mitsubishi Outlander. Simply calling it a Vitara would make more sense, especially with Suzuki's larger XL7 in the model lineup. But aspirations aside, the Grand Vitara feels like a well-built little truck.
We had a few complaints about the construction of the XL7, but found no issues with the Grand Vitara. The styling of the Grand Vitara follows the XL7 in its bland but functional theme. Although the Grand Vitara lacks the angular headlights of the XL7 that we liked, it does have the same hood design, which we don't like. The hood sits over the front of the car like an ill-fitting cap. The interior configuration is typical for a small crossover, with two rows of seating including rear seats that fold down to maximize cargo space.
Very little in the way of tech is available in the Grand Vitara. Our test car came with top-of-the-line Luxury trim, which includes a premium audio system. Neither navigation nor Bluetooth cell phone integration is available. However, the vehicle does come with keyless start, a controversial feature we are seeing more frequently, even on low-end cars.
Test the tech: A day at the races
Because we had the Grand Vitara during our local automotive journalists' association media event, we decided to test out the car by taking it to the Laguna Seca racetrack. To clarify, we wouldn't be driving the Grand Vitara on the track, just using it for the three-hour drive down and back. During the trip, we would evaluate whether it's the right kind of car to bring to races or sporting events.
The most grueling part of our run down to Laguna Seca from San Francisco was Highway 17, a heavily trafficked, four-lane divided road winding through the hills between San Jose and Santa Cruz. The Grand Vitara proved very capable in climbing the grades and taking the hard corners on this stretch. With a heavy foot on the gas, we were never wanting for power and could easily keep up with traffic.
Because navigation isn't available on the Grand Vitara, we relied on road signs and our incomplete memory of how to get to the track. Unfortunately, this meant missing the entrance to Laguna Seca and having to backtrack a bit.
During the day at Laguna Seca, we tried the Grand Vitara out as a vehicle for a parking-lot tailgate party, but because the rear door swings out to the side instead of swinging down, it was inappropriate for this purpose. And at high volume, its stereo makes the speakers rattle and hum, further evidence that it's not really the car for a tailgate party.
For this road trip, the Grand Vitara got us to our destination just fine, although a paper map might have helped. But once there, the Grand Vitara didn't add anything to the event. We were more inclined to use it as storage for our bags and leave it parked.
In the cabin
The interior of our Luxury trim Grand Vitara looked better than we expected for a car in this price range. The materials seemed nice, and the fit was good. With the Luxury trim, the car gets seats with some leather panels. The stereo is nicely integrated into the center stack, as are the cruise and audio control buttons into the spokes of the steering wheel.