Last year, I traded in my 2000 Dodge Stratus on a 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara. Since I’ve found myself the writer of an automotive blog, I thought I’d give a long term review of the only newer car I own.
We outgrew our Stratus soon after our baby girl was born. Since it was paid for, we kept it and dealt with the growing inconvenience of having to bend over double to put the kid in the middle (wife and I are both pretty tall - she’s 5′10″ and I’m 6′5″) to be able to go anywhere as a family. Since we we swore off getting a minivan a decade before having the kid, we didn’t look at any of those. The wife parks in a tight parking garage at work, a large SUV was out the window as well. We settled on small car-based SUVs.
The roundup of what to look at were as follows:
Here’s what we wanted: leather interior, a V6 (or extremely gutsy 4 cylinder), small size
What we didn’t want: Off road prowress (this car might br driven over a curb or into the field maybe once or twice as long as we owned it), relatively cheap prices, and the promise of reliability.
Unknown to us, the Toyota RAV-4 had undergone a change to allow for 7 person seating and had moved a bit upscale for our taste. A street price range (at the time) of over $28K turned me away in a hurry when I visited the dealership. The Honda CR-V didn’t come with a V6, and their 4 cylinders have always needed to rev high to get anywhere, and I still have a problem fitting into them. So much for the brands that boasted reliability.
We went for warranty next, which put us into Kia, Hyundai, and Suzuki territory. All boast 100,000 mile warranties, but the Suzuki is 7 years versus the Kia/Hyundai’s 10 years. Unfortunately, the higher quality reputation the Korean brands had been getting seems to have boosted their price as well. Also fairly important (at least to us), the Santa Fe and Sportage are ugly. I don’t know how else to say it. They’re not Pontiac Aztek ugly, but their styling is at best completely unremarkable. The Suzuki Grand Vitara was redesigned for 2006, and by virtue of being the last on my list, it gave me a chance to go try out a company whose cars I had been unfamiliar with since the Samurai and Sidekick.
As you may have guessed by this post’s title (brilliant though you are, I’m sure), I liked it so much that I bought a 2WD Luxury Edition that same day.
We’ve had it for a year and right at 8,000 miles now. We still like it.
The only problems we’ve had were:
1.) A weird burning smell we noticed whenever we stopped the car. Before you ask, yes it scared the crap outta me enough to make me crawl around the car to try and find what was on fire. As it turns out, Suzuki ships its cars with a silicate coating on the exposed exhaust system that is there to prevent rust from forming on the boat ride from Japan to here.
2.) The 6 disc in-dash CD/MP3 player immediately ate the first CD we put into it. This took a couple months to get ordered and replaced (back order), but it was replaced under warranty.
Here’s the final verdict:
- Just like a car, except higher
- The only available engine is a nicely powerful V6
- Quite loaded (every option except 4×4) for a reasonable price (just over 22K)
- With the redesign for 2006, it’s a very well styled car (SUV - whatever)
- Gas mileage isn’t as good as you might expect from a small car (SUV - whatever)
- Radio reception pretty much sucks if you’re farther than 20 miles outside a major city
- Initial uneasiness of thinking the car was going to burst into flames every time we got out (lasted about a month)