Suzuki Vitara Research & Reviews

Overview & Reviews

Average Score

4.22/5 Average
57 Total Reviews
Model Overview:

By the late 1990s, the major Japanese automakers had established a new design direction for compact SUVs by introducing models with car-based platforms for enhanced comfort and efficiency. However, Suzuki had been in the cute-ute business longer than almost anyone, and when the time came to replace its long-running Sidekick, Suzuki stuck to its traditions for the then-new Vitara.

Essentially, the Suzuki Vitara was born with the roots of a truck. Instead of adapting new, lighter unibody construction, the Suzuki maintained a rugged body-on-frame design. Every Vitara rode on a solid-rear-axle suspension and came with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. Thanks to 8 inches of ground clearance, 4WD models possessed better-than-average off-road ability. An available two-door convertible body style also made it possible to equip a Vitara as a fun-in-the-sun runabout, and responsive steering made it enjoyable on any surface.

Still, the Suzuki Vitara had too many detriments weighing it down in real-world driving. Slow acceleration was a problem with either of the small four-cylinder engines, and a hard-to-shift manual transmission didn't help. The low-tech suspension could never absorb bumps very well, the rear seat was cramped (space was identical in both body styles) and cargo capacity was a modest 45 cubic feet even on the four-door. Finally, the interior looked dated even when new, and some of its controls weren't user-friendly.

Suzuki raised the Vitara's standards in power and features over time, but at both the beginning and end, we'd still say Honda, Toyota and Subaru had better SUVs for the street, while Nissan and Jeep had better off-roaders.

Most Recent Suzuki Vitara

While the upscale Grand Vitara lived to see another generation, the regular Suzuki Vitara led one lifetime spanning from 1999-2004. Body styles included a four-door hardtop and a two-door convertible soft top that was shorter than the four-door by 11 inches in both length and wheelbase. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 97 horsepower was the base engine on two-doors; a 2.0-liter version with 127 hp was optional on the two-door and standard with the four-door. Both engines came with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, with shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive optional with any combination.

The Vitara's initial trim lines were JS (2WD) and JX (4WD), though by its second year that expanded with the JLS and JLX, which became the only models with power windows, power locks, air-conditioning, and on the four-door, cruise control. Among two-door Vitaras, the JLS and JLX were also significant for having the more tolerable 2.0-liter engine.

Many details changed over the years. Along with the trim line changes for 2000, the two-door Vitara earned standard air-conditioning. For model-year 2001 came a new grille, seat fabric and an easier-to-use stereo. In 2002, the JS and JX got dropped completely and took their 1.6-liter engine with them, trimming the Vitara line down to JLS 2WD and JLX 4WD models. All trim lines vanished for 2003, and only the four-door model made it to the Vitara's final year in 2004, when a 165-hp 2.5-liter V6 became the new engine.

If you feel compelled to buy a Suzuki Vitara, later is better: The improved content and ergonomics of more recent models make for a more appealing SUV. Regardless of year, try sticking to models with at least the 2.0-liter engine, whose 127 hp is just enough.

User Reviews:

Showing 1 through 10 of 57.00
  • Grand Vitara - 2004 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    I am very pleased with the quality and thoughfulness of the construction of my Suzuki Grand Vitara. I don't agree with Edmonds that it is underpowered. I find the power to be adequate for my needs. I am also pleased at the number of features that are standard in the Suzuki that other makes charge for. I recently went on a long weekend road trip and found the Grand Vitara handled and drove quite well. The "suggest a style" menu does not include the EX models, of which mine is.

  • um - 2004 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    it is very fun to drive and it can go off roading a lot better then most people would think. i don't like the looks too much. but after i started driving it i fell in love

  • whoa......boy she is trick! - 2002 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    Good little truck for the money. It runs well, is good on gas, it draws compliments everywhere I go

  • vesitile small suv. - 2004 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    Has average power, and below average, cargo space.But this is a real city warior, it`s small size is perfect for negotiating heavy trafic and tight parking lots. It`s true 4WD gives you confidence off the pavment as well.This is a great SUV for singles or small families that want a go anywere vehicle.

  • The Little SUV that Could - 2001 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    I've purchased a used 2001 Grand Vitara JLX with ABS and alloy wheels. I've love the styling and handling of the vehicle. It has a 155 V6 engine that's very quiet. Since I'm not 6' tall, there's no complaints coming from me concerning head and leg room. It's very comfortable for the driver as well as passengers. There's only one problem...I've noticed that during the cold days, the airbag light will stay on when you start the engine. It eventually goes away with the car is warmed up but after you restart it. As I'm writing this, the SUV is in the dealership because it's still under warranty to fix this problem.

  • Tough little car - 2000 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    I bought this car used, and rolled it over 100,000 miles. Currently, it's 115,500 miles, and it's still going strong. I've had to replace the computer system, but that's the only major maintenance it's needed. I don't service it as often as I should, but it's a very forgiving vehicle.

  • I like my Zuki - 2001 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    I purchases a nearly new 2001 Vitara a couple months ago. I really love it. It's my first 4 wheel drive but we looked at several before purchasing (including the Liberty and the RAV4). I enjoy driving it and it works great on the snow in 4 wheel drive! I would recommend it to others who are looking for a decent priced 4 wheel drive SUV.

  • It's Perfect For Me - 2003 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    I traded a minivan for my Suzuki Vitara and I couldn't be happier. It performs perfectly, I LOVE the gas mileage. I like the way it handles driving around town especially.

  • SUV wannabe, well worth the title - 2002 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    I was very skeptical about this vehicle at first. I am a frequent traveller, and being in the military, it's understandable that a vehicle with storage capacity's needed. Having had an Isuzu Rodeo with a 4 cyl engine, I experienced that the vehicle was too heavy for its engine. I also needed something with a decent fuel economy. Having have had a brand new Vitara for about a month now, and putting on 2800 miles, it's proven to me more than worthy. It is definitely one good way to start in an SUV, and I should have done so sooner.

  • Excellent in this price - 2001 Suzuki Vitara
    By -

    Everything in this SUV is doing its job pretty well. The price is relatively cheaper. Easy to control. Beautiful exterier.

Suzuki Vitara Reviews By Year:
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