Smaller SUV’s are the in thing right now and, if you have not yet noticed, they all seem to be limited in some sort of way. Smaller usually means less capable and, out here in South Africa where we have the outdoors at our fingertips, this can be bad thing.
Thankfully, Suzuki has been one of the last small SUV manufacturers to leave us with a low transfer case which makes a huge difference when taking things off-road. Slower usually means more grip on rough terrain and obviously less damage prone to the vehicle and the trail.
Let’s look at this baby Grand Vitara. I call it a baby because it’s the bottom of the range; call it entry level model. It’s called the Dune and it features a 2.4i 4 cylinder engine producing 122kw and 225nm of torque. Not earth-shatteringly fast, but because it’s not as heavy as a conventional SUV, such as the Fortuner or Trailblazer, the power to weight is much better. The Kerb weight is 1605kg and this puts it a tad heavier than your average sedan.
The interior on this model is fairly basic. You have a lot of hard type plastic, which I assume is aimed at practicality and if you are going to use the vehicle off road, it will be rather scruff resistant and also wipe away dust very easily. The steering wheel is a sporty 3 spoke type with multi-function controls which controls the radio’s volume and skipping front and back for either music tracks or radio stations. The centre console houses the Cd player, which is of average spec. There are 6 speakers and it plays Mp3 and WMA CD’s. Unfortunately USB support was not available on this vehicle. Single zone climate control is also standard on this entry level model, which was very surprising.
Interior space is rather generous and getting my 1.9m frame into the Dune is no trouble at all. I can actually go as far as to say that I need to adjust my seats forward to actually be comfortable behind the wheel. The boot is also a rather generous 398liters up to the retractable cover. Both rear seats also flip flat for additional space.
The four wheel drive controls are also mounted on the centre console and, with flick of a switch, you can switch from AWD to 4H-lock and into 4Low, depending on how bad the trail gets. It’s that last selection which clearly puts this little SUV ahead of the pack. You see, most of the other manufactures, drop the low range transfer case and switch it out for a CVT or automatic box and then fit the vehicle with all sorts of gadgets to help with traction. Unfortunately, gadgets will only take you so far and could often result in damage to the vehicle or trail, depending on how demanding it is. Approach and departure angles are 29 in the front and 27degrees in the back.
The Dune is fitted with ABS brakes and EBD which also features brake assist; this will ensure that it will track straight in the event of an emergency braking situation. Testing it on gravel proved that it worked extremely well. There are also 6 airbags in the Dune, 2 in the front, 2 in the side and 2 in the rear of the vehicle.
The Grand Vitara has excellent road manners and riding is very smooth for something of this calibre. The suspension feels rather progressive on rough roads with soft damping and as soon as you pitch it into the turns it seems to not roll as much as I initially expected. This is an SUV you can drive like a sedan. Literally.
The 66l tank should give you a good range of about 600km, depending on how light your right foot is. We averaged 9.5l/100km on the open road at freeway speeds and a little heavier in town.
The Grand Vitara Dune is a rather surprising package which caught me off guard. I like the driving dynamics of a car with the off-roadability that it offers. Could this be the perfect South African lifestyle vehicle?
The Dune 5 speed manual tested here retails at a suggested price of R301 900 and also comes with a 36month 100 000km warranty and a 90 000km service plan. Services are scheduled every 12months or 15 000km.
For more info, check out Suzuki.co.za