FOR all the talk of soft-roaders taking over the world, theres still demand for more traditional 4x4s. Proof comes in the form of Suzukis Grand Vitara, which remains a popular choice among fans of the Japanese brand.
In a world of faux 4x4s promoting lifestyle over the ability to get the job done, the Grand Vitara is a rare beast offering a proper low ratio transmission along with the ability to plug more mud than your average compact sports utility vehicle.
While no spring chicken in the car market, recent years have seen Suzuki regularly update and polish the Grand Vitara and 2013 is no different.
To say that the exterior changes are subtle is something of an understatement. That appears to be the way Suzuki likes it, though. Let the cars performance speak for itself and all that.
Anyway, the key changes see a revised grille, front bumper and foglight design. And while a choice of different alloy wheels round off the main changes, whats more likely to get Vitara fans excited is the news that the cars rear wheel returns to its spiritual home on the outside of the tailgate.
Theres been an equally modest upgrade inside the Vitaras cabin. Subtle changes to seat fabrics and design compliment, on the flagship SZ5 model at least, the inclusion of standard issue sat-nav.
On the road, performance-wise its hard to fault the current Grand Vitara. Suzuki does know a thing or two about 4x4s and the Vitara offers a level of competence thats hard to find elsewhere at this price point if you need to combine regular off-roading duties with your daily commute.
The final piece in the makeover jigsaw sees a tweaking of the cars 1.9-litre diesel unit in a bid to make it a little more competitive regarding running costs. Wallet-watchers will be pleased to here that the 129 horsepower diesel drops a tax band and, officially, squeezes out a fraction more miles per gallon.
Theres still the choice between 1.6 and 2.4-litre petrol units if you can make the sums add up or dont plan on driving far, but theres no avoiding the fact that for off-roading and towing the diesel option is likely to be easier on the bank balance in the long run.
Essentially the Grand Vitara is a car that attempts to capitalise on the desire for an affordable and comfortable multi purpose vehicle. If youre in anyway an active person, the five-door Suzukis generous load space and practical cabin will no doubt prove an attractive proposition.
As an alternative to a conventional family hatch, estate or five-seat people carrier, the Vitara scores highly. With its adjustable all-wheel drive system it can be trundling to school one minute and chugging across a soggy, gripless field the next, en route to whatever weekend activity takes your fancy. And for good measure its also pretty handy when it comes to towing.
In its revised form and with the flagship diesel variants generous amount of standard equipment, family-friendly five-door cabin and load space plus a level of competence that easily trumps more expensive rivals, Suzuki is right to keep the Grand in Grand Vitara.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDiS SZ5 5dr, £23,875 on the road.
Engine: 1.9-litre diesel unit developing 129bhp.
Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox driving all four wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 106mph, 0-62mph 13.2 seconds.
CO2 Rating: 174g/km.