There are a lot of things to like about the 2012

Grand Vitara.

Namely, the capable compact SUV is nicely equipped

and hits the nail on the head in terms of pricing.

Aside from being a functional and affordable means of

transportation, this isn’t a vehicle that makes you all warm and

fuzzy. I doubt very many people have the Grand Vitara’s webpage

bookmarked on their computers. It doesn’t have what I call the

“wow” factor.

For the 2012 model year, there’s not a lot of

changes. In addition to a new tailgate design, the Grand Vitara has

added an additional trim level.

Available in rear- and four-wheel drive

configurations, it is still powered by a 2.4-liter I-4 engine (166

horsepower and 162 lbs.-ft. torque). With a curb weight of just

below 3,500 pounds, the I-4 does an adequate job of moving the

Grand Vitara. I would even go so far to say it does a satisfactory

job of getting up to speed on the highway. 

While rated to tow up to 3,000 pounds, I didn’t get

the chance to test its towing capabilities.

That said, it is not a performance vehicle under any

definition.

Mated to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed

automatic transmission, the Grand Vitara’s fuel economy numbers are

pretty middle of the road for the segment, achieving 19 mpg city,

26 mpg highway for rear-wheel drive models (19/23 respectively for

four-wheel drive models). 

The Grand Vitara is ideally suited for an in-town

commuter car capable of doing double duty as an off-road SUV on the

weekends.

For short commutes in town, its compact wheelbase

makes it easy to maneuver and park in crowded lots. Capable of

carrying five passengers and still provide 28.4 cubic feet of cargo

room behind the second seat, it does offer additional cargo

versatility as the rear seat can be folded, expanding cargo room to

70.8 cubic feet.

And, it’s actually a pretty good off-road vehicle,

especially when equipped with four-wheel drive.

Here’s the down side.

On the highway, the cabin is noisy and I didn’t find

the seats comfortable at all. No matter how many times I adjusted

the settings, I couldn’t find a position that made me want to drive

the vehicle on an extended road trip. In fact, for those with a

length daily commute on the highway, I wouldn’t recommend the 2012

Grand Vitara as a primary or sole vehicle.  

With four trim levels available, the base Grand

Vitara ($19,499) comes with a long list of standard features, which

includes air conditioning with automatic climate control, remote

keyless entry, power windows and door locks, tilt steering wheel,

driver information display with outside temperature gauge,

integrated touchscreen navigation system, audio system with XM

Satellite Radio compatibility, steering wheel audio controls, among

numerous others.

Other trim levels include Premium (starting at

$21,399), Ultimate Adventure Edition (starting at $22,299) and

Limited (starting at $23,749).

When it comes to bang for the buck, the Grand Vitara

provides a lot of features for the price, along with an exceptional

warranty.

Neal White has been covering the automotive

industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas

Auto Writers Association.