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2001 Suzuki Vitara REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

Con: Harsh ride, cramped rear seats, lack of cargo room.

Pro: Truck-based frame and driveline, two-door convertible option.

Edmunds Say: Small SUV sales are hot, but there is little reason the Vitara should be contributing to mini-ute sales growth charts unless somebody out there really wants a convertible SUV and can't afford a Jeep Wrangler.

What’s New: All Vitara models get a restyled front grille, new seat fabric, a larger audio unit with an in-dash CD player and new exterior colors.

Review: Now in its third year of production, the Vitara finds itself up against more competition than ever in the form of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Kia Sportage, not to mention the Jeep Wrangler and Isuzu Rodeo Sport. As the mini-ute category heats up, the older Suzuki is beginning to show its age when compared to the young blood in the category.

The Vitara comes in two variations: a two-door soft top and a four-door model. Both models are built using sturdy body-on-frame construction and both can be ordered in either two- or four-wheel drive. Four-wheel-drive models benefit from a low-range transfer case for extreme off-road conditions. An independent MacPherson strut front suspension and five-link coil-spring rear suspension is standard on all Vitaras.

Power comes in the form of either a 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The former produces 97 horsepower and 103 ft-lbs. of torque, while the latter generates 127 hp and 143 ft-lbs. of torque. Both engines are mated to a standard five-speed transmission or optional four-speed automatic.

The styling of the Vitara is clean, with smooth curves and rounded features. The front end features large, multi-reflector headlights and a restyled, monotone grille. The two-door Vitara allows you to fold back the durable, canvas top for a sunroof effect, or completely remove the cover for convertible-like exposure. For some this feature is a major selling point, while others might bemoan the two-door for its scant 9.9 cubic feet of storage space.

Although the Vitara does possess durable truck-like underpinnings, anyone looking to do some serious off-roading would be better served with a Jeep Wrangler. In all other aspects, the Vitara falls well short of its more modern, more powerful competitors. However, if you're heart is still set on it, be sure to check out Chevrolet's Tracker. Built right along side the Vitara, the Tracker offers a virtually identical package that includes 3-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance and is often coupled with big rebates to boot.


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