The 2013 Suzuki Grand Vitara has been launched in Nigeria by C&I Motors Limited, the accredited principal dealer in the country. But before you start thinking this is an all-new model since the current, third-generation was launched many years back in 2005, you are dead wrong.
On hand to perform the product unveiling was Andy Jibunoh, who represented Newton Jibunoh, who had travelled from Lagos to London across the desert by road with the Suzuki models in his fight against desertification. He is an arts enthusiast and environmental activist, and founder Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE).
With the trading partners of C&I Motors Limited present at the occasion, represented by Masamichi Takeda, managing director, Marubeni Nigeria Limited and accompanied by Maureen Ogbonna, acting managing director, C&I Motors Limited, the unveiling ceremony took place at the just concluded 8th Lagos Motor fair and Autoparts Expo inside the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
This is the second facelift after the one in 2008 that will ensure that the Grand Vitara looks fresh for a few more years. Most of the facelift changes are centered on the front, which has a redesigned grille and a restyled front bumper. The rear with a spare wheel housing soldiers on unchanged.
Another good thing is that the visual updates are significant enough and actually make the sport utility vehicle (SUV) look better. For instance, the new Gaia Bronze Pearl Metallic colour and new-look 17-inch alloys successfully add to the appeal of the car.
The Grand Vitara has been around in its present guise since 2005 – meaning next year will mark the eight anniversary of the current, third generation. With the original Vitara making its debut in 1988, 2013 also represents the 4×4’s quarter century.
Depending on customer’s request, it is available in five-door bodystyles, and remains a decidedly old school off-roader proposition. Although it now features the more modern ‘monocoque’ style of construction, this still incorporates a “built-in” ladder frame chassis, only available with four-wheel drive.
At the front the bumper, grille and foglights have been tweaked, there are new headlight accents for the five-door version, and new 17- and 18-inch alloy wheel designs.
Most buyers, however, are more likely to rejoice at the return of the bootlid-mounted full-size spare wheel. In doing this, Suzuki has listened to customer feedback and elected to reintroduce this, in place of a puncture repair kit. A long-standing part of the Grand Vitara’s chunky appeal, this is an endearing physical feature.
However, to be able to appreciate all the niceties that come with this latest version of the Grand Vitara, it will not be out of place to give the motoring press the opportunity to test it both on-road and off-road, up mountain in order to see how it tackles rocky passes as well as the local equivalent of ‘smooth’ asphalt.
In terms of ride and handling, the new Grand Vitara features independent suspension, which in comparison to the rigid axles on the Suzuki Jimny certainly sounds reasonably sophisticated. But in retaining true off-road capability, Suzuki has sacrificed some of the on-road comfort you get with less rough and ready competitors.
Inside, the cabin is neatly laid out, and feels tough enough to withstand plenty of abuse. There’s not a great deal in the way of soft touch anything – including the seats if we’re honest – but considering the reasonable pricing it’s well equipped.
On the area of economy and safety, Grand Vitara was crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2007, at which point it received four stars. According to some industry followers, testing standards are now much more stringent. Still, stability control and six airbags are fitted as standard on every model.
Less apparent is the new, lighter material, SSPP (Suzuki Super Polypropylene), that forms the underside of the front bumper. The upgraded seat fabric and door inserts are yet another subtle update. Mechanically, the Grand Vitara gets “brake override system”, a mechanism that makes sure that the brakes are given priority when both the brake and accelerator pedals are engaged at one time.