- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Since many families need one small vehicle for short commutes and a sport utility vehicle for weekend pleasure and errands, Suzuki has tried to satisfy the needs of both.

Suzuki, whose sales are going through the roof, began 2001 at least 31 percent ahead of 2000. With SUVs that range from its Grand Vitara to take you off-road or keep you on, down to the little Swift three-door hatchback coupe, Suzuki has engineered a lineup to fit many lifestyles.

Suzuki introduced the XL-7 this year to answer the call for "just a bit more room, just a little larger engine, and, oh, how about a longer wheelbase while you're at it?" An upscale version of the Grand Vitara, the XL-7 is more than a foot longer in the wheelbase, stretching it to 110.2 inches, and carries under its hood an all-aluminum 2.7-liter, V-6 engine, making it the largest vehicle in the company's stable.

As for the rest of Suzuki's bounty for 2001, the model lines are remarkably extensive, with a total of 56 different choices among its six vehicles. Granted, while some of those choices may be only the difference between trim levels, you can also decide on whether you prefer a two-door or a four-door, two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and a wagon, sedan or coupe.

Here's a closer look:

c Grand Vitara:With 21 different versions that range in price from $18,399 to $24,999, these are the most expensive on Suzuki's lot. The highest-priced, largest and most versatile is the four-door Grand Vitara XL-7 mentioned above. The V-6 engine pumps out 170 horsepower and 178 foot-pounds of torque, with a lowered rear differential gearing to maximize the output. It seats seven, can haul 3,000 pounds, and has a four-speed transmission with automatic overdrive. One step down is the 4WD Limited Edition Grand Vitara that comes in 10 various configurations, seats five, and has quite a few luxury touches, such as leather in a roomy cabin that boasts a 103.7 cubic-foot interior. The wheelbase is 97.6 inches, and the SUV can carry 21 cubic feet of covered cargo. The standard compact Grand Vitara offers 2WD and 4WD, manual or automatic transmission, and a V-6 engine with 155 horsepower and 160 foot-pounds of torque. It can tow 1,500 pounds.

c Vitara: If you like the wind in your hair, this small model has two different body styles among its 20 versions. Starting at $13,499 and topping out at $19,599, Vitaras come in two-door soft-tops and four-door hardtops. Basically a four-seater, there's room for 38 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat folded down. Towing capacity is 1,000 pounds. The 127-horsepower engine is a 2-liter four-cylinder, with 134 foot-pounds of torque. Towing capacity is 1,000 pounds.

c Esteem: Suzuki's versions of a wagon and a sedan are feature-laden for modest budgets, ranging from $13,699 to $16,499 for its six different wagons, and $13,199 to $15,799 for its five different sedans. Most of the differences in the sedan and wagon lineup address manual vs. automatic transmission, anti-lock braking systems, power tilt sunroof, audio systems with CD, wheel covers and splash guards, and tire size. The basic model excludes items such as power windows and doors, a passenger vanity mirror, tachometer, and front seat-back pockets.

c Swift: Here's that perfect little car that could fit into the mini-car market for around-town stops. High fuel economy—36 city, 42 highway—is paid for by the humble 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine whose horsepower peaks at 79, but that's plenty for the local streets. There are four versions of the Swift, all three-door hatchbacks, and they are wonderfully low-priced at $9,299 for manual transmissions and $10,949 for the bells-and-whistles top-of-the-line model.

All Suzukis are covered by a 36-month/36,000-mile limited warranty and a 24-month/24,000-mile battery warranty. At these prices you could afford to throw them away at the end of three years when the warranties run out. On the other hand, maybe not. In either case, you'd get your money's worth.


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