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2004 compact suv buyer's guide - comparison shopping for women, sport utility reviews
by Martha Hindes

Suzuki Vitara V6 Review by Martha Hindes

Suzuki Vitara V6 SUV

With a trend towards more power for entry level "cute utes" now surfacing, Suzuki isn't one to be left behind. Its change in direction also is reflected in a new name for its longtime staple, the Vitara sport utility.

"Vitara's" been around long enough to have grown a little long in the tooth on its own. So for '04, Suzuki has graced its sporty compact SUV with a designation reflecting those capabilities. Meet the Vitara V6.

With a 2.5 liter, 165 horsepower V-6 engine now standard, paling last year's 2-liter four-banger, the vehicle's true trucking capabilities get some welcome gusto. Vitara V6 is one of a handful of small sport utilities built on solid truck frames with the idea of actually being useful when pavement runs dry. Car based competitors, with more claims of creature comfort and seamless ride, can be chancy for going off road or just surviving a major mid-city snowfall.

In changing direction, Suzuki has added some sound softening and maintenance-reducing mechanics under the hood, from special noise dampening for a quieter cabin to a chain drive that promises never to break like rubber belt counterparts can. Yes, that's boring mechanical stuff. But consider not having to worry about eventually being stranded on a country road somewhere when such claims to fame are long forgotten.

Real off-roaders will find a "low" drive configuration for escaping mud or tire-snatching sand. The optional automatic allows two driving modes, "standard" for normal driving and "power" when one's adrenaline calls for that extra performance boost.

Gone is yesterday's two-door version. Now this five-seater is strictly a four door version that comes in rear or four-wheel drive. And gone should be any sport utility stability doubts. The vehicle scored well in government crash tests including rollover resistance.

Go figure how Suzuki can offer this vehicle at a rock-bottom base price in the neighborhood of $16,300, with a dizzying array of standard items that includes air filtering air conditioning, keyless remote, tilt steering wheel, in-dash CD, halogen headlamps, and on and on...

Or don't ask. Just enjoy.