Comparing the Rav4 and Grand Vitara
I came to this site to see how Rav4 owners viewed the latest Grand Vitara. A search of this forum for "Grand Vitara", turns up plenty of harsh criticism. In particular, one moderator seems to watch for and utters unfair comments at any mention of the latest GV. So I thought it might help people who are interested in both, to give my thoughts on these cars.
For instance, it seems popular here to claim the 06 GV copies the styling of the Rav4. A blend of Rav4 and Vue. At least the Vue connection makes sense, since Suzuki designed the Vue for GM, and the GV and Vue share some parts and structure.
But copy the Rav4? Gimme a break. Where the GV differs from the Vue, the heritage can be seen in older Vitaras, not the Rav4. Check out the headlights, clamshell hood, and hood vents if you don't believe me.
Speaking of copying, who first launched a compact suv, Suzuki or Toyota? Hmm? Suzuki was in this market LONG before Toyota and in fact makes large numbers of a variety of small 4wd's. What about the third seat? Ever considered that Toyota copied Suzuki's XL-7 in putting a third seat in the Rav4? Seems to me the evidence is that if anyone's copying, it's Toyota copying Suzuki, not the other way around. So let's see some restraint on this Rav4-centric nonsense about Suzuki copying the Rav4.
As long as a car's not ugly, like an Aztek or Hummer, I don't care much. It's entirely subjective, of course. People thought their '62 Pontiacs were as dazzling as people think their Rav4's are. The new Rav4 looks a bit better to me than the GV. The hood line of the GV slopes so steeply it makes the whole thing look bent, and the hindquarters look a bit bulbous. I think it would benefit from a pinstripe, but maybe I'm just old school. A lot of people think the new GV is the sharpest looking of the cuv's, new Rav4 included.
Months ago as I watched for the new GV on the roads, I was always doing doubletakes that invariably turned out to be Rav4's. But now that there really are '06 GV's out there, there's no confusing them with any Rav4. They look strikingly different, especially the rear quarter panel and taillights. If someone put Lexus badging on it, and showed it to some unwitting observers, I suspect they'd fall for it.
The only other things I'll say about the styling is that I'm sure glad the GV's dashboard looks nothing like the Rav4's, and I think headlights should be confined to the front of a vehicle. We'll see which looks better in 10 years.
Much has been made of the GV's crude engine and poor mileage.
Although the GV's and Rav4's epa highway ratings are, respectively, 30 and 36mpg (cdn), users are reporting in the low 20's for both. The Rav4 has perhaps an edge of 1-2mpg.
Usually this is blamed on the GV's "outdated" engine. Well, for the price of a GV, it's probably a pretty good engine. I might rather have a known-good engine than a fancy expensive new one whose long-term reliability is harder to guess. And the extra horsepower? Well, that will do you a lot of good given traffic congestion these days. Bragging rights, I suppose, if you depend on that sort of thing.
But I think the GV's engine is getting a bad rap on the mileage. The Rav4's longer body means better streamlining at highway speeds. And the fact the GV is always in AWD will cost mileage not lost by the Rav4 which typically is in 2wd. Now, I'd prefer the GV be able to be put into 2wd, but on the other hand, there is a safety advantage to being in AWD all the time.
So I think the GV's engine is getting far too much blame for the (slightly) inferior mileage compared to the Rav4. In fact, if you could isolate those other factors, it may not be any less efficient!
No defending inferior mileage on environmental grounds. But if you look at the difference in purchase price, plus the financing of that difference, the Rav4 will never make up the difference in gas expense. It's maybe $50-200 per year depending on how much you drive. That won't even cover the interest on the price difference.
It has been stated here quite confidently that the Grand Vitara has an inferior repair record. As I researched buying the new GV, I was careful to check this out, and the concern that it is a new model. What I found is that the GV has had an average or better record, and that the years that were new designs did not have higher repair numbers. You would expect new models to have inferior repair records, but the Vitara/Grand Vitara seems to have not suffered from this.
Backing that up is the record of the new GV. It has been sold, all over the world, for about 10 months now. The incidence of manufacturing defects, recalls and repairs is extremely low. They are low for any car, let alone a brand-new design.
The previous GV's were a North American-only product, and were built in Ontario. Their reliability record may or may not be related to the history yet to be accumulated by the new GV. The new GV sold in North America is made only in Japan. So where is the Rav4 made? Not to say Toyota doesn't have great build quality in its North American products, but there's still that fundamental difference between them which does not support sneering at the GV. There's even a good chance the new GV could turn out to be the better designed and asssembled of the two.
I was fascinated to learn the Suzuki factory matches tires and rims so they cancel out each other's variances before the combination is balanced. The result of such efforts is a silky-smooth absence of vibration.
Resale value can't be separated from purchase cost. When I compared new top-of-the-line GV's and Rav4's, I found a difference of nearly $10,000 (cdn). Even if that's innacurate, there's a huge difference. But there's more. While I'd expect to pay near msrp for a Rav4, we paid about $2500 below msrp for our GV JLX-L. So that makes the difference even larger. Oh, and don't forget to add in the taxes on the difference.
So when you compare resale values in 10 years, you are fooling yourself if you don't factor this difference into your calculation. You also need to factor in the compounding interest on both the purchase price difference, and the taxes on that difference. For two vehicles that are similar enough to invite cross-shopping, that's a huge difference in cost.
It may be different in various markets, but the resale values of old Vitaras don't support the contention that they are worthless. I had reason to compare 1990-1993 Vitaras against Nissan Pathfinders of the same years. The Vitaras had lower prices, but not by much. If you factor in how much more the Pathfinders cost to begin with, the Vitaras actually held their value better. And the Pathfinders values have stood up pretty well. If you want to see a genuine resale value disaster, check out the Explorer.
Comparisons by car reviewers are quoted here rating the GV below other cuv's. Reading the reasons usually reveals the GV is marked down because of the mileage, stiff ride, unwanted heavy duty components etc. Ok, so it's more suited to rough use. Which makes it less targeted for the Rav4's market. It doesn't mean the GV is inferior, it just means that at some point you're comparing apples and oranges.
Why wouldn't some other comparison knock the Rav4 because it doesn't have a low range, or a frame reinforcement, or as great a towing capacity, or the springs are too mushy for rough going?
Indeed, to quote from a post in the Edmunds car discussion forum,
"The Grand Vitatra was voted the best Suv under $40,000 by TSN'S Motoring, And Voted Best New SUV by AJAC and Canadian Driver says it is a must see for anyone considering a compact SUV."
Now, those comparisons were done before the '07 Rav4 came out. But the GV was beaten on the TSN's contest for best new '06 suv only by the Range Rover and the Mercedes M-class. Not bad for half the price.
Some have claimed here the GV is noisy, and that the steering is wonky. No, it ain't a Lexus. And it didn't cost as much as a Lexus either. I'm planning to add some sound insulation. As for the steering, ours is perfect. Tracks perfectly, tight turning radius.
I've seen a post that some prospective GV buyers have been told the '06's have sold out, and they will have to wait for the '07's in September. When I bought ours, there was no demo unit to test drive, and we were told it would take 6-8 weeks to deliver our choice. Given that Suzuki increased production of the new GV by at least 40% over what they expected, this hardly points to an ugly duckling.
What I Don't Like About the '06 GV
Well, the cargo area is a bit small. For off-roading, it needs about 1" more clearance and proper skid plates. The North American spec lacks: windshield tint band, remote filler flap release, center rear seat armrest, mudflaps. The carpet is cheesy. Thanks to the marketing wonks, the low range is inexplicably available only with an automatic transmission and 17" rims. While the automatic is a 5-speed, it cannot be put in 2nd gear for engine braking downhill in either range. There is almost no selection of alternate tires for the 17" rims, and such large rims are not suited to off-roading. To get the low range, you also have to pony up for a power 2-way sunroof, heated leather seats, keyless entry and start, homelink, automatic a/c, fancy radio with 7 speakers etc.
The traction control system will deactivate to lower stress on the drivetrain just when you might badly need it, like climbing a steep hill with traction only on one or two wheels. I believe the people who review these cars test traction control on an "elephants foot" obstacle course that's built on otherwise flat ground. The mileage readout is dumbly executed.
Dealerships are scarce, and in my case, too far away. They do, however give me a loaner even to drop it off for an oil change.
What I Like About the GV
To start with, there aren't bazillions of them running around, like the new Rav4.
No rattles or squeaks. Except the spare tire cover when you slam the hatch.
It BEGS to be driven fast around corners. Standard full set of airbags and stabilty control. Spacious passenger accomodations. Lots of cupholders that will accept anything. Excellent controls, and a very high-quality interior.
It's incredibly sure-footed in bad conditions. When others are stuck in deep snow, and mounting chains or shovelling, I just drive around them and keep going. We regularly drive up steep, unplowed logging roads, and I never got it stuck or needed to use chains. It has an even weight distribution both front-to-back and side-to-side, which means the tires are evenly and minimally loaded. This also benefits road handling. Although some other vehicles got as far as I did this winter, no one driving anything ever got farther.
It fell short of the Forester in crash testing. It got one less star, but the actual numbers were closer than the star rating would suggest. However if you consider that the GV's stability control will help you avoid about 50% of accidents to begin with, I'll take the GV.
Lastly, it's just so well put together it's not funny. Built like a brick sh*thouse.
For similar models, the Rav4 appears to sport more standard features. But not a lot more, and at any given price point, the GV is better equipped. Don't forget you can't get a low range for any price on a Rav4.
Bottom line is that the new Rav4 may be "better" (in a very broad meaning of the word) than the new GV. But if it is indeed better, it's not by far, and it may be just a matter of what market you're talking about. It wouldn't be better for me because I actually use a low range.
If, however, you take the next step, which includes price in the mix, and translates into "value", it's hard to claim the Rav4 is better, or even equal to the GV. The lack of respect for the GV expressed by some here, threatens to backfire and make them look ill-informed and unreasonable. Which contradicts the assumption that smart people buy Rav4's. They're both excellent vehicles, so no one needs to be defensive. Ok?
Thanks for listening.