It's so frustrating to own a relatively new car and then find the car you'd searched for all along.

That's just what I felt when I drove the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara.

When I was shopping for a sport utility vehicle I wanted a car that was great to haul sports equipment, had some off-road capabilities, but wasn't an oversized, rugged truck. The problem was that they were either too large -- ready to climb mountains, prairies and the whole rest of that song -- or more carlike and suited to transporting kids.


2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara »  Engine: 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with 166 horsepower and 162 foot-pounds torque (V-6 also available) »  Transmission: Standard five-speed manual or four-speed automatic (five-speed automatic on V-6 models) »  MSRP: Starting at $19,099

What a shame I didn't know about the 2010 Suzuki Vitara. It's an efficient four-cylinder that hauls like a truck and has roomy cargo space. Its rear-wheel-drive-based platform and rigid frame offers 50-50 weight distribution combined with your choice of two four-wheel-drive systems. What that means to you: It's equally at home on- and off-road.


The Suzuki has a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 166 horsepower and 162 foot-pounds of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency rating is an economical 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

The four-cylinder model can be teamed with either a standard five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission and the V-6 has a five-speed automatic transmission.

It's tempting to gripe that the Vitara sound a bit underpowered for what it's faced with achieving. While I didn't do any serious off-roading in this test model, I did give it quite a workout on highways and back roads, including a few runs with a fairly heavy cargo load. The Vitara performed like a champ with nary a hint of strain.

Give it a test drive before you pass judgment.

Still not convinced? The great news is that Suzuki offers buyers plenty of choices, including part-time four-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive. Suzuki claims that traction is unsurpassed. I didn't have an opportunity to drive this car on various terrains, but I can vouch that the traction was superb during the drives I did take.

We could go on all day about the features the Vitara boasts including a rollover sensor, electronic stability program, hill descent control and hill hold control and other features, but the bottom line is that the Vitara is a solid, sturdy and fun ride.

Inside, the Vitara is simple and functional with easy-to-understand audio and climate controls in a handsome, compact package.

If I have one gripe about the Vitara, it's that the cargo room is only 24.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up. That expands to 68.9 cubic feet with the 60/40 split-folding seatbacks down, but they're a bit of a hassle to move when you're trying to load groceries or bulky items.

But that's a minor quibble.

The bottom line is that the Suzuki Vitara is a great urban car for the sports enthusiasts.