2002 Suzuki XL-7
This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The cute, rugged Suzuki Samurai created the small sport-utility-vehicle market here about 16 years ago and helped put Suzuki on the map in America. However, the Samurai essentially was a third world vehicle that sort of resembled a World War II Jeep. The 2002 Suzuki XL-7 sport ute is quite another story.
Suzuki makes cars but is best known in the U.S. auto industry for its sport-utility vehicles. The XL-7 is among the most comfortable and affordable midsize sport utes. It's also rugged—and the largest vehicle Suzuki ever has made.
The XL-7 was introduced late in 2000 as a 2001 model, so the new version has few changes. However, horsepower of the 2.7-liter V6 has been increased from 170 to 183 and equipment has been revised.
The XL-7 is essentially a longer version of Suzuki's Grand Vitara sport ute and comes in various, nicely equipped trims. They are the Standard and higher-line Plus, Touring and Limited Edition, which has leather upholstery. Base prices range from $19,599 to $25,999.
On the other hand, both second- and third-row seats flip forward to provide a huge cargo area with a flat floor. And both those seats are split 60/40 to accommodate irregular-shaped objects. The second-row seat has fore/aft adjustability if occupants of the third-row seat desire more legroom.
The cargo door opens toward the curb, which can make curbside loading difficult. On the flip side, the way the door opens makes it more convenient for those in shopping center parking lots to put stuff in the cargo area and then proceed directly to the driver's door.
This Suzuki's body-on-frame construction makes it sturdier and far better suited for off-road travel than car-based sport utes from leading rivals such as Honda and Toyota.
After all, the XL-7 is a family vehicle that partly is meant to be an alternative for a minivan, which carries a "soccer mom" image some people dislike. It's also an alternative to bigger, less nimble and more fuel-thirsty sport utes.
A 5-speed manual gearbox is available, but seems out of place in such a family vehicle. Fuel economy is just average: in the mid- to high teens in the city and in the low 20s on highways with either manual or automatic transmissions.
Steering is precise, but has a stiff feel that takes a while to get used to. Handling is good if the XL-7 isn't pushed hard. The ride is generally smooth, but road imperfections such as large dips occasionally cause it to become bouncy. The brake pedal has a nice feel, but stopping distances are average.
Room for Seven
Rear doors are very long, but have narrow openings that impede quick entry and exit for the less nimble.
The driver sits high but will notice that rear headrests and the outside-mounted spare tire partially block vision. Gauges can be quickly read and controls are nicely sized. Door map pockets are small but cupholders are okay, and rear windows lower all the way.
The XL-7 doesn't have a prestigious nameplate, but provides a nice blend of utility, comfort, performance and ruggedness.