Road Test: Grand Vitara

It's cute (well, a little stubby), not too pricey and completely utilitarian. That makes Suzuki's newest Grand Vitara a great choice for that summer tradition: the family road trip. Unlike most SUVs, this one offers lots of legroom without scrimping on the cargo area, so you can pack in the kids, all your gear--and still bring along the hamsters. While driving in highway traffic and also when parallel parking, I liked the Grand Vitara's excellent visibility. But I was less than wowed by the lackluster acceleration and the whiz of its Mixmaster-sounding 2.7-liter, V-6, 185-horsepower engine. Road noise was also a problem at high speeds on the freeway.

But I had better-than-expected fuel economy, and I liked the little perks, all included: steering-wheel-mounted audio buttons, keyless entry, XM Satellite Radio and fog lamps, which helped me navigate safely during an early-morning drive through socked-in hills. Pair that with the Grand Vitara's four-wheel-drive capability, and I'd say that road trip (no matter where you go) is all but guaranteed to be a breeze. Assuming the kids don't fight, of course.

Tip: Keep $1,400 in your pocket with the two-wheel-drive model and still get all the luxe goodies.