The Suzuki Escudo (known as Sidekick in North America, Vitara in most of Western Europe, Bolivia, Ecuador, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan as well as North America after 1999 and the Grand Vitara in the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, parts of South Asia, the Caribbean, South Africa, Iran and Australia) is an off-road vehicle that has been in production since 1988. The North American version was produced as a joint venture between Suzuki and General Motors known as CAMI. The vehicle was a follow-up to the popular SJ413 and Samurai. Also, this vehicle, while sold in North America, was designed to slot above the Samurai. A larger version is also made, known as the Suzuki Grand Escudo (known as Grand Vitara XL-7 in other markets). The name is derived from the "escudo", the monetary unit of Portugal until the Euro was adopted.
The Sidekick was sold in various badges such as the Geo Tracker (Chevrolet Tracker after 1998) in the United States, and as the GMC Tracker, Chevrolet Tracker, Asüna Sunrunner and Pontiac Sunrunner in Canada. It was also sold as the Santana 300 and 350 in Spain. In the Japanese home market, it was variously sold also with Mazda badge.
First introduced as the Escudo in the Japanese domestic market in May 1988, the North American Sidekick became available for 1989 as a 2-door convertible or hardtop, in 1.0-litre JA and more powerful 4-wheel-drive JX & JLX trims. An 80 hp (60 kW) 1.6-litre, 8-valve, 4-cylinder Suzuki G16 engine was available on the JX & JLX. 1990 brought the deletion of the upscale JLX version. In 1991, a 4-door Sidekick with a lengthened wheelbase was introduced and the following year a 95 hp (71 kW), 1.6-litre, 16-valve Suzuki G16A engine was introduced. 1991 also brought the introduction of rear antilock brakes. The original Sidekick was updated in 1996 with a new Sport version available with 120 hp (89 kW), 1.8-litre 16-valve 4-cylinder Suzuki J18 engine. The Sport also had dual airbags, 2-tone paint and 16-inch Alloy wheels.
1993 brought an update of the dash in conjunction with the exterior. There is also a very limited edition factory special named the Vitara Rossini which came in metallic pink with a cream leather interior, only 250 of this model were produced worldwide,
In 1996, Suzuki introduced the Suzuki X-90 which was mechanically identical to the Sidekick but had a much rounder body, a trunk, and removable T-bar roof. The Suzuki X-90 disappeared from Suzuki's lineup after the 1998 model year. The Sport variant was replaced by the Grand Vitara in 1999.
In Spain, production went on at Suzuki's partner Santana with the Vitara nameplate. After a facelift in 2005 the name was changed to Santana 300/350.
In Australia, there were two models available. The Vitara JX and the Vitara JLX. The JLX featured mainly with powered windows. Both versions featured the 1.6 Litre engine. In May 1997, Suzuki introduced the 1995 cc 2.0 Litre 4 Valves/Cylinder Double Overhead Cam engine with both soft-top and hardtop 3-door models. This engine was rated at 97 kW (130 hp) at 6300 rpm. At the same time the 5-door models received the 1998 cc 2.0-litre V6. Engine power rated for the 5-door V6 models was at 100 kW (134 hp) at 6500 rpm. The 1.6-litre variant for the 3-door models were named the Suzuki Vitara Rebel. All models in Australia were sold as four-wheel drives.
The naming scheme, engines and trim options available in Chile, closely follow that of the Australian market. In 1998, there became available models featuring 1.9-litre turbodiesel engines from PSA, built in Spain by Santana Motors, all of them were 4WD vehicles equipped with manual transmissions. Since 2001, all diesel 1st Gen Vitaras are to be imported from Argentina, built by General Motors in Argentina, featuring 2.0-litre HDI engines from PSA, all of them with 5-speed mechanic transmissions. Automatic transmissions are only available on Japanese built models with gasoline engines.
In Indonesia, Indomobil as the Suzuki sole agent introduced Vitara in 1992. While the Vitara was still in the market, Suzuki added 4x2-version and labelled as the Escudo in 1994 to gain urban-driver market. In 1996, Suzuki introduced Sidekick, as a spec-down version of Escudo, as the entry level model. Indonesia is the only market in the world which receive three different names of Escudo in a time. Only 5 door models, 1.6 litre petrol engine were offered with no automatic transmission. In 1995, Vitara received fuel-injection system and marketed as Vitara EPI (Electronic Petrol Injection). However, due to much higher price, Vitara EPI sold poorly in the market and later considered become collector item since its rarity. For also 1995, the Vitara got new interiors. Official production for this generation ended in 2006 with the end of the Santana 300/350.