Looks like Suzuki may have a winner
IF there was a car design award for ‘most improved’ then our test motor this week would be in the running for sure. The Suzuki Vitara has always been a competent, reliable small SUV since the very first models hit UK streets back in the 1980s, but those early models were ‘Marmite’ cars – some loved them but many disliked the bland, boxy styling.
However, skip forward to 2005 and the Vitara’s third generation and things took a big leap forward – with further improvements in a 2011 facelift.
Now we have the fourth incarnation of the Vitara and I think the Japanese manufacturer has finally got there on the styling stakes – a car that can hold its own with the best in a small SUV beauty pageant.
Still most sold in this country will be the cheaper FWD versions, which start from a very reasonable £13,999, but our test car was the much more off-road capable SZ5 model with the ALLGRIP 4x4 option (otr price from £21,799).
Built in Hungary, the all-new Vitara went on sale in April so they are only just appearing on our roads. Suzuki say the design aims to communicate ‘toughness’ and has a ‘youthful, sporty look’.
Key features in the new car include Bluetooth and DAB Radio fitted as standard across the range.
Smartphone link audio and navigation standard on the higher grade SZ-T and SZ5 models, Radar Brake Support and Adaptive Cruise Control available on SZ5 models and Suzuki ALLGRIP intelligent four-wheel drive also available as an option on SZ5 models (our test car).
There is a choice of 1.6-litre petrol or 1.6-litre DDiS diesel engines, both with 120bhp.
Our diesel test version has very impressive mpg figures of over 70 on a run and 67 combined cycle – which was handy as we went to Durham with friends for a landmark birthday party.
On the way back the car’s trip computer showed we achieved 58.9mpg with four on board and at motorway speeds – which is not that far away from Suzuki’s claimed figures.
Obviously this ALLGRIP version’s party piece is good off-road performance with its 4x4 selectable drive system having a ‘snow’ mode for maximum traction plus a ‘lock’ setting on the differential for particularly sticky situations and hill descent control and hill hold.
However, the 2015 Vitara also has an ‘auto’ setting which gives priority to on road driving and economy – switching to FWD only during normal motoring to achieve such good fuel consumption figures, but if it detects any wheel spin the car goes back into 4x4 mode automatically.
During our 200-mile plus round trip to Durham the Vitara proved a good motorway cruiser with plenty of space for four adults to travel in comfort and appreciate features like a full-length glass sunroof with the front section able to open – which Suzuki say is the one of the largest in its class.
As I was driving I particularly appreciated the adaptive cruise control – which more-and-more manufacturers are now installing. A system which detects vehicles in front and slows you accordingly then returns to the set speed when the coast is clear, saving the constant need to activate and then deactivate cruise control on our crowded motorways.
And, as I said at the beginning of this piece, the Vitara is pretty much there in the looks department, although on the inside – while I really liked the dashboard layout, easy to use touch screen and big analogue clock bang in the middle where everyone can see it - things were a little let down by the ‘utilitarian’ plastics used on the dash top and doors and the diesel engine seems strangely loud on tickover.
But those minor niggles aside, I think Suzuki has a winner on its hands and predict big sales – particularly for the cheaper entry level models… although perhaps not in the 70s-tastic copperyorange colour our test car came in.
More details at suzuki. co.uk