Looks like Suzuki may have a win­ner

Macclesfield Express - - MOTORING -

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

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