Not for the first time I have to admit to a touch of bias. I just like Suzuki cars. I can’t really explain it except to say that I always look forward to driving them because they seem such cheerful, affable cars. I realise that giving mechanical objects human characteristics isn’t exactly cutting edge, impartial automotive journalism and also hints at a fine madness but there you are. They are always fun to drive and the new Vitara is no exception.
For years, in a rather low profile way, Suzuki have been selling competitively priced cars that have been good to drive but rather lacking in the social graces as it were. Interiors were functional but displayed rather a lot of hard, plain plastic that gave fussy passengers a bit of a low-rent vibe. Those days are gone.
The new Suzuki Vitara is a real step up in quality. There’s still some robust plastic on the dash and door sills but now it’s subdued and textured to deliver what should be a hard-wearing finish – just right for a busy family. Otherwise, in this range-topping SZ5 version, the inside is now a pleasant, airy place to be thanks to the big sunroof. The seats are supportive and, on the test car, were upholstered in a nice leather/suede mix.
The Vitara falls under the loose heading of ‘Crossover’ which means it is roomy with plenty of storage and ample legroom without being massively cumbersome like a full-size SUV. The cascading piano-black dashboard is blissfully button free with most functions controlled through a touchscreen or via the leather steering wheel. A couple of touchscreen controls are a bit fiddly; the volume slider is especially irritating but fortunately there’s an alternative on the wheel that’s handy for the thumb. On the whole it works well though.
The sat-nav is accurate with voice guidance that is clear but which sounds a bit strict, if you know what I mean. Some drivers might like this. Electronics that you will actually use are all on board with cruise, USB, AUX and climate control as well as a standout Bluetooth system with music steaming. The boot offers a reasonable 375L of space or 710L with the rear seats folded. Perfectly adequate plus the boot has hidden depths, literally. There’s security storage beneath the false floor and beneath that is the spare wheel well. Our test car had a kit installed – we’d recommend going for a space-saver spare.
Traditionally, Suzuki are masters at delivering good four wheel drive systems and the new Vitara features the latest AllGrip technology which is simplicity itself to use. Leave it in Auto (eco) and the car will drive two wheels but will switch drive to the corner with the best grip should the need arise. Sport mode makes maximal use of four-wheel drive in accordance with accelerator inputs. At low and mid-range engine speeds, the system alters the accelerator/torque characteristics to optimise engine response and cornering. On the road, this was my default mode.
When things get muddy, icy or snowy just click over to Snow mode for added all-wheel security. 4WD can be locked too to get the car out of sticky situations. A great system that will provide on-road peace of mind in all conditions and can handle a bit of light off-roading too. For additional safety SZ5 models get Radar Brake Support providing early warning of a possible front end shunt by way of a loud klaxon-like noise which would awaken the dead. This can be adjusted via a Far/Near control depending on how adventurous you are. It’s a very good idea but it makes no allowance for driving style which means confident drivers might find it to be a bit previous.
The Suzuki Vitara is good to drive and we saw a consistent 42mpg from the 1.6L petrol motor (there’s also a 1.6L diesel). We made do with a five-speed manual gearbox but Suzuki now offer a new six-speed box of cogs which will, I’m sure, make for more relaxed motorway cruising. The car has kerb appeal and is in my opinion one of the more attractively designed crossovers. You can specify the car with an ‘Urban Pack’ for extra embellishments or choose the more ‘off-road’ look of the ‘Rugged Pack’. There’s an excellent selection of funky colours to choose from with the option of some great two-tone paint jobs.
As mentioned, this car is top of the form with pretty much everything on it; even so it only costs £21,099 which, in the crossover world, is something of a bargain. There’s a detailed spec sheet below. It’s also available in 2WD form in SZ4 and SZ-T versions with prices starting around £14k. This Summer, Suzuki are offering good PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) deals on some models too. Some might say that the interior still lags behind some of the opposition but these things are cost dependant. There may well be superior passenger compartments, but at what price? That’s the thing to take into consideration. The Suzuki Vitara is highly recommended and a personal favourite; but then of course I do like a Suzuki.