25 January 2017
Review: Suzuki Vitara
The new model itself was initially available in three grades, but a fourth one, the S, offers a more sporty character in visual and powertrain terms.
The new generation Vitara is a strong looking machine, but with lines that are tempered in a style which is as much at home in the suburban street as it is venturing across more rugged terrain.
There's also thought in the aerodynamics, notably in the design of the bumper and roofline, and in the unseen areas of the underfloor which has flat surfaces to smooth air stream.
The Vitara is exceptionally well equipped for its class, with DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control/speed limiter, automatic aircon and electric windows all around.
The S also has the 1.4 turbocharged 'Boosterjet' petrol engine which includes a number of Suzuki-developed ideas aimed at keeping it light and compact as well as efficient. The engine outputs a hefty 140hp and one of the Suzuki engineering tweaks provides that and punchy torque from low engine speeds.
The review car had the optional 6-speed automatic, which is surprisingly (or maybe not these days) not a significant issue for fuel consumption, and any extra petrol used is well worth the convenience. Equally, the Allgrip AWD system does virtually no damage to consumption or emissions.
I remember the first adaptive cruise control system I ever drove, it was on a Range Rover and a very high end and expensive technology. It has now filtered down to mainstream, and the fact that it is standard on the Vitara S is putting it up to all competitors. It's one of the systems which is getting us ready for autonomous drive cars. You very quickly get used to it, which for people like me is a little disconcerting when I forget that the next car doesn't have it ...
The S version also has a radar-based collision warning system, which includes automatic braking if warnings aren't acted on. It's just part of the overall safety package which has won for the car a full 5-star crash test rating in the Euro NCAP regime.
We have reached a stage in cars development where the mechanicals and electronics are all at the highest levels, and now it's style and feel that make the only tangible differences. Powertrains may have technical differences, but the emphasis is successfully on the driving experience being similar for them all.
So success for any model will depend on just how well the owner feels about living with it and while driving it. My time with the Vitara was not just painless, but enjoyable in many levels. Not least the refined travel thanks to the Boosterjet engine along with the automatic. For a compact SUV, I'm not seeking stunning sporty performance, and I didn't get it either. But there was more than ample oomph for comfortable travel.
Driving position? Great. Comfort? Excellent. Funkiness? Yes — the interior decorative tweaks added a little of that, enough to make the cabin a cheerful place. Downsides? Well, yes ... Suzuki says the Boosterjet engine requires servicing every 15,000km. Sure, that's marginally about what is an average year's driving. It just seems a little off compared to what people are expecting in service intervals these days. Still, I guess you're dealing with a thoroughbred engine, and high end breeds need more attention to stay at the top of their game.
The Suzuki Vitara starts at €19,995. The review S version costs €27,495. Both, to me, represent value.