Suzuki Vitara – Review
by Liam Bird
Ever since its debut in 1988 the Suzuki Vitara has gained an enviable reputation both on and off the road. Its compact dimensions and genuine mud-plugging abilities, together with its more than respectable on-tarmac manners meant it soon found favour with many a family or outdoorsy type, not to mention those who liked the wide-arch and even wider wheels look too! Now, 27-years after we first clapped eyes on it, there’s another Suzuki Vitara. An all-new one in fact.
Available in both 2 and 4-wheel-drive guises – all Vitaras, regardless of spec, are available with Suzuki’s All-Grip system – the new Vitara went in to production in Suzuki’s Magyar plant in Hungary in April of this year and will later be exported around the world as Suzuki’s global compact SUV.
Based on the same platform as the SX4 S-Cross, Suzuki’s other mid-sized crossover, the Vitara is undeniably the more overtly off-road looking of the two thanks to its raised ride height and its chunkier and more rugged, more angular styling. But, with a wheelbase that’s 100m shorter than that of the SX4, plus a smaller boot, while the S-Cross competes with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, the Vitara’s main rivalry will more likely come from the Vauxhall Mokka, Renault’s Captur, and Nissan’s Juke.
All Vitaras, whether petrol or diesel, are 1.6s. The diesel gets a six-speed gearbox, more torque and the promise of up to 70.6mpg whereas the petrol makes do with just five forward ratios and the promise of 53.3 mpg on the combined cycle (over a week and 600 miles I managed a 47.4). A six-speed auto option is also available on the petrol for those who find swapping their own cogs too tiresome. There’s softer suspension on the diesel though, so if comfort is really what you’re looking for the oil-burner might be the one to go for – however it does cost £1,500 more and I’m told – I’ve yet to drive a petrol Vitara – it’s a bit noisier too. Neither option offers earth shattering performance, but neither offers earth threatening CO2 levels either. Whether petrol or diesel, two or four-wheel drive, all models slip below 140g/km.
Standard equipment is generous. All Vitaras get DAB with USB and Bluetooth, automatic air-con, projector headlamps, electric windows both front and rear, cruise control and perhaps more importantly, 6 airbags. Spend a little more and SZ-T spec gets you 17” alloys, rear privacy glass, and smartphone linked audio and navigation. The range-topping SZ-5’s add yet further goodies including suede seat coverings, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, adaptive cruise and Radar Brake support.
The Vitara was also designed with personalisation in mind, thus prospective purchasers can choose from ten body colours including two new hues, as well as five two-tone combinations. There are also the choices of either the Urban Pack (for SZ-T and SZ5) at £500 or the Rugged Pack (for SZ-T and SZ5) at £430.
I got to sample a 1.6 SZ5 with two wheel drive, and I have to say it proved rather comfy. The slightly elevated and multi-adjustable driving position should mean drivers of all statures remain ache-free even after a couple of hours or more behind the Vitara’s leather wrapped wheel, and everything from the new seven inch touch screen to the familiar Suzuki rotary controls for the air-con fall with-in easy reach. The dashboard and dials are also superbly clear.
It’s a shame then that some of the plastics used inside the Vitara are so hard and scratchy. They do little to suppress road noise at motorway speeds and ultimately let the Vitara down. In lower specced cars they’re passable – the Vitara is a budget SUV after all, or at least it’s meant to be. Spec a diesel with Allgrip and your local Suzuki dealer will be looking for far closer to £21,000 than they are to the £13,999 the Vitara starts at. You could very nearly buy a Skoda Yeti for that, a car that fixtures and fittings-wise is light years ahead.
Nevertheless let’s not be too harsh. With its combination of affordability, very generous list of standard kit and those all-important good looks the Vitara is sure to win its fair share of friends. Just make sure you do your sums carefully though before you sign on the dotted line.
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ5 + Urban Pack
Engine: 1,586cc cc 4Cyl Petrol
Power: 118 BHP @ 6000rpm
Torque: 115 lbft @ 3500rpm
Transmission: 5 speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph 11.5 sec
Max Speed: 112 mph
MPG: 53.3 Combined
Price: (as driven) £18,499