The current 2019 Suzuki Vitara is evolution, not revolution — more of the same, with upgrades to technology, more safety features and a few styling tweaks. All typical of motor industry progress.
And, once again, Suzuki offers a car that is as competitive as anything in its class…a particularly popular and competitive sector.
The test car was the top-of-the-range version, priced at £26,149. Dual-tone paint would have added £300.
The engine was the 1.4-litre Boosterjet with 140 PS and emitting 174 g/km under WLTP regulations. I found it to be particularly smooth, with a quiet, almost inaudible tickover. Press hard and 0-62 mph is reached in 10.2 seconds which should be brisk enough for most drivers. (By the way, the 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder engine, available in cheaper Suzuki models, is probably the smoothest of its type that I have experienced.)
The test version was at the top of the range and so coupled an automatic gearbox to the Allgrip 4wd system.
The car’s economy is aided by Suzuki’s EASS engine auto stop-start system. At first, it seems to work at random and generally not very often. However, as with such features, various conditions are taken into account, mainly in order to prevent the battery from becoming discharged.
There was snow about during my week with the Vitara and, I must say, I felt completely secure at all times: there were four modes available: Auto switches from 2- to 4-wheel drive when it deems necessary; Sport for increased response when you drive briskly along twisty roads; Snow…well, obviously for snow, ice, slippery conditions to lessen the chance of losing traction; and Lock — if you get stuck in mud, snow, sand or whatever, Allgrip lock helps you out.
The Vitara should be a capable car off-road, too, with features such as hill descent control. Ground clearance and decent approach and departure angles underline this.
On ordinary roads, the long list of safety features includes the lane departure warning system. Personally, I can’t recall a single occasion in any car ever that I have felt the need to have this. Therefore, if I can, I switch it off; otherwise, it just becomes a random nuisance: when traffic conditions allowed, I have purposely wandered off course onto hatched lines or full white lines and been unable to work out why you sometimes get the warning (a light, an alarm, a steering-wheel vibration) and sometimes not, although speed can sometimes be the reason.
Having got that off my chest…the Vitara DOES include many admirable features in safety, convenience and comfort, thus keeping it well up with the opposition. And I do have to admit that drivers who regularly have to endure fog and other vision-affecting conditions may well appreciate lane departure warnings.
The rear cross-traffic alert is very useful in car parks. The Vehicle Sway Warning in Allgrip cars alerts the driver to maybe feeling drowsy. Adaptive Cruise Control includes autonomous braking if a collision is imminent. The test car, being an SZ5 range-topper, also has Dual Sensor Brake Support; this is what supports the Adaptive Cruise Control. Such safety features were once the domain of high-end premium marques.
The Vitara is not a big car, but three passengers can be reasonably comfortable in the back. Storage and stowage are impressive, such things being small but surprisingly missed if they are not there — like, for instance, a grab-handle to help get aboard; I kept reaching for one that wasn’t there.
Suzuki is by no means alone in providing a quality satnav along with a voice guidance system. Excellent in theory as they all are, in practice I find them not at all easy or quick to use. The Vitara is typical, with the satnav’s voice over-riding the radio volume (usually at precisely the wrong moment!). Turning off or lowering that voice level is a fiddle and I would hope the designers will one day heed the plaintive cry of people like me who struggle with it. However, the Vitara is equipped with the popular AppleCarplay or Android Auto allowing directions and streaming music from your smartphone.
In everyday driving, the trip computer said I had got 42.7 mpg.
But the bottom line on the Vitara is that it is a very good car. It’s safe unless driven by a fool; it’s easy to drive and steers and handles nicely; it’s comfortable to travel in. It is well-connected to the world outside.
It also appears to be well-built (in Hungary) and should do a very good job for an active family.
Car reviewed: Suzuki Vitara 1.4 BOOSTERJET SZ5 ALLGRIP AT, on the road price £26,149 0-62mph 10.2secs Top speed 124mph Engine 1373cc 4 cylinder unleaded Euro 6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 44.8mpg CO2 emissions 143g/km Max Power [email protected] Torque [email protected] Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual mode
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Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.
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