Suzuki’s striking Vitara model boasts great styling, excellent handling and impressive economy figures – all factors that will help it make its mark in the highly competitive crossover segment.
The goodOutstanding value, versatile and lots of fun
The badLots of alternatives out there
Suzuki Vitara (2019) – first drive
Suzuki is definitely a brand that’s going places. It boasts an impressive line-up of cars from the compact Swift and practical S-Cross to the charismatic Jimny and it has now launched a new-look Vitara that the company claims is its most technically advanced car ever.
The latest five-door Vitara entered the motoring scene in 2015 and it has just undergone a comprehensive facelift. There is extra safety kit, new powertrains, styling upgrades and a much more upmarket interior.
In truth, the Vitara was always a good-looking car with its upright yet athletic design, wheel arch extensions, chrome lower grille, roof rails and rear privacy glass. Now the designers have added extra appeal with the introduction of a new front grille and bumper plus restyled LED lights.
Buyers can select from three well-equipped trim grades called SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5 with prices ranging from £16,999 to £25,649. Suzuki has ditched the diesel engine and there is now Boosterjet technology for the 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines. Other choices include manual or automatic gearboxes along with two or four-wheel drive.
The Vitara is well-equipped as standard and, depending on the trim level, you can expect to see the likes of Smartphone link to connect a smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a navigation system, Bluetooth, a good audio set-up with DAB digital radio, a colour touchscreen, a USB socket and lots more besides. In addition, Suzuki has listened to customer feedback and the new model now has a front armrest along with some soft-touch surfaces and improved seating.
We tested the Vitara in mid-range SZ-T trim level powered by a punchy three-cylinder, 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine mated to a five-speed transmission. The car carried a £20,799 price-tag and the only optional extra was specialist paint costing £800.
Suzuki engineers claim the 1.0-litre engine that has previously featured in the Suzuki Baleno, Swift and S-Cross, offers the same level of power and torque as a much larger capacity normally-aspirated 1.7 to 1.8-litre engine.
And that’s a very fair assessment – our car simply fizzed along. It sprints to 62mph in 12.0 seconds, but feels faster and then maxes out at 111mph. It’s a car that’s as content on motorways as it is whizzing through the country lanes and there is a constant stream of power on tap, so overtaking slower-moving farm traffic is a breeze. According to official figures, it can deliver combined fuel economy of 39.4mpg with carbon emissions of 162g/km (WLTP).
The road holding is impressive with minimal body movement even when pushed enthusiastically into corners and the cabin is well insulated against any wind, road surface or engine noise. I was really impressed with how quiet the three-pot engine was – even when driven hard it remained relatively hushed. My only slight gripe was the lack of a sixth gear.
With our unpredictable weather patterns, the option of all-wheel drive is always worth exploring. Our car featured Suzuki’s Allgrip 4WD system which will keep you on course when driving in poorer weather conditions or on more challenging terrain. It has four modes called Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. Auto maximises fuel efficiency and uses two-wheel drive as a default, Sport is great for twisty roads, Snow delivers extra grip in the snow or when travelling on other slippery surfaces and finally Lock is used for extricating the car from snow, mud or sand.
An SUV needs to be a practical option for all the family’s needs and the Vitara scores well in that department. Passenger comfort levels are good with ample space in the back for a couple of adults – three if they don’t mind rubbing shoulders. The boot has a 375-litre capacity which can be increased to 710 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat and there is a handy adjustable boot floor to separate items such as wet gear or muddy boots.
And obviously safety is paramount on any family car. So it’s reassuring to know the Vitara scored a maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating. This was achieved in 2015 and even more safety kit has been added to the 2019 car. Features include a dual sensor brake support system that works between 3mph and 62mph. If it detects a possible collision with a person or vehicle ahead it delivers a visual and audio warning. If the warnings are ignored it will start braking the vehicle. Other safety systems include blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.
All in all, the latest Vitara is proof that Suzuki is not sitting back and resting on its laurels. After all, the Vitara was already a good car, but they were not satisfied with that – now it’s a great car.
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet S
Earlier this year a firm favourite made a very welcome return to the showrooms and now just seven months after Suzuki relaunched its popular Vitara model, we are getting a new addition to the line-up.
Priced at £20,899, the Vitara S is the joint range-topper alongside the SZ5 but most importantly, it features the all-new 1.4 turbocharged petrol engine which is the first application of Suzuki’s Boosterjet technology, which in this case translates into 140PS of grunt.
The car also comes with ALLGRIP intelligent four-wheel-drive as standard which is a ‘must’ in the world of crossover vehicles these days. Admittedly, few owners will ever venture far from the Tarmac but it’s most reassuring to be driving a car that will maintain its grip in wet and wintry conditions.
The S model also has some stand-out design cues, such as gloss black 17-inch alloys, a vertical grille design, an upper rear spoiler, satin silver door mirrors, red interior stitching and stylish red trims around the air vents.
The interior is clutter-free yet richly equipped with all controls, dials and instrumentation ideally placed for ease of use. On-board techno treats include a very efficient sat nav system that can be programmed with just a postcode if necessary, a good sound system with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, a clear touchscreen and plenty more besides.
Comfort levels are high with ample space for two adults in the back – three at a slight squeeze. The boot is also generously-sized with a capacity of 375 litres which can be increased to 710 litres with the rear seats dropped flat. Elsewhere there is a good-sized glovebox, deep door pockets, a central bin and some handy trays to stop bits and pieces rolling around.
Thanks to its upright design, the driver benefits from a slightly elevated position which results in good all-round visibility and the Vitara S is very agile and easy to manoeuvre which makes it ideal for driving and parking in busy town centres.
Then out on faster country lanes and motorways, the car can easily hold its own with a 0-62 sprint time of 10.2 seconds and top speed of 124mph. The acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox proved smooth and nicely responsive with minimal road and engine noise even when pushed quite hard.
The steering was nice and precise, the road-holding excellent and the efficient suspension even ironed out some of the unexpected bumps and dips along the way. I did find that after a long 100-mile-plus journey I was finding the seats a tad firm, but that was my only slight gripe during my week-long test drive.
Safety features are comprehensive with the likes of anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, electronic stability programme, foot protecting brake and clutch pedals, a tyre pressure monitor, seven airbags, plus the ALLGRIP 4-wheel-drive system to keep you motoring during those colder months.
By introducing this latest engine, Suzuki has guaranteed that extra turn of pace that was needed in its crossover model. Add in the impressive combined fuel economy of 52.3mpg and carbon emissions of 127g/km and the Vitara S becomes a very attractive all-round buy.
Suzuki Vitara – first drive
Crossover cars are all the rage these days with buyers demanding vehicles that can cope with all the challenging eventualities of day-to-day life but providing style, technology and good economy along the way.
And thankfully a past master has just unveiled a car that meets those tough criteria and some.
The name Vitara may not be new to motoring enthusiasts having first entered the 4×4 scene more than 27 years ago, but the latest fourth generation model is a breath of fresh air in the fiercely competitive segment.
The five-door model is available with a choice of engines, trims, transmissions and drivetrains.
It is competitively priced and can deliver fuel efficiency of up to 70.6mpg which is mighty impressive for a car with 4×4 capabilities.
The entry-level two-wheel-drive SZ4 model is powered by a 1.6-litre 118bhp petrol engine and costs £13,999. It comes complete with a DAB radio, CD player, USB connection, Bluetooth, automatic air conditioning, cruise control, alloy wheels and lots more besides.
Move up to SZ-T grade for an extra £1,500 and you will see the likes of sat nav and rear privacy glass added. Then for an additional £4,000 you can reach the range-topping SZ5 trim complete with part-leather upholstery, a double sunroof, keyless entry, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, shiny alloys plus forward facing radar that detects when you are getting too close to the vehicle ahead and starts braking for you.
And there is a diesel option powered by a 1.6-litre 118bhp engine at a £1,500 premium. The off-roading capabilities are courtesy of Suzuki’s ALLGRIP 4×4 system which is an £1,800 option on range-topping SZ5 grades.
This feature offers four driving modes – auto, sport, snow and lock – and operates in fuel-saving 2WD much of the time unless extra traction is needed to the rear wheels or when the car has been specifically set up to deal with particularly challenging conditions.
And in keeping with fashion trends, the Vitara can be personalised with a range of colour options and extra body kit such as colour-coded grilles, skid plates and side mouldings.
But bells and whistles aside, it’s reassuring that the Vitara still remains true to its roots with distinctive styling traits such as the clamshell bonnet, vents on the side wings and a trapezoid motif front bumper.
The roofline slopes towards the rear very Evoque-esque and this once again accentuates the Vitara’s solid, sporty and ready-for-action stance.
We tested the 1.6 diesel model with six-speed manual transmission in top-of-the-range SZ5 trim with ALLGRIP priced at £21,299 (plus £800 for metallic paint).
This car can reach 62mph from a standing start in 12.4 seconds and tops out at 112mph. According to official figures it can deliver 67.2mpg on a combined run with carbon emissions of 106g/km.
The Vitara is exceptionally spacious with ample room for a couple of adults in the back and they benefit from good leg, head and shoulder space. Storage limits are generous too with a boot capacity of 375 litres which can be increased to 710 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Up front all the dials, controls and instrumentation is ideally positioned for ease of use and there is a thoroughly modern feel to the car with top-notch techno treats to be explored.
There is rather a lot of sturdy-looking plastic and I did find there was a little glare from the touchscreen if the sun was particularly bright, but that aside all the car’s systems were very user-friendly.
Out on the twisting country lanes the Vitara was a dream to drive as it accelerated smoothly through the gears and the high-seated position means the driver benefits from great all-round visibility, which is a plus-factor for a vehicle that will regularly be spotted on the school run.
Then out on faster motorways the 1.6-litre engine delivered plenty of bite and there was a constant supply of power on tap as and when needed. The ride felt well-grounded with engine and wind noise only really noticeable when the vehicle was pushed particularly hard.
We also put the five-speed petrol equivalent through its paces on a quarry-based assault course where it coped well when climbing banks, descending rocky slopes and traversing hills.
Admittedly the Vitara is not a vehicle that would be expected to tackle truly rugged terrain, but it will keep you fully mobile when unexpected cold snaps and winter snow flurries kick in.
And the car has just been awarded the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings with the likes of seven airbags as standard, along with adaptive cruise control, electronic stability control, an impact absorbing body, Radar Brake Support and plenty more depending on which model is selected.
Suzuki is currently celebrating top 10 status in the global car sales charts and has clearly identified the growing crossover market as an area to invest in. That’s why the company now has an all-new Vitara model to line up alongside its highly popular S-Cross to attract new buyers to the brand.