Automotive Blog – New Suzuki Vitara Review

Automotive Blog – New Suzuki Vitara Review

If you’re old enough, the Vitara name conjures
up images of big wheels, flared wheel-arches, and over-sized Rhino graphics. But for this,
the new Vitara, Suzuki have made something that’s a little more grown up. It’s still
a pretty chunky thing, particularly at the front, with its aggressively styled bumper
and edgy headlights, and it makes a welcome change from the somewhat bulbous styling of
the S-Cross on which the Vitara is based. It’s shorter than its sister car, but it’s
also a touch wider and a little taller, and those changes to its dimensions have the greatest
impact on the interior.

Tall drivers may find they have to adopt a rather upright driving
position, though, largely because the steering wheel doesn’t quite have enough adjustment
to allow you to sit too far away from it, but for everyone else it’s certainly a comfortable
place to be, and visibility is excellent. Suzuki are masters of creating clear and simple
dashboard layouts, and the new Vitara is no exception. New for this year is a seven-inch
touch-screen media system that offers an impressive list of features, although we personally preferred
the user interface of the previous Garmin unit. You get DAB digital radio and the ability
to play music from a variety of sources, while the navigation system provides European mapping
and familiar pinch-to-zoom gestures.

It’s a little slow to respond at times, and in
some scenarios, particularly on roundabouts, it’s a little aloof with its voice guidance,
but it still boasts plenty of handy features such as TMC traffic warnings, for instance.
The instruments, meanwhile, are about as clear and easy to read as it’s possible to get,
something that’s always a Suzuki strong-point. Rear seat passengers should be comfortable
enough, and there’s room for their feet under the front seats, but the panoramic sunroof
on top-spec SZ5 models does eat into headroom. Compared to the S-Cross on which it’s based,
the Vitara’s boot is a little smaller, down to 375 litres, but there’s extra space underneath,
with a handy split-level floor. Drop the rear seats and space increases to 710 litres, although
the floor isn’t quite flat due to the slope created by the rear seat backs.

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Two engines
are available, both of 1.6-Litres, one petrol and one diesel. Both have just under 120hp,
although the diesel has much more torque and feels slightly quicker on the road. The petrol
engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, although an auto is available,
and its shift action is just as light and well-balanced as we’re used to from Suzuki,
although we will say that the petrol engine’s throttle response is a touch too keen just
off idle, and that makes for a fine line between stalling and pulling away in a cloud of revs.
To get the best from the petrol engine, you have to work it hard, and when you do it can
become a little noisy. Once up to speed it settles down well, but we think the Vitara
could use a little extra sound proofing in the engine bay.

On the move, the Vitara rides
well, absorbing most bumps in a fairly unobtrusive way, although we did notice a tendency for
mid-corner bumps to upset its line somewhat and give a little sideways skip. We also noticed
the steering had a curious indirect feeling around the straight-ahead position at speed,
and this meant the Vitara often needed constant inputs to stop it wandering in its lane. Despite
that, it tackles bends well and there’s plenty of grip available, although we wouldn’t object
to slightly tighter damping and a little less body-roll. Suzuki’s philosophy of keeping
the weight down means their cars are often among the most efficient, and the Vitara is
no different.

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The official economy figure for the diesel model is up to 70.6Mpg with
emissions of just 106 g/km, and while our 4WD petrol car achieved 44mpg during a week’s
testing, it’s official figure of 50.4 Mpg should be quite achievable with just a little
extra effort. It’s cheap to buy, too, with prices starting from just 13,999, while
our fully-loaded test car weighed in at 20,599. Top-spec models get Suzuki’s new adaptive
cruise control and radar brake support system. We found the cruise control worked well, matching
your speed to that of the vehicle in front, applying the brakes when necessary, but we
did experience several instances of the brake support system dishing out warnings when it
shouldn’t have done, as was often easily confused by vehicles waiting to turn out of side junctions.
Our one reservation about the Suzuki would be that for something wearing the Vitara name,
we’d have liked a greater sense of fun, perhaps through slightly more engaging handling or
a peppier engine.

But as it is, the new Vitara represents an interesting mix of all-weather
capability and real-world efficiency that at this price point is difficult to beat..

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