Suzuki’s all new Vitara has everything you need, and more, in a compact crossover SUV

Vitara review – In the review about the all new Suzuki Vitara (The Gremlin, March 15) I wrote that the Vitara  used to have the prefix “Grand”. This is not so: the Vitara and the Grand Vitara are two different vehicles and Suzuki  still sells the Grand Vitara which is powered by a 2.4 litre engine and is available as a 4-Mode 4WD and can be used to haul the kids to school or tackle muddy off-road trails or driven to the mall for your monthly shop.  Nonetheless I still think that the Vitara is still a grand crossover compact sports utility vehicle that has everything you need.

I was driving Suzuki’s all-new 1.6 Vitara GL+ on the R44 to Stellenbosch thinking that you don’t see too many two-tone (black and white) cars, the colour of the vehicle I was testing when a Mini Cooper bearing the same livery (except the white was cream) passed me in the fast lane.

001-off-my-wheelsBrian Joss – The other bright colours the Vitara boasts are Atlantis Turquoise Pearl Metallic, Horizon Orange Metallic, and Savannah Ivory Metallic, so you can be sure the SUV will stand out in a crowded parking lot.

Some years ago, shortly after Suzuki was re-launched in South Africa,  I drove one on a long-distance trip to Rhebok, a small peaceful enclave near Groot Brak, for some well-earned R&R and the differences between the old and new are stark. The only thing that hasn’t changed are the front seats. While they are comfortable, I found that they didn’t give your body enough lateral support. But I am sure this will be rectified soon.

Suzuki’s all new Vitara: The GL+ ticks all the boxes. The neat cabin: note the large analogue clock on the top of the dashboard. Pictures: Motorpress
Suzuki’s all new Vitara: The GL+ ticks all the boxes. The neat cabin: note the large analogue clock on the top of the dashboard. Pictures: Motorpress

Incidentally, the Vitara used to have the prefix Grand, but now it is just the Vitara. However, the compact crossover is grand for family transport and the daily commute. The Vitara is in a competitive segment of the market and I think it will do well against the Honda HR-V, the Nissan Juke, the Ford EcoSport (tested) and even its cousin,  the Suzuki SX4. I quite liked the new look and Suzuki has kept its signature clamshell bonnet and chrome grille, slim, clear-lensed headlight clusters, colour-coded bumpers, fog lamps, a wide opening tailgate, which makes it easier to pack the boot and high-mounted tail light clusters, to name some design changes. While most of the inside has been taken from existing Suzuki models, it is practical: all the buttons and controls are where they should be. Even the info system is easy to use and includes instant/average fuel consumption, travelling range and average speed, to name a few. The display also includes a gear shift indicator, seat belt reminders and door ajar alerts. The latter came in useful as the doors need to be closed firmly as does the boot lid. Most motor manufacturers are going digital so I was quite taken with the large analogue clock on top of the dashboard, which gave the Vitara a nice retro look. Suzuki,  of course,  was one of the pioneers of the SUV when it introduced the first Vitara  27 years ago. So perhaps the clock is a nod to a bygone era.

Suzuki’s all new Vitara: The GL+ ticks all the boxes. The neat cabin: note the large analogue clock on the top of the dashboard. Pictures: Motorpress
Suzuki’s all new Vitara: The GL+ ticks all the boxes. The neat cabin: note the large analogue clock on the top of the dashboard. Pictures: Motorpress

There’s plenty of storage space inside too: front and rear door pockets, the usual glove box, a driver’s side storage binnacle and a centre lower compartment for the USB and accessory sockets. The multi-function steering wheel is adjustable for tilt and reach and the front bucket seats are height adjustable for the driver and the front passenger. The Vitara is not a Speedy Gonzales and if you were hoping to leave some rubber on the tar then perhaps you should cast your eyes elsewhere. What it is though is an all-round family SUV. It does, however, tool along at a fair pace and there is power to spare when you want to overtake, even if you’re travelling at the legal limit of 120 km/h. It also takes corners with ease, and you can push it a bit without feeling you’re going to lose control. The Vitara is powered by a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder petrol engine which produces 86kW@6 000 rpm and peak torque of 151 Nm at 4 4000 rpm. It is equipped with a five-speed smooth-shifting manual gearbox which suited the motor and the absence of a sixth gear didn’t detract from the performance. Electrically operated front windows are standard as is remote central locking and an efficient manual air con system with a pollen filter. The Vitara offers 375 litres of luggage space, increasing to 710 litres with the seatbacks folded down. There is also a luggage board to give more flexible loading solutions.

On a trip to Cape Town International early one morning, with two above average size passengers at the back and a boot full of holiday suitcases, the Vitara easily kept up with the fast moving traffic and there was no need to do too much gear shifting.For most of the way I stayed in fifth gear and the engine showed no sign of strain when I overtook slower trucks and skedonks.  From the airport we headed for Gordon’s Bay and drove back via Stellenbosch and the SUV performed well. Fuel economy was good: I used about  6 litres/100km and I reckon you could do about 800 km on a full tank which has a capacity of 47 litres. With a light foot on the throttle you could probably do better.

Suzuki hasn’t neglected safety:  It has been awarded a full five-star EurNCap safety rating with seven airbags; ABS anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic stability control. There are five models in the range: the entry level GL, the GL+ (the test car), and the GLX: this designation is reserved for the flagships of the range and you have a choice of automatic gearboxes or manual transmission and all-wheel drive. You can personalise your Vitara with various options – at a price –  there are eight exterior colours, four roof colours and three grille finishes to choose from. Various accessory packages include chromed fog lamp bezels, a roof spoiler and rear scuff plates, to name a few, to give your Vitara that personal touch. There are two Vitara models offering the GL+ spec both with the five-speed manual gearbox. The difference, however, is Suzuki’s AllGrip four-wheel drive system.  The test car was the two-wheel drive.

Suzuki has a winner in the GL+. The crossover SUV will make an ideal family car. There is plenty of room inside and the boot has more than enough space to accommodate holiday luggage or the kids’ sporting kits, and bags and bags of shopping.  The Vitara is economical and a pleasure to drive and it has everything you need, including an excellent four speaker sound system. The 1.6 The GL+ Manual has a R269 900 price tag and includes a three-year/100 000 km warranty, a four-year/ 60 000 km service plan and a three-year roadside assistance package. Services are at 15 000 km intervals.

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