Suzuki may not be the first brand name that springs to mind when you’re considering your next company vehicle. However, if you look a little closer, you’ll find a brand that offers customers a wide choice of cars, great value for money, with bullet-proof reliability.
Take the updated Vitara for example.The Vitara has been around for quite some time & has always offered customers in the know, off-road capability inside a basic vehicle. The 2015 Vitara changed this, with an all-new interior & exterior putting it firmly in competition with the likes of the Vauxhall Crossland X, SEAT Arona & even the Citroen C3 Aircross.
The Vitara was updated in 2018, so what’s new ? Well first of all, it’s now only available with a choice of two petrol engines. A new 1.0 litre joining the existing 1.4 petrol in the range. To be fair to Suzuki, we get why there’s no diesel, but looking back to 2015 at our diesel Vitara review, we averaged 50.9 mpg during a 30 mile week. Although the new 1.0 litre petrol drives well, a week in this version saw us average only 35.6mpg & comes with a fuel tank that will only offer drivers about 300 miles between top up’s.
Exterior changes are harder to spot. The lower part of the front bumper has been redesigned with a new grille featuring vertical, rather than horizontal, slats. The rear lights have been updated with new LED units & there’s a choice of new alloy wheels & paint colours. There’s also a host of new safety features accessed from the steering wheel, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning plus traffic sign recognition & rear cross traffic alert. These additions make the Vitara more competitive against the competition.
We were testing the 1.0 litre SZT 4WD version, which comes with an OTR price of £20,799. All versions of the new Vitara come with alloy wheels, as well as body-coloured bumpers & door mirrors. Seven airbags are fitted across the range, including a drivers knee airbag & both Bluetooth & DAB radio are also standard. Other standard features on the SZT include stop/start, air-con, steering wheel mounted audio controls, USB, front fog lights, daytime LED projector headlamps, rear parking camera, 3 spoke leather steering wheel, a tyre pressure monitoring system, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist function, ESP(Electronic Stability Program) & Hill hold control. And as this was the 4WD version, ALLGRIP 4-mode 4WD system featuring snow & sport functions. Pretty impressive from a range that starts from £16,999.
If you’ve driven any current Suzuki, the interior will be familiar to you. Suffice to say it’s all well made & looks & feels built to last, but upmarket it’s not. The door pockets for example are made of thin cheap looking plastic & there’s not a lot of soft touch plastic going on. None the less, the cabins s a pleasant pica to be with comfortable front seats & there’s plenty of room in the front for driver & passenger. The rear space isn’t bad, with plenty of room for two six foot adults seated behind the front seats. The centre rear seat though isn’t as generous. For luggage, there’s a 375-litre boot, which also comes with a double floor & a 60:40-split folding rear seat. The volume in the boot with rear seats folded increases to a very useful 710 litres.
Getting comfortable inside the Vitaras driving seat is easy with both rake & reach steering wheel as well back & forth & height seat adjustments. Dominating the dashboard is the infotainment touchscreen which can also be operated from the steering wheel controls. The system features a neat four-way split screen to access the main options. The four variants available through the touchscreen are Media, Phone, SatNav & finally Smartphone. All can be accessed relatively easily either by touching the screen, or via the steering wheel controls. I connected my i Phone to the Vitaras Bluetooth quickly & easily & found that using this whilst moving was straightforward as well. Apple CarPlay was also straightforward to connect with. The SatNav was intuitive & unlike many radios I could mention, the DAB system in the Vitara was spot on.
The central console contains the old-skool heating controls whilst the speedo is on the right of the dials, with the rev counter to the left. There’s a digital information screen in the middle, where you can search data for your journey e.g how much fuel is left in your tank, as well as containing both a digital clock & a temperature gauge.
SUV customers want storage space & a cabin with cubby holes is important & the Vitara doesn’t disappoint with two large sized door pockets large enough for four water bottles, two more bottle containers in the centre binnacle & space for keys & your phone underneath the heating controls.
The boot is not the largest in this class, but fear not, I was able to get 6 large shopping bags, plus a bin liner of charity clothes, my wellies, my sons rugby kit bag & a couple of large coats in it for walking the dog & still have room to spare & I didn’t remove the false floor either.
Behind the wheel of the Vitara, you’ll find the sfive-speed manual gearbox smooth & the steering light, making the Vitara easy to drive. You simply point & go.The 1.0 petrol engine is nippy even when thee’s just one of you on board. Fully laden though, the 1.0 litre struggles to offer decent acceleration, the claimed 0-62mph time is 12 seconds.
Apart from a couple of long motorway jaunts, where adaptive cruise control was excellent, I also took the Vitara out on some local B roads & along windy country lanes & although these were bumpy, the Vitara’s suspension dealt with them easily & even feels supple, working well with the power steering to give all passengers comfortable ride. There’s also little or no body roll, something that is a vast improvement over Suzuki’s of old.
I mentioned the ALLGRIP 4WD system earlier. This would plainly be great in the Winter, particularly if you live in a hilly area. To access this there’s a small dial located between the front seats which enables you to choose the default Auto mode, Snow or Sport depending on your needs. I drove only in Auto mode & found it was perfect for my needs.
Will the Vitara attract the gaze of small businesses ? Business users have leased an awful lot of Nissan Jukes in recent years & the SME company car driver is a target for Suzuki with the Vitara. Does it stack up on economy & emissions ? Suzuki’s claimed combined WLTP figure for the 1.0 litre petrol is 39.4 mpg, so my 35.6mpg wasn’t that far away. WLTP CO2 emissions are high at 162g/km & I can’t help but feel that despite the anti- diesel brigade, any fleet customer doing 10,000 miles per annum, would be better off with a diesel, at least for now anyway. And of course there isn’t a diesel Vitara anymore.
Furthermore, from a cost perspective, perhaps the 4WD model with ALLGRIP & costing from £20,799 would be a little too rich for some fleet users, but the entry level 2WD versions start at £16,999 is a bargain & most certainly well worth a look, particularly when the competition available at this price are all substantially smaller in size.
A no more hairdressers 3/5.