Suzuki may not be the first 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, excellent reliability & a fleet package that may also surprise you.
The Vitara was updated in 2020 & in March 2020 saw further updates, primarily with a new 1.5 petrol engine introduced with full Hybrid technology. The 1.5 litre normally aspirated engine, is fitted with Suzuki’s ASG ( Auto Gear Shift ) as standard, with two hybrid drive modes available, Standard & Eco.The 1.5-litre petrol engine features a 33bhp electric motor fed by a compact 0.84kWh battery for a total output of 113bhp.
SZ-T , SZ5 or SZ5 ALLGRIP 4WD. SZ-T features, seven airbags, LED headlamps, USB Bluetooth, Traffic Sign Recognition, Blind Spot Monitor, Adaptive Cruise Control, auto air conditioning, front & rear electric windows, keyless entry & start, 17″ silver painted alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, Smartphone link audio & SatNav. SZ5 & ALLGRIP also offer 17 ” polished alloys, suede seat upholstery, panoramic sunroof & front & rear parking sensors.
The whole point of the latest 1.5 full-hybrid engine is that it lowers emissions to just 121g/km on 2WD models, with a combined fuel economy of 53mpg. On our AWD test car the economies a little lower at 48.4mpg.
The exterior updates from the 2020 refresh remain, namely the lower part of the front bumper was redesigned with a new grille featuring vertical, rather than horizontal slats. The rear lights were updated with LED units.
If you’ve driven any current Suzuki, the interior will be familiar to you. It’s all well made & looks & feels built to last. The plastic dash tops & dash front add some style & are of good quality. The plastic used lower down, on door pockets & the glove box front aren’t quite as nice. None the less, the cabin’s a pleasant pica to be, with comfortable front seats & plenty of room for driver & passenger. The rear space is good too, with plenty of room for two six foot adults seated behind the front seats. The centre rear seat though isn’t as generous.
There’s a host of safety features fitted to all Vitara models, including Dual Sensor Brake Support, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition & Adaptive Cruise Control. These are either accessed from the steering wheel, or from a swathe of switches to the right of the steering wheel & have the benefit of making the Vitara more competitive against the competition.
Getting comfortable inside the Vitara’s 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 iPhone to the Vitara’s Bluetooth as well as to Apple CarPlay.
The central console contains the old-school 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.
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.
Behind the wheel of the Vitara, you’ll find the steering light, making the Vitara easy to drive. You simply point & go. The 1.5 full-hybrid petrol engine isn’t fast, with a 0-62mph time of 13.5 seconds. When you do decide to accelerate, there’s a definite delay in the gear changes when you put your foot to the floor.
Talking of which, in Normal mode, the engine does sound a little coarse, but select Eco mode & the electrification comes into play, making it more refined & allowing the car to run below 50mph on electricity for short distances. There’s also regenerative braking on offer which also aids fuel economy.
For longer motorway jaunts, the inclusion of adaptive cruise control makes life easy. On some local B roads & along windy country lanes the Vitara’s suspension dealt well with any bumps in the road & even feels supple, working well with the power steering to give passengers comfortable ride. Furthermore, the squat Vitara offers little or no body roll & at 1,275kg it’s relatively light.
Very well equipped, is incredibly practical, cheap to run & to service. Comes with a bullet-proof reputation. The new Full-Hybrid engine is also an improvement over the previous 1.4.
Despite the new engine & even with all of the tech & safety, it’s beginning to look old & lacks style compared to it’s competitors. The six-speed auto box lags between gear changes. For corporate customers a plug-in would have been brilliant.
Will the Vitara attract the gaze of small businesses ? Business users have leased an awful lot of SUV’s in recent years & the SME company car driver is a target for Suzuki with the Vitara. From a cost perspective, with the range starting from £25,497 for the SZ-T, it’s competitive. Perhaps the main negative, is that the new 1.5 Full Hybrid engines doesn’t offer a lower BIK, than the 28% in 2WD it comes with.
On the plus side, it’s more spacious than almost al of it’s competitors being more spacious than these, comes better equipped & packs a serious punch as a proper-sized family car. The addition of extra safety & connected Apps are also a plus. And, as Auto Express will validate, Suzuki also offers impressive reliability.
A Home Bargain 3.5/5