Suzuki Vitara1.6 DDiS ALLGRIP SZ5
Suzuki may not be the first brand name that springs to mind when you’re considering your next company vehicle. However, the renaissance of the Suzuki brand continues with the launch of their latest version of the Vitara joining the S-Cross in offering fleet customers two attractive options in the increasingly popular compact SUV market. I drove the S-Cross in 2014 & I really liked it. After spending a week in the Vitara I liked it as well & to be perfectly honest, for pretty much all the same reasons.
The new Vitara does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Range Rover Evoque, especially from the front, with a prominent front grille flanked by large headlamps at either corner.The Range Rover theme continues down the sides, with neat air inlets, muscular arches & attractive lines. The back though, is a bit more conventional & very similar to look at to the larger S-Cross.
Whilst Suzuki spoiled me with the SZ5 top of the range model, 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 SZ4 include stop/start, air-con, steering wheel mounted audio controls, USB, front fog lights, daytime LED lights, 3 spoke leather steering wheel, a tyre pressure monitoring system, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist function, ESP(Electronic Stability Program) & Hill hold control. Pretty impressive from a range that starts from £13,999.
My SZ5 test car added 17″ alloys, roof bars, rear privacy glass, radar brake support, emergency stop signal, rear parking camera, front & rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, a double sliding panoramic sun- roof, Smartphone link display audio, suede & leather seat upholstery & best of all ALLGRIP 4-mode 4-wheel Drive system. The SZ5 also gets a Land Rover-style hill descent control system.
Tin keeping with the current trends, the Vitaras cabin is nicely styled. The central touch screen infotainment & sat-nav is very intuitive & the standard black plastics on the dashboard are made of long lasting plastics. The black was lifted in my orange coloured test car by orange trimmed air-vents & clock edging. The suede & leather seats were comfortable & there’s plenty of room in the front for driver & passenger. The rear space is not as great with the panoramic sun roof taking up some rear head height & there not being a great deal of room for the legs of taller rear passengers. There’s a 385-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. The SatNav was intuitive & unlike many radios I could mention the DAB system in the Vitara was spot on. In the central console are located 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 an 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.
With two teenagers, & a dog, a cabin with cubby holes are important & the Vitara doesn’t disappoint with two large sized door pockets large enough for water bottles, two more bottle containers in the centre binnacle & space for keys & your phone underneath the heating controls. These kind of make up for a small shallow glove-box, just large enough for the car brochure & docs. 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 six-speed manual gearbox smooth & the steering light, making the Vitara easy to drive. You simply point & go.The 1.6 diesel engine whilst not the largest in this category, is surprisingly nippy even when fully laden, with good acceleration especially when overtaking on the motorway. We travelled to Beeston Castle on some busy B roads & along windy country lanes & although these were bumpy, the Vitaras 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 Suzukis previous Vitara range.
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 ? Suzukis claimed combined figure is 67.2 mpg. I drove 300 miles including in town, country & on the motorway & I averaged 50.9 mpg, a very respectable return, considering I did not try to drive the Vitara to conserve any fuel. CO2 emissions are good as well at 106g/km & the engine is Euro 6 compliant & falls into VED band B, which will also add to it’s appeal.
In the compact SUV market, the Vitara is up against not only the Juke but a host of other ‘pretenders’, including the Citroen Cactus, Skoda Yeti, Mazda CX3, Honda CRV & Renault Captur to name a few. All are competing not just for retail sales but for customers within SME fleet business well. What the the Suzuki offers is a combination of good looks, proven reliability, frugal engines & good value for money- a similar specced Juke will cost around £1500 more than the equivalent Vitara-. I drove the Skoda Yeti in 2014 & looking back at my review, averaged 46.2 mpg when I drove it for 250 miles, which is 5 mpg worse than the Vitara. Thinking from a cost perspective, perhaps the top of the range SZ5 model with ALLGRIP & costing from £19,499 would be a little too rich for some fleet users, but the entry level SZ4 is a bargain & most certainly well worth a look, particularly in diesel guise.
Thankfully, the Vitara is no longer the choice of the mobile hairdresser, but has instead become a worth while competitor in a very tough market.
A fun in the sun 4/5.