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, bullet-proof reliability & a fleet package that may also surprise you.
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 Volkswagen T-Roc, SEAT Arona & Citroen C3 Aircross.
The Vitara was updated in 2018, with a then choice of two petrol engines, a 1.0 litre & 1.4 litre petrol being offered. In 2020, Suzuki updated the engines again, this time opting for a 1.4 petrol Boosterjet hybrid-only version, offered across all three model specs; SZ4, SZ-T & SZ5.
The exterior updates from the 2018 refresh remain, namely 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 a host of new 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.
We were testing the 1.4 litre Boosterjet Hybrid All Grip SZ5 4WD version, with an OTR price of £26,549. All versions of the new Vitara come with 16″ or 17″ 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 SZ-T 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, bringing the range right up to date Apple CarPlay & Android Auto now feature right across the range.
Our test model SZ5 also featured a panoramic sun roof, keyless entry & start & with 17″ polished alloys. This was the 4WD version, featuring ALLGRIP 4-mode 4WD system featuring snow & sport functions.
Price wise, the Vitara range starts from £21,999 for entry SZ5, mid-range SZ-T from £22,999 & range topping SZ5 from £24,999. All are powered by the identical performing 1.4 petrol engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Maximum speed is 118mph, 0-62 mph takes 9.5 seconds & there’s 129bhp. on tap. CO2 emissions come in at 128g/km on all models, except the 140g/km on the ALLGRIP. WLTP combined fuel economy at 49.7mpg.
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. 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 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 i Phone to the Vitara’s 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-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.
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 1.4 petrol engine is nippy even when there’s more than one of you on board.
On a couple long motorway jaunts, where adaptive cruise control was excellent, I found that the cabin can be a little noisy. 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. Furthermore, the squat Vitara offers little or no body roll & I had no complaints from my passengers in the rear.
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. In October, I drove only in Auto mode & found it was perfect for my needs, returning an average of 44.3 mpg in my week in the Vitara.
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 £21,999, it’s a steal. Perhaps the only negative, is that the new 1.4 Hybrid engines doesn’t offer a lower BIK, than the 30% & 33% it comes with.
Our only criticism of the Vitara, its that up against the likes of the Volkswagen T-Roc, Citroen C3 Aircross, Skoda Kamiq, SEAT Arona & Peugeot 2008, it may lack a bit of style, but it counters by being more spacious than these, is 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.
With contact hire rates as we write, for the mid-range SZ-T starting at only £179 a month + vat, it is in our opinion, a veritable bargain & well worth seeking out.
A Home Bargain 4/5