Suzuki Vitara: Off the beaten track

  • We get down and dirty with our long term Vitara
  • You’d be surprised what the car is capable of off-road
  • ALLGRIP four-wheel drive system exceeds expectations

There are plenty of cars today that look like they’d be pretty handy off-road but in fact their extra ground clearance and big bumpers are merely just for show, proving to be more fashionable than functional. 

That's not the case with our long-term Suzuki Vitara though as it comes with the firm's ALLGRIP four-wheel drive system which means the car should be able to cope with a lot more.

To find out just how much, we travelled to an off-road course in Somerset to put the Vitara through its paces.

It certainly looks the part with its 185mm ground clearance, silver skid plates, big bumpers and 17-inch alloy wheels and inside features a rotary dial in which you can choose four different driving modes. Auto is for normal front-wheel drive which will decide for itself when a bit of help from the rear wheels is needed Sport sharpens up the throttle response and steering for a racier drive and Snow is available when you reach more rougher off-road terrain.

The last mode is ‘Lock’ which is ideal to help the car get out of deep mud situations because it forces both axles to work together for the best traction. You can also use the Hill Descent Control system when in Lock mode which uses the brakes to help the car descend down particularly steep hills under total control. It's important to remember though that if you use the handbrake with Hill Descent on, it will disable the system.

Our test car is fitted with a four-cylinder 1.6-litre diesel engine, which offers 118bhp and 320Nm of torque, as well as offering some compelling running costs figures. It also has enough power to help the car climb tricky inclines and the extra traction and grip in Snow mode helps stop the car from rolling backwards.

Thanks to the Vitara's small turning cycle, the car was able to manouvre round tight bends and as you can see in the pictures, on the off-road course, a very big tree, with ease. The extra ground clearance really helped the car to avoid any bodywork damage from any large rocks or big holes on the track too.

Country trails and muddy pathways proved a piece of cake for our Vitara, and that's all most will have to tackle.

When we took on some steep descents and inclines inside the old quarry we were off-roading in, we were really impressed with how capable the car was. It was sturdy and impressively agile. The Vitara tackled the terrain with confidence and the ride was suprisingly good with the suspension managing to absorb obstacles remarkably well.

The only thing we didn’t test was how the Vitara travelled in water - apart from the deep(ish) puddle seen above.

It’s important to remember that the Vitara is seen more as a soft off-roader, a car which will be ideal when the worst of UK weather hits providing plenty of grip and composure in snow, ice and heavy rain conditions.

It’s not meant to be driven properly off-road, however it has proved to us that if you end up having to divert off the beaten track and get stuck in trickier terrains, the Vitara has the tools and the ability to be able to handle it.

Mileage: 849.9

Fuel economy: 46.3mpg (calc)