Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

Update 1: Welcome

In the modern car market, there are SUVs and then there are SUVs – and this new Suzuki Vitara is the latter.

Suzuki Vitara, orange, with reveiwer Gareth Evans

Let me explain for a moment: I’ve just spent half a year getting to know the VW T-Cross – a car that’s based heavily on the Polo hatchback but with a slightly taller driving height. In other words, it looked rough and ready, but underneath had no more actual capability to do anything off road. It’s very much the former type of SUV.

But the Vitara is a completely different proposition. For starters it’s a Suzuki, which means you get lots of clever, honest engineering that works. Take the manual gearbox, for example: it’s simple, yet brilliantly built and a joy to use.

And the cabin is full of buttons, which might sound like a strange comment, but too many cars nowadays have functions like driver-assistance features hidden in menus in touchscreens or on the instrument panel. This means distraction from the road, whereas in the Vitara it’s a simple button push. Simple, elegant design.

Suzuki Vitara interior

However, I’m not saying it’s a basic car either. It’s rammed to the gunwales with kit, in fact. Highlights from the spec sheet include:

That’s quite a spec of car, considering its list price is £27,349, and that includes the sole option on the car – the £800 Solar Yellow paintjob with contrasting black roof.

And it’s certainly a head-turner. I actually really like the way this car looks – my erstwhile colleague Richard Kilpatrick said it’s got a whiff of Range Rover about it at the front end, and I’m not going to disagree there. That places it perfectly in the context of my countryside lifestyle.

Suzuki Vitara in countryside

As we head through harvest season the roads are only going to get slipperier now, so I’m glad of the all-wheel drive system and its switchable modes, which offers Sport and locking differential options as well as the default Auto. I’m not sure I’ll make much use of Sport, which sends extra grunt to the rear axle, but the Lock mode will certainly help in ice and snow. This prevents the wheels from spinning independently, providing far more traction in slippery conditions.

In fact, I’m expecting this car to be exceptional off road. The name Vitara has long been associated with terrain-tackling 4x4s, harking right back to the 1980s. I do wish it had a spare wheel on the rear still, for the proper mud-plugging look, but instead there’s an inflation kit on board to keep weight low and aerodynamics as optimised as possible for low fuel economy. Let’s hope I can avoid any serious punctures this time around.

Suzuki Vitara profile, orange

So to conclude, I’m overwhelmingly excited to spend some time with this yellow peril. Keep an eye out for more updates as I get to know it, and start to set it some challenges…

Mileage: 601

Fuel economy: n/a


 

Update 2: First impressions – love at first drive?

The first time I clapped eyes on this car I couldn’t help but smile. This was the start of six months with a machine I fully expected to be as capable and fit-for-purpose as any car I’ve run in this job. Suzuki’s become well known for its engineering and nowadays its cars come crammed with kit.

From a looks perspective I think it’s fabulous, with proper SUV looks to indicate this is more than a rebadged hatchback – I’m fully expecting the Vitara to tackle tough terrain better than pretty much any other car of a similar size.

In fact the only bit I don’t like about its looks are the badges on the back. They look like a rushed effort and while I know what they all mean (in order, Vitara is its name, ‘hybrid’ means the engine has extra electric assistance and ‘AllGrip’ means it’s got four-wheel drive) the designs don’t blend particularly well. It’s a shame because in all other aspects I like the aesthetics of the car.

The Suzuki Vitara has AllGrip four-wheel drive and is also a mild hybrid

Anyway, upon opening the driver’s door for the first time something else struck me: the door itself is very light. Presumably this is one of the reasons this car is such a bantamweight in its class, because at just 1275kg it’s an extremely light 4x4 SUV.

That means it should be great on fuel, and coupled with a mild hybrid system I’m expecting impressive economy stats, particularly when I go on longer runs. Suzuki claims 45.4mpg

My first drive was around 25 miles to a hawk conservatory near Rutland Water, and within seconds behind the wheel I was thrilled to be driving a manual again. Suzuki always seems to get this right: the shift feels solid and all controls are perfectly laid out. It’s a joy.

Before long I’d discovered another thing I absolutely adore – this 1.4-litre BoosterJet engine. It may ‘only’ have 130hp, but the way it delivers it - smoothly in an almost linear fashion thanks to the cocktail of turbocharging and mild hybrid technology – makes it hugely appealing for those who enjoy driving.

Suzuki Vitara, rear 3/4 view, orange

And I do. I’m not ashamed to say that I’d found and engaged Sport mode on the first drive.

In the Vitara this isn’t as cynical as in many other modern cars, though. Often you simply get more noise, heavier steering and sometimes more eager engine response, but not here. Suzuki’s system adjusts the way the all-wheel drive system works, genuinely making it feel like a sportier model altogether. It can do other things too though: the Snow mode is configured for slippery conditions, while a Lock mode prevents one wheel spinning away all the engine’s output by diverting torque to the others. Auto is the default setting, where the car figures it out for itself. It even has hill-descent control to make going down steep slopes easier to tackle.

Suzuki Vitara drive mode selector

I’m very excited about the prospect of trying all this out over the coming months. Stay tuned for my next update to find out how things are going…

Long-term test: Suzuki Vitara
Mileage
1,001
Real-world economy
37.5mpg, 83% of official
Official economy / MPP 45.4mpg / 8.1
Joined Parkers
September 2020