Suzuki Vitara road test by Steve Rogers


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STAYING ahead of the game is what it takes in this crazy car world.

Who could have predicted that everyone would be buying SUVs, or that the family hatch would no longer be the king maker for car companies?

So here we are in 2018 and a clear path has emerged. We like driving high riding boxy cars, big or small, preferably with a petrol engine. Oh, and don’t mention diesel. That’s another shock. Who would have thought we would fall out of love with diesel power?

Like I said, you have to stay ahead of the game which is pretty much what little old Suzuki has done. It looked into the crystal ball a few years ago, saw what was happening and totally changed its line up.

It dumped four models and demoted Vitara. The big chunky off roader was reborn as a compact SUV taking on cars like Nissan Juke, Renault Captur, Jeep Renegade and Citroen Cactus. And it has worked.

Suzuki has been a brand on the move charging through the 40,000 sales barrier last year, still small numbers but the year on year increases have been big. Even though S-Cross has taken over the flagship role Vitara, along with Swift, are the two names we associate most with Suzuki.

Rebranding Vitara after nearly 30 years was a brave move that has paid off. It is not cute like a Renault Captur, or funky like the Nissan Juke, yet the shorter body with its lower roof line is pleasing to the eye.

And there is no big loss of space, in fact Vitara is one of the roomiest in its class with ample legroom front and back and the boot can swallow a golf bag and power trolley without dropping the back seat. The load area has an awkward step when the seatbacks are down but can be levelled out with the upper deck board which creates a small out of site storage area.

Suzuki moved with the industry trend to smaller, powerful petrol engines and have a cracker in the 1.4 litre Boosterjet. The pick up is much sharper at low revs, they reckon as much as 41 per cent better than the old 1.6, and stays lively up the rev band particularly when mated to the latest six speed auto which gives fast changes. Steering wheel paddles add to the fun for quick down changes and it should be good for mid forties as long as you are not too liberal with the accelerator pedal.

As the top of the range model, Boosterjet comes with a long spec list where the headline act is All Grip. This is the on demand four wheel drive system with its settings for auto (normal driving) sport, snow, and lock for when the going gets really tough.

Safety features include radar brake support, that’s for when you drift off into another world and fail to react to trouble (not recommended) and adaptive cruise control which is so useful in motorway roadworks governed by average speed cameras.

Vitara is competitively priced and it shows in the trim level which dips below some of its rivals. Take out the lightweight boot cover if you want to see where cost cutting comes in, and the plastic coverings are the shiny hard type yet there are no creaks or rattles so build quality is up to scratch.

Dashboard layout holds no surprises with easy heating controls although it takes a bit of time to fathom the workings of the touch screen. And a digital speedo reading needs to be added  to the information section  in the instrument binnacle. The maindials are clear even though there is no 30mph figure displayed, but with so many speed cameras drivers need all the help they can get.

Vitara needs to be on the list for people looking for a compact SUV. It looks good, has good space, drives well and has sprightly performance. With the way the SUV market is going there must be a gap for a Grand Vitara. What about it Suzuki?

Fast facts

Vitara Boosterjet S auto

£24,599 (starts £15,999)

1.4 litre petrol; 137bhp

0-62mph 10.2secs; 124mph

51.3mpg combined

Emissions: 128g/km

First year road tax £160

Insurance group 16

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