Suzuki Vitara Hybrid
By Bill McCarthy
It could be argued that the Vitara is a bit of an everyman car, with broad appeal ticking virtually all the boxes. It is a stylish looking compact SUV that attracted attention, especially in its two-tone livery, is powered by Suzuki’s latest Boosterject/hybrid combination, is hugely practical with various boot space combinations and is more than capable off-road.
Add to that an attractive price tag and you can see the appeal.
While Suzuki has now linked up with Toyota to share models and technology, the Vitara remains a mainstay of the Suzuki brand.
It’s a tough segment to operate in, but Suzuki is keeping pace with technology and during its 50th anniversary year in 2020 the Vitara received an even higher specification with 48V Hybrid technology, while at the same time the latest ALLGRIP ‘Select’ four-wheel drive became available as optional equipment on SZ-T and SZ5 models, again marking 50 years of Suzuki 4×4 technology.
The firm is proud of the design with tapering roofline with silver roof rails, the familiar clamshell bonnet raked windscreen and distinctive chrome grille, chrome lower bumper, smart headlight clusters and LED daytime lamps. To the rear it features smart wraparound clusters with LED display and privacy glass.
The contrasting black roof, door mirrors and wheel arch guards give it a particularly eye-catching appeal.
The interior is smart and airy, with solid and robust switchgear. The centrepiece, touchscreen, although looking slightly dated now, controls a number of major functions including infotainment and navigation and connectivity via smartphones.
There’s also bags of headroom and legroom is good, while the seats are comfortable and fully adjustable and the commanding driving position is a bonus.
The single-choice powerful turbocharged 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine, mated to the auto gearbox, delivers pace and economy. It is quick off the mark, hitting 60mph in just over 10 seconds.
Pretty impressive for a four-wheel drive car. The engine set is paired with Suzuki’s lightweight Integrated Starter Generator, or ISG, 48v lithium-ion battery and 48V-12V (DC/DC) converter. These drive some low power components and adds an extra boost to acceleration.
The ISG is charged by the battery which is in turn re-charged as the car brakes and decelerates.
The base model includes seven airbags, assisted braking; collision avoidance system, alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps for low and high beam, DAB Radio with CD, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, auto air conditioning and front and auto headlights and wipers.
The SZ-T model driven here adds 17-inch alloy wheels, white stitching for seat trim fabric, Smartphone link audio and navigation system, keyless entry with start button and panoramic sunroof.
Practicality and versatility are key with this kind of vehicle and it offers bags of stowage space. With the rear seats in place, there are 375 litres of space available increasing to 1,730 with the rear seats folded. There is also a hidden compartment space under the boot floor cover.
Handling is decent with little evidence of wallow when cornering and the ride is comfortable enough.
The car is also packed with safety kit to deliver a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Equipment includes seven airbags, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention; blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
There is plenty of competition out there in this segment, but the Vitara remains an impressive performer.
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 SZ-T Hybrid
Mechanical: 129ps, 1,373cc, 4cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Combined mpg: 45.2
Insurance group: 23
CO2 emissions: 142g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 mile