Ian Lamming is electrified by the latest incarnation of the Suzuki Vitara.
Do you remember the old Suzuki ‘jeep’?
How many times were we told it’s not a jeep, ‘Jeep’ is a trade name and it’s American not Japanese? Well when you consider that Suzuki has now been making 4x4s for 50 years I think we could all be forgiven for the faux pas, especially when the other is now owned by the Italians, ha, ha, ha.
That’s a lot of years, a huge amount of development by Suzuki and more than enough time to hone the latest offering into a pearl among cars.
The latest offering to come from the Suzuki stable is the Vitara Hybrid and a fine car it is too. The time-served part-time 4×4 is there in the form of Allgrip technology but the new Vitara – now in its fifth year of production – seeks to help save the planet by being a mild hybrid.
So the 1.4 litre turbo-charged petrol engine now comes with a 48V generator and lithium-ion battery which helps share the load, increasing performance, cutting fuel consumption and minimising CO2 emissions.
It is all very clever and super-smooth; you are not even aware of which is doing what as you drive in town or on the open road. You simply enjoy the ride, visit the fuel stations less often and enjoy the warm cosy glow (ironic, I know) of preserving the ice fields.
When the crazy climate does decide to kick in throwing at us four seasons in one day, Allgrip is there to keep you safe with its ability to switch from two to four wheel drive automatically should the sensors detect a loss of grip at any of the four corners.
Just below the slick six speed gearbox is a knob with which you can move from auto to sport, which increases 4WD input down the twisties, to snow and lock to extricate you from the trickiest and slipperiest conditions. Niftily, the system adds little weight and therefore impacts only slightly on economy and performance – you can tell Suzuki have been in this game for five decades.
They know a thing or two about motors as well. The 1.4 litre turbo packs a real punch, as much as a normally aspirated 2.0 in fact, making Vitara fun to drive.
There is something about Suzukis that make them endearing, some mystical quality that leaves you feeling well and contented. They feel just right. There is plenty of smooth performance, decent economy, safe and entertaining handling and bags of equipment for a price that doesn’t break the bank – could have been built by a Yorkshireman in fact.
Inside is bathed in mood-lifting light thanks to a deep waistline and loads of glass, including a huge sunroof. At night the cabin is nicely lit to help fatigue and the new headlights are daylight-replicating LEDs, just fabulous for keeping you on track and picking out the badgers and deer in their illumination.
The interior is well-made and the dash dominated by useful touch-screen that looks after the hi-fi, satnav and aircon. There’s a clock too, a round one with pointers – excellent!
Interior proportions are generous and the boot is a fair size too.
New-look sporty grille, smart alloys and gentle redesign of the bodywork actually make Vitara smart and appealing.
There’s bags of tech under the skin which monitors the world around you to keep driver, occupants and other road users safe from harm.
So in 50 years’ time we will be saying, ‘do you remember the old Vitara – wasn’t it a great Suzuki 4×4’.
Suzuki Vitara Hybrid SZ5 Allgrip
Engine: 1.4 petrol
0-62mph: 10.2 secs
Top speed: 118mph
Combined MPG: 45.4
Transmission: Six-speed manual
CO2 g/km: 140