The original Vitara was launched 27 years ago. It was followed by the Grand Vitara which had built a serious reputation for itself, based on - in particular - its prowess on the black stuff. And although this new Vitara offers AllGrip technology, it does not have a low range, as does the Grand Vitara. Suzuki nevertheless claims it will surprise you on gravel, sand, mud and snow. Seriously though, in wet driving conditions an all-wheel-drive feature is always a blessing.
I tested the mid-range Vitara - the 1.6 AllGrip five-speed manual and it certainly did not disappoint. The range offers five model derivatives to choose from.
All new from the ground up
This is what Suzuki claims - it is all new - I like it! The design has been tailored to allow for much personalisation. So whether you want it to look as sophisticated as Tara Banks on the ramp, Schwarzenegger you know who, muscle mania, or perhaps a little of both - it is all possible.
The front end with its wrap-around headlights, muscular well-developed bumper with integrated skid plate and good ground clearance, presents a powerful and even somewhat intimidating presence.
The edgy shoulder line and the design line which links the wheel arches, add to a very dynamic exterior and attractive energy which can even be further enhanced depending on your choice of colour - a two-tone may just be the new trendsetter. And then, the wheels are right in the corners - imperative for stability and enabling designers to kit the Vitara with short overhangs.
The rear end is stylish and uncluttered. Overall it is a design which really grows on you - modern but still offering rugged confidence and perfect for the active and not-so-active urban or country dweller.
Does it need Cremora?
No - not inside or out! The interior is stylish - with or without the various optional colour inserts - finish and fit is good but I do think that the plastic door panels may be prone to scratches and rattles if you are a regular country-road traveller. The bucket-like seats and its snug and supportive fit around my body, is a winner. You will love it. Another benefit of crossover/SUV type of vehicles, is the higher seating position and improved all-round visibility. The Vitara’s road presence, from the driver’s seat, inspires confidence - probably also as a result of a firm but very accommodating suspension set-up.
Legroom in the rear is not compact at all. And fold down the 60/40 rear seat and you have nearly 700 litres of space for luggage and adventure activity gear.
Of course, the youngsters will immediately check for Bluetooth, MP3, USB connectivity - they will personalise the sound system and only then, will the steering and driver’s seat be adjusted. The Vitara offers all the luxuries and features of a sedan - it drives like one too. Seven airbags and hill-descent control - I tested it on a 4x4 track and it does exactly what it promises and at 10km/h - awesome!
The instrument clusters offer clear analogue dials, with trip info, fuel consumption and the rest. This is complemented by an analogue watch between the centre vents just above the centre console.
And then, right down to the left of the driver’s left hand and between the front seats, is a dial that allows one to choose between four driving modes: Auto, Sport, Snow or Lock.
The latter locks the limited slip diff to brake any spinning wheel and transfer torque to those wheels that have grip. Did I explore the latter? Of course I did, and it will surprise and impress you to no end.
I took the Vitara up my favourite bakkie test route - the notorious Uitkyk Road. The back end only stepped out once to have a look in the side mirror but it was easy and quick to correct (Annalize did not even notice) and certainly not a wake-up call because I was ready - waiting and expecting it to do it much more often than it did.
The Vitara is not easily spooked... catch my drift?
At the heart of things
All derivatives are powered by a 1.6-litre 86kW and 151Nm VVT engine with either the five-speed manual or six-speed autobox with manual override via paddles on the steering. I was most impressed with the fuel index though. When I collected it from the dealer, it indicated an average of 10.5liters/100km which I thought - well, okay?
My index at the end of the weekend registered 13.7km/litre and while cruising the open road, it hovered at just under 20km/litre. Impressive, don’t you think?
Suzuki engines are free-revving and comes to life above 3500r/min, so don’t be a sissie - stir it - often. Feedback via the steering and suspension, offers a perfect blend of confidence and exhilaration - but then, Suzuki’s intention is to offer fun and youthfulness in all its products and this new Vitara, offers loads of everything. Forget the Cremora, get the Vitara instead. It is a much healthier option.