Suzuki Vitara – the legend gets a new dress, some new tricks

By Miles Downard

The market growth that the compact SUV segment has seen in the last couple of years is unlike any other. In fact it’s downright remarkable. So for now I’ll put aside the fact that the compact SUV is my biggest pet hate at the moment, and get down to some facts.

Fact, manufacturers who aren’t competing in the SUV market are losing out. The fastidious Alfa Romeo president pointed that out in the company’s revival plan. Jaguar’s boss has said the same. And just about everyone else out there is already in the game.

Fact, forty-five percent of the consideration that compact SUV buyers give to a car is related to its design. Only 8% relates to its practicality, and even less to any 4×4 capabilities it might possess.

This sees Suzuki aiming its next shot right into the middle of all those facts with this, the new Vitara. It has what I’d consider the most dramatic television advert of all time, good looks and some traditionally sound Japanese engineering to boot. All of which looks to lure the typical compact SUV buyer.

And yes the Vitara is indeed a contender in the compact segment, fitting neatly below the Grand Vitara in both size and price. That said it is a little larger than most of its competition, never a bad thing.

Under the hood you’ll find a 1.6 litre four pot petrol motor, good for 88kW and 156 torques, with the option of a 5 speed manual, or a new 6 speed automatic gearbox. Typical of any SUV, there’s a dose of ground clearance thrown into the mix, 185mm on the Vitara and to round things off there are both front wheel drive and All Grip (read temporary all-wheel drive, with locking centre diff) variants.

Having spent a good part of last Friday flogging the Vitara round some dirt roads in the Cape (in the picturesque surrounds of George and Kynsna) I can attest to the fact that the Vitara comes with all of Suzuki’s normal goodness. It feels solid as a rock, will most likely survive nuclear fallouts, has a generous cabin and sips fuel as frugally as anyone could hope for. Drives well too, albeit in need of a few more horses under the bonnet.

Overall a nice little machine. Perfectly suited for your typical compact SUV buyer. The trick now is to see how many bums they can get in those seats, a deal which Suzuki sweetened by offering a boot-full of standard kit in the price. It really is a compelling offer.

Suzuki Vitara pricing:

1.6 GL Manual R239 900

1.6 GL+ Manual R269 900

1.6 GL+ Manual ALLGRIP R291 900

1.6 GLX Manual ALLGRIP R319 900

1.6 GLX Automatic R299 900