Suzuki's all-new Vitara hit our shores in November last year and it was received by fellow journos with a good amount of praise. There's a few models on the lineup and they're all good cars, but my Suzuki bias aside, that's to be expected from the brand. The last Vitara had an almost 10 year production run, kicking off in 1988, but for reasons unknown to me, it fizzled out of production and didn't have a replacement. Odd, because the car was very popular in all the countries Suzuki supplied it to. It appealed to many different types, it was a mini 4x4 crossover of sorts that was introduced as the bigger, more powerful and more spacious brother to the SJ (Samurai). I'm just guessing here but I think the introduction and popularity of the Jimny may have been one of the reasons it wasn't replaced. The Jimny was similar in size but it was more modern and more capable off road, the Vitara was not quite a softroader but not quite a thoroughbred overlander either. Suzuki did introduce a Grand Vitara, but that was a few echelons higher in the ranks, it was aimed at a different market and wasn't really a relation to the first Vitara. That means that even though the Vitara range started back in 1988, this 2015/16 model is only the second generation of the nameplate.
You can catch up on the different models in the new Suzuki Vitara lineup by clicking HERE where you'll find my launch and drive article, but my test model for the week was the GL+ model which has the same 86kW/151Nm M16A motor that's used throughout the range. This one features a 5-speed manual gearbox and is front-wheel drive, but there is a 6-speed auto available too. The daddy of the range is called the GLX AllGrip which is 4WD with a 5-speed manual. Don't let the fact that it's a front-wheel drive put you off, with the new Vitara's dimensions and ride height it's clearly made to handle some rough terrain and even this version manages well. At the launch we took the Vitara on roads and mountain passes that your average streetcar wouldn't manage. Of course the AllGrip was better at the rocky and slippery stuff thanks to the different drive modes available.
Don't let the fact that it has a small capacity motor fool you though, I'm convinced Suzuki badges 1800cc or even 2000cc motors as 1600cc. The M16A is nice and responsive as well as being quite revvy. If you nail it from the line and carry on through the gears, it just carries on picking up speed as if you're in a small hatch. There's no hesitation, no flat spots, no sign of struggle. It's quite odd but not a bad thing. The 5-speed 'box has great ratios too, so on tarmac you're driving a streetcar with streetcar characteristics, but on gravel and mild offroad it's also not found wanting. The gearbox is smooth, swapping cogs sees things click into place just right. Steering feedback is good too. It's no Swift Sport, but it doesn't have that disconnected feel that bigger cars usually do (to me anyway). The Suzuki Vitara is the same as the rest of the Suzukis I've reviewed, it's really good when it comes to fuel consumption. Suzuki claim the 2WD will use 5.8-litres/100km and I had it constantly using 6.5-litres/100km, which is good for something this size up at altitude, especially taking my driving style into account.
There are two GL Vitaras in the lineup; GL and GL+. The main difference being that with the GL+ you have the option of having the AllGrip four-wheel drive system. The new Suzuki Vitara is very customisable on both the interior and exterior. There's an Urban accessory pack and a Rugged accessory pack available - this one was Rugged. Additions include a large front skid plate, large side body mouldings, a rear skid plate and loading edge protection. You also get daytime running lights that slot in next to the spots in that black section on each side of the front bumper, but as you can see, that wasn't specced on this car.
Inside there are loads of things to personalise, and this GL+ had the plastic bits throughout the cabin colour coded to match the exterior paint. It looks quite funky, I'm a fan. I'm not sure if it would suit all the body colours, but for me, it works in red. The clock in the centre of the dash can also be customised, instead of the usual digits, it can be had with Japanese characters instead. The interior trim, look and feel is pure Suzuki. The cloth seats are comfortable and they adjust to the perfect driving position, well together with the tilt & telescope adjustable steering. All the necessary features can be found in the Vitara GL+, Bluetooth, steering mounted cruise control, a decent sound setup, USB and AUX input, a front-loader and an easy to use radio. Again, as with the SX4, the only thing I feel the Vitara is really missing is a touch screen infotainment setup, but everything else it has more than makes up for it. Safety is sorted too with ABS with EBD, ESP, brake assist and 7 airbags (front, side, curtain and driver's side knee) all resulting in a 5-star NCAP rating . Power windows, single zone climate control and those kinds of things are all present too of course.
The new Suzuki Vitara is clearly aimed at people who have an adventurous streak, people who like to travel and see the country, and it has the capacity to carry everything and the kitchen sink too. There's 375 litres of boot space expandable into the cabin withy a 60/40 folding seat configuration.
The all-new Suzuki Vitara is a worthy contender in the class, even if you're looking at it through unbiased eyes. It looks good inside and out, performs great and the pricing is right about where it should be. In the varied Suzuki range, the new Vitara comes in just below the SX4, but I'd put this above it. It just feels like a bigger and better car to be, and if we're talking looks, this one wins hands down. I was asked by quite a few people if I was driving the a new Evoque, as if the fat, shiny, in your face Suzuki S on the front grille was no longer there. Sure, it may looks sort of similar, but the design cues on this Vitara line up with those on the original 1988 version, so there's been no copying anywhere. I guess if people are mistaking it for an Evoque of sorts, that's definitely not a bad thing and proves my point about how good the car looks.
Want one? Well the base GL model starts at R239 900 and the daddy GLX AllGrip starts at R319 900. The entire new Suzuki Vitara range is backed by a comprehensive 3-year/100 000km warranty and a 4-year/60 000km service plan with a 3-year roadside assistance package. For more info, head on over to the Suzuki SA website.