Saturday 10 December 2016

Suzuki hitch colours to mast with new Vitara

It's all about standing out from crowd

Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30

Suzuki Vitara hatchback
Suzuki Vitara hatchback

One thing you'd never have to worry about with the new Suzuki Vitara, if you choose the colour on my test car, is finding it in the airport or supermarket car park.

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I texted my daughter to say I was in the (vibrant) 'greeny/blue' car (with black roof) awaiting her return from her great Camino adventure. "Oh! I see you", she replied from far away and long before I could see her. "How could I miss you?"

Well, she could have done so if it weren't for the eye-popping colour because there are so many of these compact crossovers around these days.

The Vitara has all the hallmarks of the genre - smart, upright, showing a little bit of muscle and, the main distinguishing area, a really strong front/grille. But the colour is a huge help, I've no doubt. There's a striking red (two-tone as well).

Suzuki are unabashed in saying they want you to notice because they need to create awareness around a model whose name has been effectively absent for nearly seven years. They are hitching their colours to the mast, if you like.

Indeed, so anxious are they for some attention that they have also taken what I consider to be a bit of a gamble.

They are pitching prices at what they call an 'introductory' offer level until October, when they may rise by as much as €1,000. I've said before I'm not so sure about that strategy because it has implications for residual values - but it is their money.

At the end of the day, what really matters is the car and one of the core elements of a Suzuki has to be that you expect, and get, first-class engineering. This felt well put-together and for a motor that doesn't look that big we had plenty of room in the cabin while the boot took the large, large Camino-wardrobe suitcase with a fair bit to spare.

I wasn't mad about the seats, however. I thought them narrow and lacking thigh support; smaller frames found them comfortable.

Most crossovers are 2WD but mine had what they call AllGrip (all-wheel-drive).

I didn't ostensibly need it, the weather was excellent for the most part, but I'm sure there were bits and pieces of extra traction which maintained me on a better driving line.

With larger diameter wheels and higher ground clearance, you can choose from four modes depending on conditions and whether you are on or off-road. But you'll pay nearly €28,000 for it. Incidentally, there is no spare wheel as standard. I suggest you bargain for one.

You can, though, add all sorts of personalisation - nearly as much a buzz word as 'crossover' these days. There are Urban and Rugged packs (for the real off-road look) that cost an extra €900. And there was a fairly intuitive touchscreen for audio, phone etc. And I enjoyed the slick shift with the 6spd gearbox. An automatic is scheduled - I mention it because so many people now want one.

I had the 1.6-litre diesel (120bhp), which had plenty of pulling power; yet I was a bit disappointed with its vocal nature in the lower gear ranges.

I did not like one element of the dash either - the three Cyclopian-like slots on top of it (two air vents, one clock) which disproportionately took from an otherwise decent attempt at compact packaging of instrumentation and dials.

My test model was stuffed to the gills with stuff. I liked the way they interspersed slots of the prevailing exterior colour onto dash and doors.

I like the look of the Vitara. Every time I got in and out I'd mentally remark how much it was like a slimmed-down Range Rover Sport with that sloping roof.

It was decent to drive, not that dynamic but comfortable and easy to get around town in especially. And parking was simple. These are the elements that matter in the every day. So many people find parking such a difficult task.

And just remember when you do get a slot for this, you won't have to worry about finding it on your return.

Facts & figures

Suzuki Vitara compact SUV/crossover 1.6-litre diesel GLX, AllGrip 4WD (120bhp); 2WD 106g/km, €190 road tax; 4WD 123gkm, €270 road tax). Price: €27,995. Range from €19,995.

Standard equipment includes auto air con, cruise control/speed limiter, 16ins alloys, seven airbags, DAB Radio/USB/Bluetooth, electric windows.

GL+ adds Smartphone link audio and navigation system, 17ins alloys, rear privacy glass. GLX adds adaptive cruise control, radar brake support, panoramic sunroof, LED projector headlights, special 17ins alloys, suede seat fabric.

My side of the road

I know I give out a lot about Irish drivers but, you know what, there are times we are positively angelic.

I've driven in several European countries these past couple of weeks and it was a relief to get back. At least most people here recognise your right to be on the road in the first place. Maybe we're not so bad after all.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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