Suzuki joins the small Crossover club
Suzuki's little SUV combines winning traits of space, style and flexibility
If we needed any more proof that Crossovers are the fastest growing segment in the car market, the recent launch of five new arrivals confirms this.
Suzuki's fourth generation Vitara comes hot on the heels of the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, SsangYong Tivoli and Mazda CX-3 in the quest to be the ideal car for families who have outgrown the average hatchback.
It's more than 25 years since the original Vitara was launched, and while Suzuki may have revived an old name, this new version bears no resemblance to the original. Sleek and very stylish, there is more than a hint of current Land Rover design about the Vitara. The choice of colours are bold with four very striking two-tone options available. While orange metallic trimmed with a black metallic roof is the colour of choice for standing out at the school gate, there are more subtle options.
Head-turning looks are matched by an equally funky interior packed with clever details, including quirky air vents and circular clocks. Some of the fittings, however, feel a little plastic and the touchscreen is particularly fiddly.
The 375-litre boot comes with a very handy adjustable floor and is more than capable of handling the rigours of family life without too much fuss.
There are two engines to choose from, a 1.6 in petrol or diesel. Both manage to produce 118bhp but the diesel has double the amount of torque with 320Nm.
Available in three trims, GL, GL+ and GLX, prices start from €19,995 and go up to €27,995 for the flagship version, our test car, the 1.6 DDiS GLX ALLGRIP. Standard equipment is good, whichever trim you pick, but if you want four-wheel drive then the top spec GLX diesel is the only one to offer it.
The Allgrip system works by sending power to different wheels depending on the conditions you encounter, and a selectable snow option can be used for snow, sand or mud. Also available is a "Sport" option that diverts up to 20pc of torque to the rear wheels to give improved handling.
The 1.6 diesel engine does 0-100 in 12.4 seconds but feels punchier, with a top speed of 180km/h and more than enough power to blaze your own trail on the M50. The six-speed gear box is smooth and easy to shift, but the steering is a little vague, and at higher speeds, it is far too light.
The Vitara is competitively priced and, crucially for families, it's also very safe, earning a maximum five stars in the new, tougher 2015 Euro NCAP crash-safety test.
On the downside the interior is awash with harsh plastics but if you opt for the diesel with Allgrip you get a very capable off-roader. The new Vitara is the kind of car that Suzuki has built its reputation on and offers up an appealing package for those drivers looking to step away from the pack.