Wednesday 22 November 2017

Suzuki's 'original of the species' Vitara returns after years in the wilderness

First Drive: Suzuki Vitara

Comeback king: The Suzuki Vitara looks well-equipped to meet changing tastes and driver needs
Comeback king: The Suzuki Vitara looks well-equipped to meet changing tastes and driver needs
Suzuki Vitara: the cabin is quite smart.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

IT is always good to see an old name coming back. And none more so than the Suzuki Vitara.

It nearly became a motoring dinosaur after the then-Government switched (rightly) to an emissions-based taxation system in 2008. It just wasn't prepared for the brave new world.

A handful were sold but mostly the Vitara - often dubbed the original of the compact SUV species - nearly became extinct because its emissions meant extortionate VRT and road tax.

Seven years on and the name - on a spanking new model - is back.

There is a 1.6-litre petrol (120bhp) and a 1.6 diesel (also 120bhp) with more than respectable emissions (106g/km for the diesel in 2WD and 123g/km for the petrol).

There are 5spd (petrol) and 6spd (diesel) manual gearboxes with an automatic to follow.

There is 2WD and 4WD, three trim levels GL, GL+ (the biggest seller) and GLX. And there is the starting price, as we forecast last week, of €19,950 (1.6 petrol GL).

Most buyers (70/30) will opt for 2WD but the 4WD is a decent operator (despite my foolish attempt to break new ground on road tyres and need a little tow).

Prices are being pitched at 'introductory' offer level until October when they are likely to rise by €1,000.

I'm not so sure that is a great idea because of what it might do to residual values but it is their strategy and they obviously have their own way of doing things in an ultra-competitive environment.

They are being up-front about the strategy. They want to get cars on the road so people like you and I will notice.

I think we will.

I was impressed not just with the look of the car which I think, and I don't care what anybody says, is a clever take on a mini-Range Rover Sport. There is a black-roof/cocoa body combination that I particularly liked.

But it is well priced and specced. Agreed, you don't feel it getting up to €23,000/€24,000 for your diesel (1.6 DDiS GL+ €22,995) but that's the territory you are realistically in anyway.

I expect the diesel GL+ to be the one most people will focus on.

The cabin is quite smart, though three slots in the centre facia on some models aren't that clever; and there was an excellent driving position.

Not so sure about the plastic on the inside of the doors, though. There's decent room in the back seats. A spare wheel is NOT standard. Bargain for one.

Standard equipment includes automatic air con, cruise control with speed limiter, 16ins alloys, seven airbags, DAB Radio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows and projector headlamps.

GL+ adds Smartphone link audio and navigation system, 17ins alloys, rear privacy glass.

And GLX adds adaptive cruise control, radar brake support, panoramic sunroof, LED Projector headlights, 17ins alloys and suede seat fabric.

Their ALLGRIP four-wheel drive system is an option on GLX versions (1.6 DDiS GLX €27,995).

The larger diameter wheels and the higher ground clearance helped off-road, despite my faux pas. The system has four modes you can use depending on conditions (though I don't think 'water paddling' is one).

And where would any new car be without personalisation? They've gone mad with this. As well as myriad bits and pieces you can have or add on the outside or inside, there are two Packs as well - Urban (GL+ , GLX) and Rugged (GL+, GLX), both costing €900.

They expect around 700 people to buy a new Vitara in a full year in a segment that is growing apace.

It has been a long way back for the Vitara. It's a different world but it looks well equipped to deal with it.

Indo Motoring

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