We Like: Excellent ride quality, decent fuel economy, space
We don’t like: Could do with more grunt
Also consider: Ford Ecosport, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, Nissan Qashqai, Kia Soul
The Vitara was one of the vehicles that kick-started the compact SUV segment back in the late Eighties and, bolstered by a reputation for excellent reliability, it sold briskly in a number of markets worldwide. Now in its fourth generation, the Vitara name has been resurrected and we recently had the front-wheel drive 1.6 GL+ on test to determine how it stacks up against its competitors in the burgeoning compact crossover segment.
The Vitara is quite an attractive newcomer. It can be personalised with a choice of eight exterior colours, four roof colours and three grille finishes (only selected colours are offered on this GL+ model). The two-tone colour scheme changes things up further and if the standard look doesn’t meet your taste then you can opt for Suzuki’s accessory packages. The Urban Package offers chrome bezels for the foglights, subtle side body mouldings and a rear roof spoiler, for example, while the Rugged Package includes front and rear scuff plates, prominent side body mouldings, as well as load-bay protection.
The 1.6 GL+ rides on 16-inch alloy wheels and, by virtue of its 185 mm ground clearance, the Vitara can easily hop onto the pavement at your local shopping mall or, as some of our test team found, traverse a gravel road with relative ease.
The interior is conservatively styled. The cabin is mostly kitted out in grey plastic, but you can add some colour by choosing a coloured dashboard panel or contrasting surrounds for the analogue clock and air vents. The manually adjustable fabric seats are firm, but comfortable and can be adjusted for height.
The leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach and features toggles for the audio system, cruise control and Bluetooth hands-free telephone function. The audio system's display looks a bit dated, but it’s functional and easy enough to use. A USB port is provided for connecting devices. If you need space to store your oddments, you will find it ahead of the gear lever or in the glovebox and there are two cup holders up front, as well as bottle holders in the front and rear doors. Automatic climate control air-conditioning is standard on this 1.6 GL+ derivative.
One of the Vitara’s strengths is space and there’s quite a lot of it. Rear passengers, even the taller ones, are well accommodated by virtue of generous leg and headroom, thanks to the Vitara’s long wheelbase. Need space for goods? Not a problem for the Vitara. The claimed luggage space is a competitive 375-litres and there’s a false floor that deepens the boot even further for larger items. If that’s not enough, you can fold the rear (60/40 split) seatback flat, which will free up 710 litres of utility space. If you have little tots to transport, the Vitara also comes equipped with ISOfix child seat anchorage points.
Even though the Vitara’s interior may be described as conventional, it comes well specced with standard features and the build quality is solid.
All Vitara derivatives are powered by a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol engine that develops 86 kW and 151 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission, which is a pleasure to operate. Its action is so light that shifting gears feels smooth and effortless.
The performance of this Vitara is best described as workmanlike. Acceleration is not its strong point, but it has more than enough grunt for in-city commutes. With peak power available 6 600 rpm, harder acceleration is required to get the most out of the engine, particularly out on the highway where overtaking manoeuvres require a bit more planning. Despite its leisurely power delivery, the engine is otherwise quite refined.
The Vitara delivers a superb ride quality. By virtue of its raised driving position and light, quick steering setup the Suzuki is comfortable to drive in an around town and the suspension positively soaks up imperfections in the road. Ride quality of this calibre is usually associated with far more expensive cars; suffice to say the Vitara’s rivals will struggle to match its balance of handling and ride quality.
Buyers will be pleased to know that the Vitara is also frugal in its operation and Suzuki claims a respectable 5.8 L / 100 km for this derivative. During our test, we easily achieved 6.9 L / 100km, which is rather good.
The Vitara is a solid offering from Suzuki that represents good value for money. It might not excel in terms of performance, but it’s an honest product that offers decent space, flexibility and a good dose of standard features. With its exceptional ride quality and pleasing drive characteristics, the Vitara is well worth consideration.
Where most of the Vitara’s rivals have turned to turbocharging, natural aspiration in the Vitara strikes a decent balance between performance and economy. The Vitara feels like it’s built to last and the fact that it returns excellent fuel consumption makes it even more attractive. Buyers should also factor in reliability and after sales service into their purchasing decision and thankfully Suzuki excels at both.
This Suzuki Vitara GL+ is priced from R282 900 and is sold with a 3-year / 100 000 km warranty and a 4-year / 60 000 km service plan with service intervals set at 15 000 km.
Compare the Suzuki Vitara with its rivals: Suzuki Vitara vs Ford Ecosport vs Nissan Qashqai