Cape Town - Creating a unique identity is as difficult for teenagers as it is for cars. At times you'll be competing against peers that have established themselves over the years (read: the popular kids) and newcomers to the field i.e the tiny kid who had a growth spurt and now plays first team rugby.
Suzuki's new Vitara is eager to grab its share of the SUV market and eke out its own local following. At its core, it's a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) with crossover elements, offering both hatchback and SUV traits.
Being a crossover means you can be more versatile compared to your rivals, but you risk neglecting one or more traits that could be the deciding factor as to whether or not a vehicle becomes a favourite among consumers.
The Vitara 1.6 GL, though the base model in the range, has a funky design. Its striking black paint is complimented by a snow white roof. The two colours create a rather unique combination for a ‘Suzie’ and gives the vehicle a youthful persona.
At the front, the huge facia is dominated by a large grille featuring Suzuki's trademark 'S' badge. The headlights are huge with oversized fog lights positioned below.
The rims might appear plastic, but they're actually 16” alloys, finished in a grey/charcoal hue. At the rear, the design is finished with a large window and its brake lights incorporated into the roof. The design is let down by the exhaust.
Overall, the Vitara has an assertive, high-riding presence and definitely stands out.Image: Charlen Raymond
Really dull inside
Sadly, the interior of the Vitara is a let-down. The dashboard, facia and doors are covered in harsh plastic and a feeling of solidity lacks in the materials. The dull, grey/black cabin creates a sombre ambiance; completely at odds with its vibrant exterior.
Passengers can look forward to a prodigious amount of space thanks to its SUV-dimensions. Both driver and front passenger have ample leg room and can shift about without getting in each other’s way. Rear passengers have adequate leg-, knee- and headroom.
The cloth seats are relatively comfortable, but not great for long journeys. The radio/cd player is Bluetooth and AUX and USB compatible, and comes equipped with four speakers.
Overall, the interior is lackluster. It's adequate, yet nothing to be excited about.
The properly good stuff!
The Vitara's biggest asset is its versatility. The vehicle is roomy, the boot is a decent size and can swallow luggage without hassle. Remove the boot cover, drop the rear seats and utility space increases from 375 litres to a maximum 1120 litres. With its foldable rear seats the Vitara transforms into a great family vehicle. Boxes, crates, holiday luggage... most items can be squeezed into the voluminous rear.
The biggest issue with its boot is due to its bulging rear wheel arches, stowage of large items is hindered.
If there ever was a sign that the Vitara needs an upgrade, its tired drivetrain would be it. The 1.6-litre petrol engine produces 85kW/151Nm and seems like a #TBT to engines of yesteryear. The engine feels sluggish and lacks oomph to propel it forward in a decent manner.
Its front-wheel drive setup receives power via a five-speed manual gearbox, and the driver feels disconnected from the overall experience.
It performs adequately during normal driving conditions, but lacks urgency on the road.
The Vitara’s ground clearance of 185mm means that it can rule gravel roads, but any off-road duties should be avoided.
Suzuki claims a fuel consumption figure of 5.8 litres/100km, though it's unlikely that owners will reach 800km on its 47-litre fuel tank.
Overall, the Suzuki Vitara is not that bad of a car, but compared to other offerings (Ford EcoSport, Renault Duster) in its segment, it struggles. That being said, if you're in the market for a no-frills, spacious SUV at a reasonable price, the Vitara could be the vehicle for you. It’s not fast - performance is not even brisk… - but it's capable of transporting its occupants from point A to B (and all the way to Z) along with ample kit and minimal fuss.
If useable utility space is what you’re after, then the Vitara makes a strong argument.
Price: R261 900
Ford EcoSport 1.5 Ambiente - R239 900
Renault Duster 1.6 Expression - R239 900