It’s been over thirty years since the first Suzuki Vitara sprung to life in the crossover SUV market and boy do I now feel old. I remember it as a two-door ‘holiday’ convertible that felt synonymous with sun, fun and lively upbeat pop music – sigh. Anyway, four generations later (the Vitara not me), the ‘all-new’ 2016 model has just received a facelift so Suzuki gave me the chance to look it over and maybe relive my youth – guess which one of us has aged better!
As I just mentioned, the Vitara received a major ‘all-new’ going over a couple of years ago, from chassis to new direction in styling, so if I’m honest I wasn’t expecting huge leaps or giant advances but in many ways, the current model doesn’t need it. However, just like the Vitara itself, my ‘Turbo’ model had been given plenty of attention.
There are mixed feelings about the 4th generation’s design, some feel that it’s airing towards the safe, I tend to disagree. Some of the SUV’s lines may be a little more subtle but the category itself is beginning to unclutter their vehicles now. Mind you, something that isn’t so subtle is the Vitara’s vibrant paintwork options. My vehicle came in a stand-out Horizon Orange with a black roof that enlivens the vehicle no end, but there are also options such as Galactic Grey, Cosmic Black Pearl (can I hear a pirate’s argh) and Atlantis Turquoise.
The front grille now comes with vertical slats and in my case chrome accents. This effect has been added to the lower fascia and sparsely around the rest of the crossover. The front bumper’s lighting surrounds have been enhanced and the rear diffuser has been turned into more of a feature.
The interior has been given a bit of a spruce up and a more premium feel. Soft-touch surfaces across the cabin and my seats came bathed in leather and suede type covering and armrests. A new 4.2-inch LCD screen has been added to the instrument cluster, offering up a variety of vehicle information plus the safety and driver’s aid team have been given a rousing too.
My Turbo has been given a camera and laser-based forward-detection system, rear cross-traffic alert, weaving alert, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning. Plus the brakes have electronic brakeforce distribution and brake override should you need them.
So the updates are all well and good, ok so they are great. But has the extra weight and bling made the new Vitara sluggish and old (like its driver)? Well I’m happy to report, no. The 1.4 Litre BoosterJet engine is still peppy and fun, sure it’s not the fastest kid on the block but it’s lively and in tune with the vehicle itself. 103 kW of power and 220 NM of torque is fine and dandy for this all-rounder and with fuel efficiencies of 5.9 – 6.2 L/100km combined and CO2’s around 138 – 145 g/km it’s pretty good for your wallet and environment alike.
But it’s the handling that’s still a pleasant surprise. I’d forgotten what fun the new Vitara is to drive. It’s ride height and narrow hips make it easy to merge into the busiest of commuter traffic (plus the added driver and safety features have got your back) but on the open road and in particular the country roads north of Auckland, the Vitara comes alive. It’s an enjoyable crossover that impresses in the turns, offering a confident drive even in the wet.
A near week-long experience with the Vitara, unfortunately, didn’t reawaken my youth, I still groan as much as my parents did at my age (possibly even more). However, the crossover Suzuki has matured far better. There’s more character to its face and (unlike me) its body has become less cluttered. Like me, it recognises the danger that surrounds our everyday drive, but the Vitara sure does react a lot quicker. Thirty-years, four generations and a facelift that’s really improved its smarts – Viva the Suzuki Vitara.