Vitara - the easy option
There is little doubt that the development of small capacity automotive engines has undergone bit of a technical renaissance in recent years. Teensy weensy little motors with all manner of performance accoutrements, are emerging from factories equipped with enough performance puff to ensure glowing reviews.
However, and this is a big however, much of this impressive performance is accompanied by technical wizardry and mechanical complexity, which brings added service costs and raises questions about long-term reliability.
There can be little doubt that most vehicle owners prefer reliability and reasonable running costs in a package that won’t let them down in the performance and looks arena. For buyers looking to tick the reliability and cost boxes with some crossover panache thrown into the mix, the Suzuki Vitara is an option that merits serious consideration.
At the heart of Suzuki SA’s Vitara offering is a 1.6 litre normally aspirated engine with outputs of 86kW and 151Nm. One could, I suppose, argue that this is a relatively modest power output. That being said, it is a point that becomes moot when you drive the Vitara.
My experience with our GL+ 2WD (Red with Black Roof) test unit on a lengthy road trip to the North West and Limpopo provinces did not reveal an overly sluggish engine. In fact, considering we were four adults with a fair amount of luggage and equipment crammed in the back, I would rate the performance as pretty good.
Sticking to the legal speed limits produced fuel consumption that was not far off the manufacture’s advertised 5.8 (litres/100km) and thanks in part to the slick five speed gearbox, there was nary an overtaking manoeuvre that had me wishing for any of the accoutrements, I referred to in the opening paragraphs of this article.
I was most definitely impressed was the ride refinement of the unit. The roads in the northern part of the country can be pretty bad at times and I was pleasantly surprised by the way the vehicle handled the difficult surfaces.
If I had to venture a guess I think the sensible use of high-profile tyres along with clever suspension design are probably the two key factors in this regard. Whatever the reason, the result is that I reached our far flung destinations less tired that I thought I would be.
No doubt the comfy driving position and impressive all round visibility (something I often find lacking in crossovers) contributed to the relaxed driving experience.
As one would expect from a Japanese manufacturer the interior is solidly put together. Admittedly if it were not for a touch of colour on the gear knob and areas surrounding the gear lever, the interior would have been a pretty sombre affair.
Everything falls to hand fairly easily and the ergonomics of the dashboard and ancillary controls is good, bordering on the intuitive.
As expected the little comforts; like tilt and reach adjustable steering, remote central locking, Bluetooth and USB enable sound system and a powerful aircon are all present and accounted for in the Vitara. As we had the GL+ spec unit on test we benefitted from additional items such as 16 inch alloy wheels, colourful interior and exterior touches, climate control and cruise control, to name but a few.
As can be expected safety is well catered for and there are seven airbags, ABS, ESP, and the much coveted five-star EuroNCAP rating.
Did you know that in 2015 Suzuki produced 3 034 081 cars? This equates to some 346 cars an hour. Pretty impressive for what many people consider to be one of the ‘smaller’ car manufacturers -incidentally Suzuki has 44 dealers nationwide.
I am sure that amongst all the cars produced by Suzuki there will be a fair number of new Vitaras because they offer good refinement, reasonable pricing (R273 100 at the time of testing), quirk-free driving and an attractive design.
There is probably not much more you could ask for (or need) from a crossover.