SUZUKI is in a good place at the moment with global sales booming at a time when the new car market is struggling.
The Japanese company has also been rated as the top automotive brand for customer service and trust in the UK by the Institute of Customer Service – ahead of 25 rivals.
Suzuki now offers some form of hybrid technology in all its vehicles and has just introduced full-hybrid engineering into its popular Vitara. The good-looking compact SUV has style and character and the new powertrain is sure to make it even more attractive.
The Vitara has offered 48-volt mild-hybrid technology for some time alongside a 1.4-liter petrol engine but customers can now opt for the full-hybrid version, which offers extra fuel savings – a bonus when pump prices are at an all-time high.
The new variant has a four-cylinder 1.5-liter petrol engine and 140-volt lithium battery combined with a 24kW electric motor.
It is only available with Suzuki’s AGS (Automated Gear Select) system, which feels like an ordinary automatic but with weight savings. There are also paddles so the car can be driven like a manual if you feel the urge.
Available in two trim levels – SZ-T and SZ5 – the latter has the option of ALLGRIP 4WD and prices start from £25,499 and rise to £29,299.
As both trims are generously equipped the only way to personalize your car is to opt for two-tone bodywork that adds a black roof and £835 to the final cost.
A styling refresh a few years ago modernized the Vitara’s looks, adding new bumpers, a new and bigger front grille as well as smart LED lights – so there are no visual changes this time.
The full-hybrid system delivers 115PS of power and 138Nm of torque, enabling the ALLGRIP 4×4 to reach 62mph in 13.5 seconds before going on to a top speed of 111mph.
It officially delivers an average fuel economy of 48.4mpg and Suzuki reckons this will save owners about £10 a month in fuel costs if they average 10,000 miles a year.
I spent some time with the range-topping Vitara in a very wet Snowdonia National Park and it was ideal for the job. It coped easily with the foul weather and offered stacks of grip on the twisting roads.
My car was good to drive and only became a bit noisy when you pushed it really hard or tackled a very steep slope. It cruises quietly at motorway speeds, with little noise inside the spacious cabin, and it is also happy plodding about town.
The Vitara is more about comfort than speed but it does handle and ride well. New Eco and Standard drive modes alter the handling and efficiency of the car, and the ALLGRIP set-up also has its own selections – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock.
Auto is for maximizing the fuel efficiency and uses two-wheel drive as a default. The Sport mode adds some fun while Snow offers extra grip on slippery surfaces and Lock can be used to free the car if you get stuck.
The SUV sits on reasonably sized 17in alloy wheels and, combined with the suspension changes, the result is a comfortable ride on most surfaces. The steering remains a little light but it is accurate and ideal for town work.
There is room for four adults and, thanks to its higher stance, the Vitara offers good all-round visibility. The boot can take 289 liters of kit and this increases to 642 liters if you drop the 60:40 split rear seats. There is also lots of storage space in the cabin.
A compact infotainment touchscreen controls a six-speaker sound system, sat nav, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, a rear-view parking camera and smartphone connectivity, while the cockpit switches and dials are easy to use and read.
Suzuki has introduced lots of extra safety tech over the years that comes as standard. The list includes a forward collision avoidance system with auto emergency braking, a blind spot monitor, lane departure prevention, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.
There are stacks of rivals in the Vitara segment but none of them offer the same levels of standard equipment for the same money. Suzuki also has a solid reputation for reliability and that is why its customers stick with the brand and show their satisfaction.
I have always liked the Vitara’s blend of style, practicality and value for money and, with the full-hybrid technology on board, it is better than ever.