With a coating of mud and assorted rural accoutrements to cover the bling, the new Suzuki Vitara S was soon part of the family, says Charlie Flindt
The new Suzuki Vitara S has been blinged up a bit, but with a good coating of mud it quickly became one of the family. Charlie Flindt is impressed.
For another motor just as at home in a muddy field, and continuing to fly the flag for no-nonsense country transport, read Charlie Flindt’s review of the Subaru Forester 2.0D XC.
SUZUKI VITARA S
Some test cars look happier than others in a damp, muddy farmyard. Within half a day of arriving, the Suzuki Vitara was very much at home. It had a fine coating of mud on the outside, a somewhat thicker one underneath and the inside had already gathered an array of January farm essentials: rope bangers, empty cartridges and more mud. The boot had inherited a dog bed, a dog guard and a bit more mud from our estate car.
But practicality has always been the Vitara’s speciality; it has concentrated on being a medium-sized off-roader with the minimum of flashiness but with a grown-up four-wheel-drive system that made it among the best in the dirt. It’s true that my “S” test car version of the latest Vitara had been blinged up a bit (glossy wheels, red piping, suede seats, etc) but it soon showed itself to be cast from almost the same mould.
It’s bigger than previous versions but still not huge. The interior is roomy, although two flatcoats and a Malinois (no, not a Hugh Grant film) made it noisily clear that the boot could have been larger. They approved of the rainproof top-hinged door – much better than the old side opener. The four-wheel-drive has had a bit of a makeover, too, losing low ratio and falling for the Land Rover trick of fancy names: “snow” is now the setting for sticky situations. Odd, considering that the experts said we’d never see snow again. There is still a diff-lock but I would have much preferred hi/lo/diff lock as my choices.
Trundling round the farm, the Vitara is excellent. Even on the road-biased tyres, we made great progress in the mud. The ground clearance isn’t up there with the big boys but in “snow/lock” the Suzuki felt unstoppable. The Vitara’s light weight and dinky little engine probably helped.
That little engine is a nerd’s paradise. It’s Suzuki’s new 1.4 litre petrol, annoyingly called BOOSTERJET (sic), which happily propels the Vitara almost silently through the slushiest mud and along the smoothest Tarmac. If this is the petrol-based future, now that diesel has moved, in only a couple of decades, from “Saviour of the Planet” to “Spawn of the Devil”, then it’s not all bad.
Other highlights? A lack of chrome, no sidesteps and a footrest that easily takes a chunky Wellington boot. Grumbles? Sometimes the Vitara feels a bit too lightweight – not just physically but also in the controls and steering. I will never like push button stop/start and the DAB radio/infotainment system flummoxed a Maths A Level teenager – and that’s unheard of.
When a test car leaves us, it’s always fun to see how long it takes to clear out our clutter from the interior. The longer it takes, the more welcome the car has made itself. Normally there’s a CD or two, a burger box and a car-parking ticket. After a session in the Suzuki involving bin-bags, damp cloths and a Hoover, I glanced at my watch. I think the Vitara set a new record.
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 S
♦ Engine: 1,373cc 4-cyl petrol
♦ Power: 140PS
♦ Max speed: 124 mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 10.2 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 52.3mpg
♦ Insurance group: 16
♦ Price: £21,999