Suzuki is the latest car company to shun diesel and concentrate on petrol engines. Their new Vitara, which I drove recently is only available in a 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre petrol engine.
The Japanese company has a loyal following in Ireland, with an age range reported to include first time buyers to pensioners downsizing. Earlier this year Suzuki gave their Vitara an upgrade with new engines and more technology and safety features included.
The main external changes are at the front which now has a more elegant look with redesigned grille and lower bumper, while the rear lamps have been redesigned with a distinctive LED display.
My test car came in bright red with a black roof and two silver rails which looked very well. I really like the red and black look; Skoda used similar colours in the Monte Carlo version of their Fabia and it also stood out from the crowd. There are two other new colours available
Solar Yellow Pearl and Ice Greyish Blue.
In the previous version of the Vitara there had been some criticism regarding the quality of the materials uses, especially the low level grade of the plastic. There is no mistaking the plastic feel is still on the inside of the doors and on the dash, but overall the decor has really been improved.
You now get a new seat trim design and there is suede seat fabric fitted on the top of the range SZ5 models. The upper instrument panel is upgraded to a soft touch material and the instrument cluster now features a central colour information display.
After weeks of driving cars with electric hand-brakes, it was a pleasure to have an old-fashioned type handbrake in the Vitara. My family all enjoyed the high riding position as you get a good view of your surroundings, especially in rural areas. And there is plenty of leg and head room for five adults.
There is a decent sized boot, but sadly not spare wheel, just the dreaded repair kit. There are a lot of safety items included like childproof rear door locks and ISOFIX child seat anchorages. You also get the engine stop-start system which is now available in most new cars.
At the launch of the Vitara in Dublin a few weeks back a Suzuki employee told me that in England they sell a lot Suzuki cars to NHS staff which certainly helps their overall sales. In Ireland if a company provides ‘company cars’ they tend to opt for executive cars. But I am sure if our public health nurses were given the option of a company car they probably woudn’t mind driving a Vitara also.
There are three trim levels available, starting with the SZ4 which starts at €20,995, then the SZ-T from €22,995 and the top of the range SZ5 with a starting price of €26,495. My 1.0 litre SZT version cost €23,890. Also available in 1.4-litre manual and automatic. Road tax is a bit steep at €270, but presume that’s because the new version of the Vitara is only available in petrol.
I liked it and thought it was very lively around town and reasonably comfortable on the motorway. The 1.0-litre engine was frugal and residuals are reported to be very good.