Suzuki Vitara Hybrid
By Bill McCarthy
THE Vitara may be something of a veteran these days, having been around for more than three decades.
But looking at the 2020 version, you would not believe it was the same car with its sleeker design and hybrid technology.
If an SUV can be described as attractive, then The Vitara is a strong contender, particularly in this two-tone version.
Red, with contrasting black roof, door mirrors and wheel arch guards, it also features raked windscreen, familiar clamshell bonnet to complement the recently redesigned front grille, lower bumper, silver roof rails, and stylish rear lamp clusters. This year new LED design headlamps have also been incorporated for this hybrid model.
Engine choice is easy. It is powered by the efficient and powerful turbocharged 1.4 litre Boosterjet engine, mated to a Suzuki’s lightweight Integrated Starter Generator, or ISG, 48v lithium-ion battery and 48V-12V (DC/DC) converter to power some low power electrical components. All of this adds only an extra 15kg is added to the overall weight of the vehicle.
The ISG is charged by the battery which is in turn re-charged as the car brakes and decelerates.
It helps power electrical systems like safety features, air conditioning, Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity and electrical components that help the car to move.
According to the latest official WLTP figures, this can lead to a 15 per cent boost to fuel economy and a 25 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions. This was pretty much evident during a long and varied run to the coast where close to 50mpg was indicated.
It can also give an extra power boost to the petrol engine when pushed.
Suzukis are always great value for money with high levels of standard kit. The base model includes seven airbags, assisted braking, collision avoidance system, alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps for low and high beam, DAB Radio with CD, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, auto air conditioning and front and auto headlights and wipers.
The SZ-T model driven here adds 17-inch alloy wheels, white stitching for seat trim fabric, Smartphone link audio and navigation system.
If you want the bells and whistles and the option of four wheel drive, move up to the SZ5 which adds 17-inch polished alloy wheels, suede seat upholstery, keyless entry with start button and panoramic sunroof.
The interior centrepiece, the touchscreen, controls a number of major functions including infotainment and navigation. Other instrumentation feels sturdy and logical and is easy to use.
There’s also bags of headroom and legroom is good, while the seats are comfortable and fully adjustable, while the commanding driving position is a bonus.
A neat touch is the partial privacy glass to the rear.
The boot offers 375 litres of space, increasing to 1,730 with the rear seats folded. There is also a secret compartment space under the boot floor cover, with various oddment holders throughout the car.
It is a lively performer on the road with the combined power pushing the car to 60mph in 9.5 seconds, plenty quick enough for most needs.
It remains well planted and stable when cornering, with little evidence of body roll sometimes associated with SUVs. The only drawback is the light steering, which at times can feel vague.
The car is also packed with safety kit to deliver a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Equipment includes: seven airbags fitted, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention; blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
As hybrids go, the Vitara offers great value for money with comprehensive standard kit and a great reputation for reliability. It does look good too.
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 SZ-T Hybrid
Mechanical: 129PS, 1,373cc, four cylinder petrol engine and electric motor driving front wheels wheels via six-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Combined mpg: 49.7
Insurance group: 19E
CO2 emissions: 129g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 mile