The new Suzuki Vitara will double as an urban runaround and rural workhorse, says Ed Coles
The new Suzuki Vitara SZ5 Allgrip has the potential to be a good rural/urban crossover. First impressions are that it looks fun — it has certainly changed from the original almost beach-buggy exterior, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s actually quite easy on the eye; from the side there’s an element of Range Rover Evoque about it. Suzuki has stepped things up a bit on the styling front of late, and I for one welcome that.
Style wise, if a nice shiny red one isn’t your cup of tea, fear not, 11 colour options are available — with a mix of body and roof colours there’s something for every taste. I’ll come back to options shortly, let’s find that trusty old feed bag and take a look at the undercarriage of the Vitara’s latest incarnation.
The first thing you notice is that it looks slightly less agricultural under here than previous Vitaras. Suzuki has done away with the solid rear axle set-up in favour of driveshafts. There is a fair amount of electronic voodoo going on with the Allgrip set-up.
It has three settings: eco, sport and snow. Essentially, it electronically alters the percentage of front- and rear-wheel drive. The diff-lock function is electrical so there is no secondary lever to play around with.
The other thing that sticks out is the front bumper — it does sit a bit low, so we might have to be a bit careful negotiating lumps and bumps. At the rear end, it doesn’t look like we will have any worries.
On opening the bonnet we are met with a dinky little 1.4 turbocharged petrol engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. Despite its size it still houses 138 little horses, which is more than enough to propel the Vitara anywhere we want to go.
It is also available with a two-wheel drive, 1-litre engine, which produces an impressive 108 little horses. But the SZ5 version we are testing is more suited to Shooting Times readers’ needs.
The boot space is quite good. To use the standard Shooting Times measurement, around half-a-dozen full feed bags would fit in the back, while there is enough room for your canine sporting companion and kit for a rural adventure.
There are also some side dividers that you can remove, giving enough space for 30in barrels to fit in snugly. Any bigger and you might have to remove it from the gun slip and break down your long-barrelled gun, but that’s not much of a hardship.
Bells and whistles
There are many bells and whistles as standard with the new higher-spec Suzuki Vitara SZ5. All the usual suspects are there, with a few added ones. There is a DAB touchscreen stereo, which includes satnav, Apple CarPlay, front and rear parking sensors, rear camera, keyless entry, lane-departure warning, dual-sensor brake support, hill hold and hill descent control, and some rather nice half-leather seats.
The interior is quite smart and looks and feels just as good as any Bavarian offering. Suzuki has definitely upped the stakes here.
Fit for purpose?
Driving around the country lanes certainly put a smile on my face. The little 1.4 motor is very nippy and the car handles well — you forget you are in an SUV. It definitely feels sporty and that’s before you put it into sports mode, which splits the front and rear drive equally and does feel very, well, sporty.
Overall it feels stable and it almost encourages you to push it hard. Likewise on the motorway, it feels very ‘car-like’ with little body roll and it is comfortable on a long journey.
So we’ve made it to our rural adventure start point. What’s it like off-road? With snow setting selected and diff-locked, away we go. The new Vitara, like its predecessor, is actually very good off-road — it handles the bumps and ruts well.
It does feel a bit front-heavy, but at no point have I felt I’d get stuck, even with road tyres. Negotiating through the wood is a piece of cake and if needs be I could comfortably use it to carry out my morning checks around the shoot. I wouldn’t hesitate in taking it picking-up for the day, or any other rural activity, for that matter.
The Vitara SZ5 starts off at £22,499; adding the Allgrip 4×4, which is a fairly reasonable extra £1,800, takes it to £24,299, and to be fair there’s a decent amount of kit for your money. There are lots of extras you can have fitted to personalise your own Vitara and you can spend quite a bit of time selecting vehicle configuration options. These range from different front grilles to side mouldings, and are not overly expensive.
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Conclusion – Suzuki Vitara SZ5
In summary the Vitara is pretty good, meeting the needs of both the urban runaround and rural plaything — it’s only the front ground clearance that could hold you up. But it is rather fun and smile-inducing.