Suzuki£€™s good value Vitara has made an impressive reputation for itself over the last 25 years for providing on and off-road abilities at a reasonable price. The original Vitara was launched with hard and soft-tops; something Land Rover is about to try with the Range Rover Evoque. Now for 2016 there£€™s a sportier Vitara S model powered by a new 1373cc 138bhp turbocharged direct injection petrol engine which rather amusingly is called Boosterjet.
It comes with a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox for £20,899 or £22,249. Both versions deliver improved performance and fuel consumption compared to the 1.6 petrol engine which continues in other models. Carbon dioxide emissions are slightly lower at 127g/km (128g/km for the auto) but not enough to save money on road tax.
Acceleration from rest to 62mph is chopped from 12 seconds to 10.2 seconds but the car feels more lively all the time. Overtaking is less fraught because maximum torque has increased dramatically from 115 lbs ft at 4,400rpm to 162 lbs ft from just 1,500rpm. That£€™s an increase of 41% over the 1.6 and shows the value of a £€˜blown£€™ or turbocharged engine.
Power is up by 17% and fuel consumption improved by a claimed four per cent to 52.3mpg on the combined cycle. Top speed has risen from 112 mph to 124 mph.
Suzuki has spiced up the S model£€™s styling with gloss black 17in alloy wheels, a modified radiator grille design, rear roof spoiler, satin silver door mirrors and red interior stitching. The dashboard is classier too and brightened up by a satin silver dashboard and red trim features so the car does feel higher quality though there are still some hard plastics on the dash and door panels.
The only way we could zoom the sat nav in and out was using a phone style £€˜pinch£€™. Radio volume was controlled by a touch virtual slider that didn£€™t always work with my fingers. Suzuki’s AllGrip four-wheel drive system is standard on this model.
The driver can select from four driving modes. Auto adjusts automatically to traction conditions; snow is for slippery surfaces, while lock is intended to get the car free in snow, sand or mud. Sport uses the all-wheel drive system Audi-style to improve handling and responsiveness and the way you can throw the car around a slalom course is something I doubt owners will ever experience.
Overall the S feels peppy rather than fast but nimble and confident even on wet roads. We drove the Vitara S in the north of England on country roads and even the exciting Croft race track though this seemed odd as even sports cars can feel out of their depth on tracks.
Suzuki was also offering rides in Radical race cars, which use Suzuki motorcycle engines, but I am not keen on writing about passenger seat experiences so declined. Obviously you can £€˜push£€™ a car more on track but there was a minder on board to keep us sane.
The Vitara proved stable and predictable but the brakes were starting to feel £€˜soft£€™ after a few laps. The Vitara£€™s a lot of car for the money with standard equipment including LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps, rear parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, information display, rear privacy glass, DAB radio, navigation system and a whole lot more.
Believe it or not but Suzuki now makes more cars than it does motorcycles.
Verdict Fully loaded SUV with smarter looks and great new engine