Looks – 7/10
The new Vitara is a bit of a looker, and the S takes this to a higher level. There are many small touches on this car that go a long way. On the outside you get 17-inch black alloy wheels, but these didn’t suit the black paint; it was all a bit too dark. The front end is bold and aggressive, with the honeycomb grille and sculpted front bumper housing LED daytime running lights. On the S there is a read headlamp surround, which is subtle nod to this being the sporty model. Silver mirrors offer a similar hint. At the back there’s a roof spoiler, although for me there should be an exhaust tip too. Privacy glass is a nice touch, although I think the whole car would look better in a silver or red.
On the inside the Vitara S was a bit hit and miss. I like the half leather seats and with plenty of red stitching on the seats, steering wheel and gear gaiter there’s a sporty atmosphere to the cabin. The red accenting extends to the heater vent and dial surrounds. On the dashboard the addition of grey and gloss black trim offers a nice contrast. However some of the interior plastics weren’t so nice. In particular the door trims were scratchy and not in keeping with the rest of the interior. Some of the switchgear feels a bit cheap too. The media screen looks good though, and I quite like the presence of an analogue clock; a small but effective touch of class.
Handling/Performance – 8/10
The engine in the Vitara S is a new one, and it’s called the 1.4-litre BoosterJet. Sounds like it should be a fighter plane! This is a 1.4-litre petrol engine with a direct-injection turbocharger. It produces 140PS and 220Nm of torque. With the 6-speed manual gearbox 0-62mph is dealt with in 10.2seconds, and the top speed is 124mph. That doesn’t exactly sound like a BoosterJet, but this engine is really good. It feels much sprightlier than the figures suggest, and revs really well. Keep it higher in the rev range and it feels rather quick. With the amount of power on offer at motorway speeds you’re constantly surprised that this is only a 1.4-litre; it cruises very well.
The Vitara S gets Suzuki’s ALLGRIP 4-wheel drive system, which gives a sure-footed feet to the handling. Even in greasy or wet conditions you can plant your right foot and have confident the Suzuki will keep you heading in the right direction. The Vitara S rides well; naturally there is some pitch on corner entry, but that’s to be expected when you get a tall car like this. The seats give good cornering support and the steering feels responsive. And yet the Suzuki is comfortable. We went for a trip with 4 adults and a child in the Vitara S, and everyone was comfortable over the motorway and A-road elements. Bravo Suzuki.
Economy – 9/10
Thanks to its small engine, start/stop technology and some clever engineering in terms of weight saving, the Vitara S is pretty economical. This is a big car with a 4WD system with a kerb weight of just 1,210kg. That’s impressive when you consider a 5dr Fiesta Titanium is around 1,050kg. Combined fuel consumption is 52.3mpg which will save you money at the pumps. The CO2 emissions of 127g/km put the Vitara S in VED band D. That’s £110 a year road tax, and free in the first year. Not too bad for a sizeable 4WD.
Practicality – 10/10
As I mentioned earlier the Vitara was more than comfortable enough with 4 adults and a child in. you could probably get 3 adults in the back but this might not be the most comfortable on a long drive. The car itself would be though. It eats up the miles, and the higher driving position makes motorway driving nicer. The boot is large, and there’s a lot of headroom for those who are less vertically challenged than myself. Standard specification on the S includes keyless entry and go, satellite navigation, rear parking camera, adaptive cruise control with radar braking, DAB digital radio and LED projector headlamps. It’s great to live with, and copes with everything from a trip to the shops to a rainy B-road excursion with ease.
Fun – 8/10
So is the Vitara good fun? Well I think it is. It has character, and that makes it a likeable car. It’s not the fastest car, nor is it the most luxurious. But it’s gutsy. The engine performs beyond its cubic capacity. The technology outpaces its price tag, and the whole car is a credit to the new direction Suzuki is taking. Surprisingly I found myself taking the scenic route home in the Vitara S. I enjoyed the B-road drive; dropping a gear or two and exploring the outer realms of the rev range. That’s not what I expected of the Vitara S and that surprise factor certainly puts a smile on your face.
So that’s my week with the Vitara S. Suzuki’s new fun take on the compact SUV is certainly a great car for the family. It is packed with technology, and the new BoosterJet engine is a true delight. And then we get to the crux of the matter; price. The Vitara S starts at £20,899 on the road, and I think that represents excellent value for money. Factor in a 3-year, 60,000-mile warranty and it looks a good package. If you’re looking for a new family car and want some 4WD capability then this could be the car for you. So why not pop into a local dealer or log on to the Suzuki website for more information. The Suzuki Vitara S; epitomising the ‘S’ in ‘SUV’.
Total Score – 42/50