Suzuki‘s Vitara has undergone something of a revamp of late: not just visually, but in terms of its modus operandi, especially in the case of this new Vitara S model.
It shares the same angular, 5-door body as the ‘normal’ Vitara, and that’s a good thing as it really looks quite smart, especially from the front with its distinctive ‘face’. The Vitara S’ grille is vertically straked where the standard car is horizontal, and there’s some smart 17in black wheels and a little rear spoiler to differentiate the two.
What’s most impressive about the Vitara S, though, is the new 1.4l turbocharged engine that it comes with; it’s the only engine available and Suzuki apparently have no plans to make it available in the rest of the Vitara range. A shame? – possibly, but it keeps a definite line of separation between the Vitara S and its lesser brethren.
138bhp and 220Nm torque aren’t figures that’ll impress many people down the pub these days, but in a car that weighs just shy of 1.2 tonnes, they keep the Vitara S lively enough. It’ll get to 62mph in 10.2 seconds and onwards to 124mph, but it’s how readily available power is at the lower end of the rev range (max. torque is from 1500rpm) that’ll satisfy, especially when a quick overtake is called for.
That Boosterjet engine and 6-speed manual ‘box combination might not be the subtlest in the world, with fresh waves of power bursting onto the scene in intervals, but it’s definitely all about the fun factor. And not fun that’ll leave you with buyer’s remorse, either, as it still manages a claimed 52.3mpg on the combined cycle.
Every Vitara S comes with Suzuki‘s Allgrip system as standard, sending varying levels of traction to all four wheels as required. This isn’t really news from a firm that have a long history of respectable off-roading ability, but the Vitara S isn’t really about mud-plugging, despite the Allgrip’s snow mode and locking diff; it’s more the sport mode that seems relevant.
Select sport and the steering gets a tad heavier to keep it feeling focussed, but more importantly, throttle response is quickened and, whilst still not feeling like it’ll grip or drift like a Focus RS, the Vitara S gathers pace like a 4WD warm-hatch, only understeering on the limit or on fast, slippery surfaces.
Inside the Vitara S there’s a few splashes of red for added sportiness, but it’s otherwise a standard Vitara. There’s plenty of space and it’s comfortable enough, but at 375 litres, the boot’s a bit pokey and the seats don’t feel like they were made for longer journeys.
Plenty of extras
The plastics used aren’t the best, as they’re also found in the sub £14K base-model Vitara, but they don’t feel right in a car costing just-shy of £21K. What is impressive, though, is how much kit the Vitara S comes stuffed with: there’s hill descent, hill control, tyre pressure monitoring and radar brake control, even if that is a touch primitive in its klaxon-horn style execution.
It also comes with keyless entry, auto lights and wipers, climate control, a rear parking camera and a great, easy to use infotainment system that incorporates Apple’s excellent Carplay. It’s fair to say it’s pretty stuffed with extras.
Is that enough to justify the Vitara S’ near-£21K price tag, though? Probably not to be honest; yes – it looks fresh, yes – it’s good fun, and yes – it’s economical, but it’s not quite fast enough to worry a hot-hatch, it’s not lofty enough for proper off-roading, and the lightweight feel and interior quality are a step too far for that kind of money.
By Ben Harrington
Specifications; Suzuki Vitara S, Engine – 1.4 turbo petrol, Transmission – 6 speed manual, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 138bhp, Torque – 220Nm, Emissions – 127g/km CO2, Economy – 52.3 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 124mph, Acceleration – 10.2s 0-60mph, Price – £20,899 OTR, £21,329 as tested
The Suzuki Vitara S is available now. For full details go to; www.suzuki.co.uk