Common sense is king

Road test: new Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDiS SZ5

Suzuki’s new Grand Vitara, available in three and five door guise is the latest in a respected line (almost three million units) of practical, non-premium 4x4s. From the outset, it’s clear there’s a difference between Suzuki’s Grand Vitara and other vehicles with raised ride height and superficially ruggedised appearance. The Vitara puts itself forward as a ‘proper’ off-roader and to support this, there is some extra capability in the form of a centre differential lock and low range transfer box.

There isn’t much competition in this slightly utilitarian niche; other manufacturers favour the softer approach but Vitaras are often spotted out in the countryside, a daintier but able alternative to the heavier 4x4s and cheaper than anything with a Land Rover pedigree.

Cosmetically, the new Grand Vitara has grown-up. Along the flanks, there is some similarity with the Land Rover Freelander although its nose isn’t held quite so high and carries a rather plastic-looking grill. The Suzuki still carries its spare wheel in a rucksack on the back. While not as tidy, it maximises interior space. Prominent wheel arches give it a more muscular stance than before; a stylised ‘roo bar integral with the front bumper completes the tidy look.

Inside, the Grand Vitara is fairly plain and conventionally arranged. Continuing the practical theme, it feels hard-wearing and substantial; there are no surprises with instruments or switchgear either – everything is exactly where it should be. The three dial arrangement is particularly easy to read and the audio/sat-nav module is one of the more straight-forward to use. My only criticism here is the digital display within the speedo which is mainly empty and changing from outside temp to total vehicle mileage to trip readings involves prodding the button on the binnacle through the steering wheel – so best not done while driving; something on the end of a stalk would have been ideal – or displaying most/all the info on the fairly large screen. And while the total range is available, current journey mpg is not.

Of note is the keyless ignition. There’s still a stub to turn where an ignition key would ordinarily go – seems pretty pointless having the feature at all if there isn’t a sexy start-stop button on the dash. The other feature which I find strange is the Suzuki Grand Vitara rearheated seats. These get hot enough to boil one’s nether regions before settling down to a sensible temperature. That said, I did welcome them every day this week with the sub-zero temperatures and biting wind.

Driving the Grand Vitara is like the rest of it – easy and with no surprises. It holds the road well-enough, has a fairly flexible five-speed ‘box but has unremarkable performance. The engine is a little chattery, especially when cold but passengers are reasonably well isolated from any vibrations. It doesn’t have the most sophisticated ride in its class, with many road surface imperfections being transferred to the cabin. Partly this adds to the rugged feel but can be a little tiring on longer runs. On an unmade track, the Grand Vitara felt at home, eating up large potholes easily and feeling sturdy. While only a little slippery and use of the centre differential lock wasn’t really necessary, the low range did an excellent job of holding back the speed on descents in the absence of any electronic braking aids.

The Grand Vitara has a slightly utilitarian feel about it, even in leather trim, and there are some features which are a little coarse. However, its ease-of-use, no-nonsense build and off-road abilities should endear it to those needing that extra capability.

Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.9 DDiS SZ5, at £23,875. Grand Vitara range starts at : £15,995 for three-door, £18,895 for five-door

Power: 125 PS (4,000 rpm), torque: 300 Nm (from 1,750 – 2,500 rpm), emissions: 174g/km CO2 (band H), 0-60 mph: 13.2 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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