by Ian Hind
The term ‘SUV’ was first used in the late 1980s to describe sports utility vehicles that were based on light truck chassis and were categorised by an upright stance, raised ground clearance, robust looking design and high towing capacity. Very utilitarian. Typical examples then were the Land Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser and the Jeep Cherokee. Launched in 1970, the Range Rover, the granddaddy of SUVs, in production to this day, remains the best of them all.
To gain a piece of this growing market segment, other manufacturers began to produce SUVs, albeit smaller, and cheaper, and so the Suzuki Vitara was born in 1988. The Vitara’s 2019 model is the fourth generation. The second and third generation were known as the Suzuki Grand Vitara, but now we are back to the simpler, more concise Vitara.
Strictly speaking, the 2019 Suzuki Vitara is categorised as a compact SUV. In line with its competitors, gone is the boxy shape of the original model which has been replaced with the curved roofline and raised haunch above the rear wheels that now epitomises modern compact SUVs. It is also about 5inches shorter, 3inches lower and 1-1/2inches narrower than the previous model, thus more suited to our narrow roads and making it easier to handle for those of you who are somewhat challenged in parking skills.
Not that the Vitara is indistinguishable from its competitors, with the traditional Suzuki front grille, redesigned for 2019. The all-white model that I drove is an attractive car, well designed both outside and in. Build quality is good, with even, narrow shut lines, smooth welded seams, no body rattles and doors that close with a satisfying clunk.
Powered by a 1.6l naturally aspirated gas engine, through a 6-speed automatic transmission, the Vitara is no slouch as it quietly nipped along, taking tight bends with no fuss. I know I was miles away from pushing it to its limits; nevertheless, I stayed within the speed limits and it handled well.
Comfort levels in the cabin are high. Well sculpted suede and leather seats with firm lumbar support meant I felt not a jot from my chronic sciatica. The view through the 3-spoke leather steering wheel to the instrument panel is completely uninterrupted. The 2019 model now has an armrest so that there is some arm support for long journeys, even with your hands on the wheel at the 10 to 2 position. At 164.5inches long, this ‘F’ Class car is a good size, and that is apparent in the cabin, especially when you sit in the rear. Even with the front driver seat pushed back halfway, I was comfortably seated with adequate leg room. The boot/trunk has a capacity of about 375l expanding to 1160l with the rear seats folded down. They also do the usual 60:40 split.
The 2019 Vitara comes with a bucket load of features. You can even spec the 4-wheel drive option, though why you would, beats me, unless you need to tow a boat trailer off a beach or wet slipway. Maybe. Other interesting features available include shift paddles, LED daytime running lights, automatic dim rear view mirror, smartphone linkage, a rearview camera (I am now of the opinion that these should be mandatory), roof rails, auto headlamp levelling, hill hold and hill descent control, and a panoramic sunroof. There are ten colours to choose from including the bi-tone, which has a different roof colour from the body. In the showroom, I spotted the Ice Grayish Blue body colour with Cosmic Black roof and thought that was really cool.
The full list can be had from the dealer. Prices start at $43,995 for the 2-wheel drive mono-tone. For a test drive and a chat contact, Auto Solutions, St John’s Road.