Turbo boost for

Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki Vitara S, front
Suzuki Vitara S, front
Suzuki Vitara S, side
Suzuki Vitara S, boot
Suzuki Vitara S, rear
Suzuki Vitara S, interior
Suzuki Vitara S, side, static

YOUcan say what you like about the old Suzuki Vitara and many people did when I owned one.

Not since someone had sprayed a 1979 Mini on me had so many insults been forthcoming. And they were just from the family.

In the gob-off bar of the last-chance saloon I was variously presented with a packet of plastic hair rollers and the boxed set of Are You Being Served, responding in the time-honoured, high-intellect manner favoured by the bowmen of Agincourt.

Please, at this point, do not confuse it with the old SJ410. If it's a space hopper you want, buy one.

And if you really want to be a member of the Beach Boys it is probably too late although this was the car credited with rock and roll over.

The Vitara may have had a reputation for being a bit limp in the forearm but it wasn't.

Two things Suzuki has been frequently underestimated on is its outboard engines and the go-anywhere ability of its 4x4s.

Obviously the outboards are of no use in a muddy field. But the Vitara was.

Fit a set of mixed-terrain tyres and the only complaint was that you had to shrink the dog in a hot wash for it to fit alongside necessities fresh air.

It was nimble, not shy on the road with the bigger two-litre engine and reliable. Our last gamekeeper had one and believe me, no one wants to be stuck between a warm bed and late breakfast around a December dawn in the north.

Its problems were twofold. One was that the suspension became very much yesterday's cabinet member and the age of the crossover did not really recognise a tall, small 4x4 as family transport.

Well that may be true but the new generation Vitara managed to keep its rump-line low while presenting far from limited accommodation.

It came with a naturally aspirated 1.6 engine which, while efficient, not Buster Blood-Vessel and not an immediate choice for the S bends.

Enter the Vitara S with Suzuki's 138bhp 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo engine and upped spec level. Hardly the stuff of warm hatching, or indeed any other sort of incubation, at 10.2 seconds to 62mph but with tweaked suspension much more fun.

The stiffened ride does little to detract from the overall comfort level, it is still a smooth operator even if there is a leaning towards wind noise.

Just staying with the level of refinement for a moment, the S spec tops the Vitara range, above SZ5 and brings with it cosmetic upgrades inside and out.

The cabin is not a bad place to be but oh, woe. You reach out to touch the facia top and give thanks that Suzuki is softening its finishes. Then you tap the door trim and Doris Stokes knocks back.

It is so often the little things. This car had the automatic paddle-shift gearbox but manual is selected by moving directly through drive. Inadvertent selection brings boom-box revs and people pointing: ‘look that man can't drive'.

The S spec brings with it all the top level toys expected; collision warning, sat-nav, leather seats, reversing camera and a touchscreen infotainment system which is logical enough.

It is a reasonable car to run. It costs £20,899 and claims to do a mixed MPG of 52.3. Tax is free in year one then £110.

Suzuki's ALLGRIP 4x4 set up is a good system and the S will cope with some quite tough terrain although in summer, short of damming the stream, mud is in short supply.

Look, it is not a particularly exciting car, what in the class is? But it works, is honest about itself, not costly and above all no one is going to start calling you John Inman.

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