Suzuki Vitara 1.4S

Auto

Suzuki Vitara, 2016, front, static
Suzuki Vitara, 2016, front, action
Suzuki Vitara, 2016, front, off road
Suzuki Vitara, 2016, rear
Suzuki Vitara, 2016, rear seats
Suzuki Vitara, automatic, interior

YOU could understand if the people at Suzuki felt a tad smug.

After all, the Japanese car maker was churning out crossovers and SUVs long before a word was coined to describe them.

Back in the 1980s when the tiny and box-shaped SJ range was conquering hills, fell land and small mountains they were just called ‘small off-roaders'.

Fortunately for Suzuki - and many country dwellers - the firm hasn't lost its ability or the knowledge of how to design a cheeky-looking high-riding family car that doubles as a mountain goat.

I spent an enjoyable time with the Suzuki Vitara 1.4S Auto. I was a little dubious at how a relatively small engine coupled to four-wheel-drive would cope with a self-changing gearbox. Would it take the edge of performance? Would the gear changes be jerky or premature?

Well, the formula worked a treat and provided relaxed but brisk and reasonably refined transport - even fully laden with passengers and family clutter.

The Vitara 1.4S is the top version and is treated to the acclaimed BoosterJet engine which, thanks to clever technology, provides the sort of grunt you usually find only in diesel engines. This high level of torque marries well with auto transmission delivery a smooth train of power with high economy.

Torque is actually 40 per cent up on Suzuki's own 1.6-litre petrol engine. Acceleration is pretty zesty too with 62mph coming up in less than 11 seconds.

Cruising is relaxed and fairly quiet as the engine is only turning over at a relaxed 2,500rpm at motorway cruising speed.

Four can sit comfortably within the Vitara's cabin with ample head and legroom. The boot is regularly shaped with a double floor either to hide valuables or to expand the carrying capacity.

The fascia is modern and quite attractive, if somewhat lacking in tactile, soft-touch materials. There's an impression that more cash was invested in the engineering and technology than luxury.

Unlike many of its rivals, the Vitara S is full four-wheel-drive with four driving modes including auto, sport, snow and lock. In slippery conditions Suzuki's own Allgrip system diverts power to the wheel that needs it most.

The system works a treat as an off-road session traversing muddy, steep inclines in South Wales clearly demonstrated. Few owners would deliberately put their vehicles through such a trial.

Despite its off-road credentials the Vitara S corners more like a hot hatch than a high-riding crossover. Grip is tenacious and the steering offers reasonable feedback to the driver. Body roll is kept to a minimum although bumps are easily soaked up. The whole car feels confident and composed no matter what's thrown at it.

The free-revving 1.4-litre turbo engine encourages keen driving yet fuel consumption remained around 41mpg.

There's plenty of standard kit on board including DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air con, front and rear electric windows, sat nav and rear privacy glass.

FAST FACTS

Suzuki Vitara 1.4S Auto

Price: £23,599

Mechanical:138bhp, 1,373cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four-wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 52.3

Insurance Group: 16

C02 emissions: 128g/km

Bik rating: 25%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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