By Mike Torpey on 2023-05-01 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Suzuki Vitara 1.5
SZ5 AllGrip Full
THE cost of new cars has gone through the roof in recent years, a consequence of which is that manufacturers of serious value for money vehicles like Suzuki gain an advantage over rival brands.
And with an acceleration in the charge towards electrification, models like the Suzuki Vitara compact SUV find themselves on the shortlist of an increasing number of potential buyers.
Though the current Vitara generation has been in service for almost eight years, receiving upgrades like fresh engines, safety gear, special editions and the arrival of a mild hybrid along the way, the latest variant is the first to get full hybrid treatment.
It comes in the form of a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine supported by a 140-volt battery along with a 24kW electric motor.
A Suzuki philosophy is to give customers the tech they need as standard rather than loading up with extra-cost options and in the case of the Vitara hybrid there are just two trim levels available.
Entry grade SZ-T is comprehensive in its own right, including LED headlights, seven airbags, electric windows, auto air con, Bluetooth, smartphone linked audio, sat nav, blind spot monitor and rear privacy glass.
If you add £2,000 for SZ5 there is also suede seat upholstery, 17-inch alloys, parking sensors front and back, a panoramic sunroof, hill descent control and the availability of AllGrip four-wheel drive.
Our tested model was in the latter flagship grade and just topped the £30,000 mark, though it did sport one of the few options up for grabs in a striking two-tone paint job in Solar Yellow pearl metallic with a Cosmic Black metallic roof.
It costs Â£835 but is worth the investment, giving the Vitara's clamshell bonnet, sloping roofline and slightly raised ride height some added visual appeal.
Move inside to find another smattering of matt black in the central area of the dash that houses the touchscreen and ventilation controls and also a shiny strip of silver speckled plastic housing the badge denoting that this model has AllGrip.
That said there's still a fair amount of brittle black plastic in this model, which is a familiar feature of Suzuki cars.
Space is plentiful though, if a bit tight for a centre rear passenger, and you get lots of stowage too with the likes of bottle holders in all four doors, a glovebox, deep central container, wells, trays, door bins plus a rear door map/magazine flap all included.
The boot is also a reasonable size (289 rising to 642 litres) with individual containers at either side to stop stuff rattling round, while the rear seats split/fold 60-40.
Out on the road the Vitara's raised driving position allows for favourable visibility while the car is enjoyable, economical and quite lively to drive, our average consumption over 300 miles of mixed urban, rural and motorway driving returning 43.8 miles per gallon - slightly down on the official Combined figure of 48.4mpg.
The hybrid system has two switchable modes of Eco and Standard, the former making the most sense, and there are also separate AllGrip settings of Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock.
What we didn't like though was the AGS (Auto Gear Shift) automated manual transmission - the only choice with this Vitara model - which revs excessively under acceleration, though you can also use the steering wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifts.
Overall though the Vitara is a smart, solid-looking and well specced up vehicle that's fun to drive and easy to live with. Long may it prosper.
Suzuki Vitara 1.5 SZ5 AllGrip Full Hybrid
Mechanical:1,462cc, 115ps 4-cyl petrol engine plus electric motor driving four wheels via automated manual transmission
Combined MPG: 48.4mpg
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