On sale early in 2019, although UK order books were opened in September, is the upgraded Suzuki Vitara with mild styling updates but more notable are new engine options and specification upgrades, says David Miles.
Priced from £16,999 to £25,649 the nine variant 2019 model line-up sees 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbocharged petrol engines replacing the previous 1.6-litre 120hp petrol and diesel units.
Now in its 30th year the current third generation five door compact/mid-sized Vitara SUV was introduced in 2015 and it has been the most popular vehicle in the Suzuki range and now we have the 2019 model year upgraded versions.
The Boosterjet engines provide greater efficiency and offer lower emissions than the outgoing engines but there is no diesel option. The SZ4 and SZT grades are equipped with the 1.0-litre 111hp, 170Nm manual or 160Nm auto Boosterjet three-cylinder turbo engine and Allgrip 4WD is available optionally on the SZT with manual transmission.
The higher specification SZ5 models are equipped with the 1.4-litre Boosterjet four-cylinder turbo petrol engine which offers a power output of 140hp and 220Nm of torque is available from just 1,500rpm through to 4,000rpm for both manual and auto gearbox models.
As for performance, depending on the transmission type, all the 1.0-litre models have a top speed 111mph and zero to 62mph takes between 11.5 and 12.5-seconds. The 1.4-litre models have a top speed of 124mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time vary between 9.5 and 10.2-seconds.
The new WLTP Combined Cycle fuel consumption and CO2 emission figures are; 1.0-litre models range between 53.2mpg and 45.9mpg depending on manual/auto/AllGrip spec and CO2 emissions range between 139 and 162g/km. The 1.4-litre engine figures are 48.7mpg to 44.8mpg with CO2 figures ranging between 146 and 174g/km depending on transmission types.
As for styling and specification changes there are new design alloy wheels available, a redesigned front grille and lower bumper is utilised and the rear of the car features new design and distinctive LED combination lamps.
Suzuki says the 2019 Vitara is the most technically advanced model to date and new safety technology available as standard equipment on the SZ5 model includes Dual Sensor Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Traffic Sign Recognition, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Ed Norman Suzuki’s UK manager Product and Planning said at last week’s media launch the 1.0-litre SZT with 2WD priced at £18,999 is expected to be the best selling version. Sales expectations for the overall range will be around 12,000 units in 2019 with 1.0-litre models being the choice of 60% of UK buyers, the mid-range SZT specification level will account for 50% of sales, the SZ4 20% and the range-topping SZ5 30%. Around 66% of buyers will choose a manual transmission version and a third of customers will opt for a 4WD AllGrip model. The sales split between retail customer and fleet/business user-choosers customer is expected to be 50/50. There is a price increase of around £1,000 over the outgoing versions reflecting the higher specification and use of new turbocharged petrol engines.
All models are built in Hungary; they have a five-door body style with lift-up rear tailgate with an overall length of 4,175mm, a width of 1,775mm, a height of 1,610mm and a wheelbase length of 2,500mm. Seating is for five people with a 375-litre boot with all seats in use. The rear seats fold to create a flat load floor and the load area capacity increases up to 710-litres. The braked towing weight for all models is 1,200kg.
The Vitara through its generations has become a trusted, user-friendly compact SUV with reasonable prices and a reputation for durability. The 4WD versions have proved to be very capable for off-road travel whether that is as a workhorse or for recreational use. For the 2019 model year none of those elements have changed that much except the price. Perhaps the higher spec models are not the bargain they once were but in fairness the latest Vitara is the best equipped generation yet and it has the latest in engine and transmission technologies plus improved safety equipment.
Nowadays it’s the pricing and spec level rather than 4WD capabilities that appeals to most customers. Because of price the majority of buyers will opt for the 1.0-litre engine, manual gearbox, 2WD and the sensibly equipped mid-range SZT version which costs £18,999. That was the version I tried first of all on the busy Warwickshire roads.
The three-cylinder turbocharged Boosterjet engine is bright, free-revving with a pleasant engine tone. With 111hp at 5,500rpm it needs its free-revving nature to get the best acceleration response and the top speed of 111mph is not too shabby and who drives at that speed in a compact SUV anyway? The acceleration time is a modest 11.5-seconds but the response is good for low to mid-range speeds thanks to the 170Nm of torque available from 2,000rpm. The five-speed manual gearbox suits this engine and its torque characteristics well enough making driving easy and responsive at in-town speeds or accelerating on more open roads. Cruising at 70mph is relatively refined but climbing steep hills requires selecting a lower gear or two to keep the engine within its powerband range.
Overall this is the sensible Vitara version if 4WD isn’t a requirement. It’s compact but not too small, easy to drive with a comfortable ride quality, it’s fuel efficient and the latest improvements in equipment levels are welcome. It will suite most buyers in this fast growing marker sector.
More appealing to drive and for overall versatility both on and off road, or during poor winter road conditions, is the top of the range 1.4-litre SZ5 version with its manual gearbox and 4WD AllGrip Pro traction system. Whilst the all weather performance will be appreciated as will the go anywhere driving capabilities – ideal for those of us who live in ‘the sticks’, the price is less appealing at £24,299. Do the sums – that is a hefty £5,300 more than the 1.0-litre one grade down model, but it’s a significant added cost for a 4WD system and slightly higher spec and some additional safety equipment. Visually from the outside there is little difference and it’s only slightly ‘posher’ inside, but it does have 4WD which for me is a bonus.
The 1.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine with 140hp and more importantly more torque at 220Nm from a low 1,500rpm across a wider powerband, is a significantly stronger unit. It’s got more ‘grunt’, it doesn’t fade going up steep hills and it needs to be worked less hard if you are driving on motorways.
In addition to the significantly higher price over the lesser powered version it will cost more to run and my test drive figure using returned 36.4mpg.
There is no doubt for some people the 1.4-litre 4WD version is the better and nicer latest Vitara model to have but the significantly higher purchase price and running/tax costs will not make sense for the majority of customers who now buy an SUV for its looks rather than its go anywhere performance.
2019 Suzuki Vitara 1.0 Boosterjet SZT 2WD manual, compact SUV £18,999
Engine/transmission: 1.0-litre. 3-cylinder, Boosterjet, direct injection petrol 111hp, 170Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, 5-speed, 2WD
Performance: 111mph, 0-62mph 11.5-seconds, WLTP Combined Cycle 45.9mpg (41.6mpg on test)
CO2 139g/km, VED First Year petrol rate road tax £205 then £140 Standard rate, BiK company car tax 28%
Insurance group: 12E Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,175mm, W 1,775mm, H 1,610mm, wheelbase 2,500mm, boot/load space 375 to 710-litres, braked towing weight 1,200kg, 5-doors/5-seats
For: Refreshed spec and refreshing to drive in its popular sector, most reasonably priced model in the range, affordable running costs, improved interior trim in some areas, compliant ride, easy to live with
Against: Still too many areas of hard plastic interior trim, struggles to maintain speeds going up steep hills, 1.4-litre 4WD versions now look very expensive with high tax costs, ungenerous warranty.
© David Miles