Long-term test (Update 3): Suzuki Vitara 1,6 GL+
This month, I found myself somewhat perplexed by a gradual yet obvious deterioration in fuel economy. At first, I put it down to the combination of an increase in petrol-sapping traffic and far more liberal use of the Vitara’s particularly effective (but unfortunately single-zone) air-conditioner.
An ever-so-slight uneasiness in handling followed, which prompted me to check the tyres. Somewhat surprisingly, my suspicions were confirmed. I discovered that the right rear rubber had developed a slow puncture, losing about 0,1 bar a day. Although I initially blamed a leaky valve stem, it turns out a pesky nail had forced its way through the 215/60 R16 tyre's surface. Blast. Well, thankfully, not literally.
After a quick repair – without having to resort to digging out the space-saver spare – I was on my way, with the 1,6-litre four-pot returning to its pleasingly frugal ways. Still, the incident made me wonder: how much would a replacement tyre have set me back?
Well, a few calls to local dealers revealed an average price of around R2 200 for a single ContiPremiumContact 5. Not excessive for a vehicle in this segment, but still an outlay I thankfully avoided.
Other than that single tyre’s gradual loss of pressure and the odd cabin creak, the Vitara has been going about its duties virtually flawlessly. It still rides rather well – and even holds its own on the odd gravel jaunt – yet is nimble enough to handle a spot of brisk driving on snaking strips of tarmac. Now, if I could just avoid rogue nails.
After 10 months
Mileage now: 11 463 km
Fuel consumption: 7,19 L/100 km
We like: forgiving ride
We don’t like: slight increase in fuel consumption
Long-term test (Update 2): Suzuki Vitara 1,6 GL+
After-sales service. It’s often a legitimate worry when purchasing a new vehicle from one of the smaller brands in the country. Is a relative minnow capable of matching the big-hitters when it comes to something as simple as basic servicing?
With this in mind, I was eager to see how Suzuki would handle the Vitara’s first scheduled service. A couple of weeks ahead of the vehicle’s first anniversary (it arrived at our offices a few months old), I completed the online service booking form on Suzuki Auto SA’s website and waited for Bidvest McCarthy Suzuki Kenilworth – my closest dealership – to make contact “within the next 24 hours”.
Sadly, that didn’t happen, prompting me to escalate the issue online a few days later. Almost immediately, though, I received a call from the workshop manager, who confirmed my booking and apologised for any confusion. Nice save.
When the day arrived, I sidled up to the service centre at 9am, expecting to find myself at the wrong end of a significant queue. Instead, I was welcomed by friendly staff members, who quickly took me through the requisite paperwork before briskly shuttling me to my place of work.
Barely three hours later, I was informed that the service was complete, and that the driver was available to pick me up with within the next 15 minutes, should I wish. All in all, a super-slick, pleasingly quick service, unusually personal experience.
Interestingly, Suzuki Auto SA’s dealer footprint isn’t quite as small as many consumers seem to think, since it has around 45 dealerships scattered across Southern Africa (compared to, for instance, Toyota’s 200-odd).
After 7 months
Mileage now: 6 905 km
Fuel consumption: 7,33 L/100 km
We like: fast, efficient service
We don’t like: online book glitch
Long-term test (Update 1): Suzuki Vitara 1,6 GL+
The Suzuki Vitara has been under my care for two months now, and it’s slotted seamlessly into my life, going about its business without drawing very much attention to itself. This – when we’re talking about a practical family vehicle – suggests it’s doing its job exceedingly well.
As pointed out last month, the light clutch and five-speed manual’s easy shift action are a boon during my daily spells in traffic.
Unfortunately, the 1,6-litre, naturally aspirated mill fails to match turbocharged rivals on mid-range grunt, but it’s nevertheless a decidedly fussfree vehicle to pilot during rush hour.
Besides, it’s over weekends – away from torturous tailbacks and bothersome bottlenecks – that the little crossover really comes into its own. You see, with a daughter growing taller seemingly by the day, it was recently time to upgrade to a Group 1 child seat. And, since I insisted on investing in a rear-facing toddler seat (something easier said than done in South Africa), I was worried the rear bench would struggle to cope with the bulk of the chunky new perch as much as our bank account battled to bear the sticker price.
But I’m pleased to report that the Vitara – which boasts feather-light rear doors that open usefully wide – swallows the Isofix-equipped seat with little hassle. The luggage compartment, too, is more than capable of handling typical child-rearing paraphernalia.
Still, perhaps the most pleasing thing of all this month is the fact that the fuel consumption figure has started to improve.
After 4 months
Mileage now: 3 022 km
Fuel consumption: 7,77 L/100 km
We like: wide-opening rear doors
We don’t like: lack of mid-range oomph; absence of sixth cog
Long-term test (Introduction): Suzuki Vitara 1,6 GL+
Suzuki Auto South Africa continues its winning streak. Following successful recent introductions of the Ertiga, Celerio and Ciaz, it launched this Vitara, an example of which CAR will be running for a year.
The Vitara nameplate first made its debut 25 years ago and has established a reputation for rugged reliability. This new model takes a slightly different tack, however, and is positioned more as a crossover in the vein of the SX4.
This GL+ model is front-wheel driven despite muscular design cues such as a clamshell bonnet and flared fenders. More modern flourishes include the turquoise body colour finished off with a black roof for that design-touch-of-the-moment floating-roof effect.
Other models in the range include the entry level 1,6 GL, the 1,6 GL+ AllGrip (which means it has four-wheel drive with four selectable driving modes) and the GLX Auto and its AllGrip variant.
All Vitaras feature the same 86 kW/151 N.m 1,6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and my impressions of the powertrain have been positive so far. Although acceleration is leisurely, the five-speed transmission is slick and makes it easy to keep the engine in the meat of its powerband.
The comfortable ride is a strong point, as is the list of standard features. That includes cruise and climate control, a leather-trimmed, multifunction steering wheel, electric windows front and rear, as well as Isofix child-seat anchorages. The Vitara also boasts class-leading safety features, which include front, side and curtain airbags, a driver’s knee ‘bag, ABS with EBD and brake assist as well as an electronic stability-control system.
With my family of five, boot space is always a priority and, with my first month in the company of the Vitara behind me, it’s evident the measured 288 dm3 of luggage space will be adequate. The movable luggage board is a great feature with which to hide items in the boot. An area of concern is room in the rear and, with two children sitting either side of a baby seat, it’s tight. Luckily, there are other vehicles in the long-term fleet that I can nab if long trips are on the cards.
Build quality appears very good, but hard plastics abound and I wonder what they will look like at the end of this 12-month test. On the plus side, the elevated driving position is fantastic and the dark cloth upholstery with silver contrast stitching is well liked by my family.
– written by Neil Piper
After 1 month
Mileage now: 647 km
Fuel consumption: 7,48 L/100 km
We like: ride comfort, driving position, slick gearshifts
We don’t like: rear seating space, hard plastics