Suzuki would like it very much if I spent this review talking about soft-touch materials and made no mention whatsoever of hard, scratchy plastics.
I’m always up for a challenge, but before we get into that, let’s recap why we’re here.
For 2019, the Suzuki Vitara has had a deliberately modest facelift. I say deliberately because Suzuki were keen not to mess with a design existing customers told them they liked very much.
So that means they’ve treated their best-selling SUV to a new front bumper, a redesigned front grille, and some funky LEDs for the rear light clusters.
There’s also two new colours – Solar Yellow Pearl and Ice Greyish Blue – as well as new designs for the alloy wheels.
More substantial changes take place under the bonnet, where you’ll find a pair of new Boosterjet engines instead of the old 1.6-litre units.
Kicking off the range is a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder unit with 111PS and 170Nm of torque. Numbers never tell the whole story, not even the fact that peak torque arrives at just 2,000 rpm, because this new powerplant feels far more responsive on the road than its 11.5-second 0-62mph time would suggest.
In fact, we’d go as far as to suggest this engine is a bit of a peach, its amiable three-cylinder thrum lending the Vitara not just an engaging character, but also surprising levels of refinement.
the new 1.0-litre Boosterjet is a bit of a peach
It helps that the five-speed manual gearbox has a delightfully light action to it, although if you prefer you can ask for a six-speed automatic.
We tested the auto behind the other new engine, the 140PS 1.4-litre four-cylinder, where it proved to be a respectable cog-swapper. It even has gearshift paddles for the control freaks.
The 1.4 is roughly two seconds quicker to 62mph than its three-cylinder compatriot, but we missed the charm of the 1.0-litre unit. We’ve complained in the past about the Vitara’s over-sensitive throttle pedal, but with these new Boosterjet units Suzuki appears to have smoothed that out.
But of course, it’s the interior that Suzuki wants me to talk about, because it’s here you’ll find what might be Suzuki’s first foray into the world of soft-touch materials.
The top of the dashboard is now covered in something suitably soft and squidgy to the touch, and that’s all very impressive, particularly given Suzuki say it required a sizeable investment on their part to achieve.
Trouble is, it’s in the wrong place. When did you last run your fingers along your car’s dashboard? A far more likely touch-point is the top of the doors against which you might rest a weary elbow, but here you’ll still find the same old hard, scratchy plastics.
Personally, this is something I never really had a problem with. This stuff might be hard, but it’s robust, light weight, and easy to wipe clean. It’s also honest, and that’s what forms a large part of the Vitara’s personality.
However, keen to emphasise the Vitara’s new-found softness, there’s also a new suede seat fabric on top-spec SZ5 models. It’s been given an attractive geometrically quilted pattern while the leather parts feature appealing contrasting stitching. They’re nicely grippy, too.
Rounding out the changes is a new colour display in the instrument cluster, although a perennial bugbear of ours is that Suzuki doesn’t include a digital speedo amongst the plethora of graphics on offer.
Still, the updated Vitara continues to ooze that typical easy-going demeanour that makes Suzukis so easy to live with, no doubt in part thanks to its light weight – just 1,160kg for the 1.0-litre model.
That also makes it suitably miserly, with the 1.0-litre recording 53.2 mpg on the combined cycle, and 48.7 mpg for the 1.4.
Plus there’s the company’s excellent AllGrip all-wheel-drive system with its four modes – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock – that can pre-emptively allocate torque to as many wheels as necessary in order to avoid slippage, in contrast to other systems that redistribute power only after wheelspin has set-in.
Added to which, the Vitara now boasts a full complement of safety and driver aids such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping aid and departure warning, traffic sign recognition, and rear cross traffic alert.
Prices for the updated 2019 Vitara start at £16,999 for the SZ4 1.0-litre, while a top-spec SZ5 1.4 starts at £22,499.
If a car’s quality can be assessed only by the squidginess of its dashboard, then the 2019 Vitara is a welcome step in the right direction.
For my money, though, it’s the quality of the engineering that lies beneath that’s more important.
And that new 1.0-litre Boosterjet is a gem.
|Entry-level Price||£16,999||Price as tested||£21,299|
|Engine||998cc 3-cyl turbo petrol||Transmission||5-speed manual|
|Power||111ps @ 5,500rpm||Torque||170Nm @ 2,000-3,500rpm|
|0-62||11.5 secs||Top speed||111 mph|
|Economy||53.2 mpg||CO2||139 g/km (WLTP)|
|Dimensions||4175 x 1775 x 1610 (LxWxH)||Kerb Weight||1160 kg|