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First Drive

First Drive: Suzuki Vitara mild hybrid

Suzuki Vitara SZ5 Allgrip 1.4 hybrid
The story: Suzuki has added a 48-volt hybrid system to the 1.4-litre petrol engine in the Vitara to improve efficiency and increase power.
Key rival:Nissan Juke
On sale:Now

Everyone knows that getting your CO2 figure as low as possible is the name of the game.

Drivers want it for a low company car tax position, employers want it for environmental reasons and the manufacturers want it so they can meet emissions targets.

However, if you want a car with decent all-wheel drive because you need to get places that are in more rural areas or in parts of the UK that get more than their fair share of icy and snowy conditions, then low-cost high-value options are becoming rare.

The multiplying crop of small SUVs are rarely offered in four-wheel drive, and if they are, they tend to be plug-in hybrids which sees the list price rocket.

With the addition of a new 48-volt hybrid system coupled to its 1.4-litre petrol engine, Suzuki has the answer in the form of the latest Vitara in range-topping SZ5 trim.

The hybrid system results in a 15% boost in overall fuel economy and a drop of up to 20% for CO2.

First Drive-September 2020-Suzuki Vitara-Image 7Alongside the engine upgrade, Suzuki has also given the Vitara greater levels of standard equipment centering around safety kit. Standard items now include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition.

As well as improving efficiency, the new 129hp 1.4-litre hybrid has better real-world performance. While on paper the acceleration is unchanged with 0-62mph coming up in 10.2 seconds, there’s a noticeable additional shove from the hybrid system when overtaking or accelerating onto a motorway.

The efficiency upgrades appear accurate too. In mixed, and not particularly eco, driving we saw 40.6mpg over a week, not far off the official 45.4mpg.

For those looking for even greater efficiency, sacrificing the all-wheel drive system and opting for the front-drive versions will bring even more gains.

While you wouldn’t ever call the Vitara a sporty vehicle, the Allgrip 4×4 system gives the small SUV a very surefooted drive on wet or dry roads.

First Drive-September 2020-Suzuki Vitara-Image 6As before the upgrades, the interior materials aren’t up with the best with some harder plastics on show, but the infotainment system is easy to use and quick enough to respond.

Interior space is good for front seat occupants and the boot is large for the class at 375 litres. However, rear seat passengers may find legroom slightly compromised if there’s taller people up front although a higher roofline than many rival small SUVs means headroom is good.

Overall the Vitara will remain a niche player in the company car market, but for those after excellent levels of standard kit, a decent boot and 4×4 grip it’s an appealing option.

tristan young

The verdict

It’s a specific place the market, but if you need a small, low-cost SUV with good four-wheel drive, a decent boot and competitive emissions the Suzuki Vitara is excellent value for money.