It’s been 31 years since the Suzuki Vitara first hit the road and it’s still going strong. The last model was introduced in 2015 and this is a refreshed version intended to celebrate 30 years of Vitara. Yes, Suzuki missed by a year but the concept of this vehicle was unveiled in 2018 so technically it’s an anniversary model even though there are no badges or anything to tell you that.
This Vitara AWD turbo gets new look bumpers and trims on the outside but the real update is in the added safety technology crammed into the small SUV. There’s now Lane Departure Warning, Weaving Alert, Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitor, and Dual Sensor Brake Support. Most of those terms are fairly self evident, but the Dual Sensor Brake Support may need some explaining. This uses a camera mounted in the windscreen and another sensor behind the front grille and depending on how urgent the situation is will warn you that the car is about to crash into something, boost the brake pressure for when you do hit the brakes, or slam the brakes full on without your input.
On the inside there’s a new softer touch dashboard and new seat trims, and these give the Vitara a much more upmarket feel. The infotainment system is pretty much the same as before but I have had issues with Suzuki’s infotainment system in the past (Ignis, Swift), with it cutting in and out of playing music via Bluetooth and occasionally rebooting repeatedly while I was driving along. I had no such problems with this one so it looks like there may have been some initial issues that have now been ironed out.
The designers of the Power/Auto/Snow drive select button must have some kind of tentacles for arms, as the order of the functions is all screwy. You turn the button right for Power, turn it left for Snow and push it in the middle for Auto. Why not right for Power, Left for Auto and push for Snow, as you naturally try to switch from Power to Auto by turning the switch.
Anyway, you can happily leave the system in Auto almost all of the time, as the Vitara moves quite sprightly along. Sport mode does produce good power but once you’ve accelerated to your chosen speed it holds onto too low a gear for too long so it gets noisy in the cabin.
The reversing camera is particularly good, as you can set it to an extremely wide view that makes it easy to spot anything approaching from either side of the car while reversing.
As before, the Vitara AWD Turbo has the same engine you’d find in the Swift Sport, which means a 103kW/220Nm 1.4- litre four cylinder turbocharged engine running through a six-speed automatic gearbox. And since the Vitara AWD turbo weighs just 1185kg (claimed) it has some real performance credentials.
The six-speed gearbox shifts crisply, but it’s far too easy to pull the gear lever all the way from Park down to Manual in one go and start screaming around in first gear until you realise what you have done. There’s no detent in the gear selector to stop this. It can be a hassle but you’d probably soon learn to adapt to it.
So the story of the Vitara continues, with more gradual improvements. This time it’s mostly in the electronic safety devices which moves it in line with most other new cars coming out these days.