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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
@ytimesmotoring
1:20 PM 8th March 2022
cars

Suzuki’s Vitara Gains Full Hybrid Power

I have a soft spot for the latest generation of the Vitara and have driven it in all its forms. Petrol and diesel engines, ALLGRIP all-wheel drive, all versions have passed through my hands.

Affordable pricing and a high standard of equipment have always appealed, so much so that we purchased a three-year-old ‘S’ model a little over a year ago. Powered by the 1.4-litre turbocharged Boosterjet petrol engine, mated to a smooth automatic gearbox, the car has proved to be an agreeable family car with a surprising turn of speed when you are in the mood. It is frugal too, never delivering less than 40mpg, no matter how hard it is driven.

It was therefore with some interest that I accepted Suzuki’s kind invitation to the launch of their latest Vitara, now equipped with a fully hybrid powertrain.

The range is now completely electrified, all models gaining some form of electrical assistance. This new model will replace the automatic version of the ‘mild hybrid’ Vitara.

So, how does it all work? A new 1.5-litre engine provides the drive, and this is paired with a 140V lithium-ion battery and inverter, Motor Generator Unit, a 12V lithium-ion battery as well as a conventional 12V lead-acid battery to power components requiring lower voltage such as lights, instruments, and heating. All clear?

All this high tech is mated to a six-speed automated manual gearbox, a little old tech in this day and age. The idea is that the driver will enjoy both the direct driving experience of a manual gearbox and the shifting ease of an automatic transmission. Paddles are mounted on the steering wheel for that extra bit of control.

Prices start at £25,499 for a two-wheel drive SZ-T model, rising to a heady £29,299 for an SZ5 equipped with ALLGRIP, the model I was able to drive.

Suzuki’s figures for the combined economy range from 48.4 to 53mpg, with CO2 emissions from 121 to 132g/km. On paper these are a worthwhile improvement over the mild hybrid outgoing model. The average driver should save around £10 a month the company claim.

Our extended drive took us from Cheshire over the border into Wales, where good driving roads and stunning scenery awaited. A chance to fully assess this important new development for the Vitara.

Without the benefit of a turbocharger, the 1.5-litre engine is not the most powerful, even with the electric motor’s help. The 0-62mph sprint time of 13.5 seconds from the test car being nothing to write home about.

Driven gently, and with Eco mode selected, refinement is fine, but up the ante for a brisk overtake and it can all get a little raucous.

Around town and at lower speeds, the engine cuts out, allowing the Vitara to run on battery power for short distances.

However, the weak link is the automated manual gearbox. In gentle driving, the electric motor does a reasonable job of smoothing out upshifts, but if pressing on, there is an unpleasant pause on the upshift change. A tad disconcerting in my book and nowhere near as good as Suzuki’s conventional torque converter automatic.

Changing gear using the paddles helps a tad and I found it best to lift off the accelerator slightly when anticipating a gear change.

Aside from the new powertrain it’s a familiar story. Ride comfort is generally good and handling safe and secure, with just a tad too much body roll for true sporting prowess. Compact dimensions are welcome both in confined inner city driving and on narrow country lanes.

Equipment count is high with such niceties as adaptive cruise control, satellite navigation and keyless entry and start fitted to all models. A panoramic sunroof comes with the SZ5 which bathes the cabin in natural light – lovely.

A raft of safety features also come as standard, the Vitara scoring a full five stars by Euro NCAP when tested it back in 2015.

There was no opportunity to test out the ALLGRIP system, but I know from extensive experience how well it works not just offroad, but also in snowy and icy conditions. I recommend it, especially for rural dwellers.

There are a few areas where the Vitara is now showing its age, not least in the quality of some of the plastics used in the cabin. Most noticeable are the door tops, something that you come into close contact with. The touchscreen too is looking a little past its sell by date, even though it works quite well in practice. The S-Cross I tested recently has a new and much improved system.

So, how to sum up the new full hybrid Vitara? There is much to like, but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the new car. For me the rather lacklustre engine and less than smooth gearbox spoils the party and at nearly £30,000 as tested, it has all got rather expensive.

I would recommend buying a mild hybrid whilst stocks last. More power and a smooth automatic gearbox and blow the fuel economy penalty. Sorry Suzuki, not your best effort.

Fast Facts (as tested)
Suzuki Vitara Full Hybrid SZ5 APPGRIP
Price £29,299
PCP from £306.50 pcm
1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol hybrid
6-speed AGS gearbox
0-62mph in 13.5 seconds
Top speed 111mph
Combined economy 48.4mph
Emission 132g/km CO2
On sale now