Out of all the car manufacturers, Suzuki is one of the only two that didn’t experience a sales decrease, no thanks to the vehicle excise tax imposed by TRAIN. One of the vehicles that led to Suzuki’s strong sales amidst the industry slump is this, the 2018 Suzuki Vitara GLX. Being released into the global market in 2015, it certainly took quite a while before this small crossover finally arrived at our shores. Some would say the Vitara was fashionably late. After having a week with the Vitara, I was genuinely surprised on how compelling the package is, but before all that, what I want to show you first is its price: P1,098,000. The reason I mentioned the price first is because, despite being at the more affordable end of the spectrum, if you’re in the market for a small crossover, this might be the best P1,098,000 you’ll ever spend by far.
And it starts with the exterior design. Ever since the Vitara was launched in 2015, I always had a strong preference for the turquoise body and black roof color combination, but when went towards the door of my house at night and saw this orange body and white roof color combination, I had some initial reservations towards it. When the sun was finally shining, I went to the garage to start my day, and suddenly, my thoughts about the color combination went into a complete 180 degree change. As I was walking towards it, I was wowed with how nice it actually looks in bright light, and it’s not just the unique two-tone color scheme that makes the Vitara look good. This particular GLX variant features a snazzy set of 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels, and the signature clamshell hood of Vitaras past have been retained. Whereas its similarly-priced competitors fall on either the awkward or downright ugly spectrum, this Vitara looks chiseled, muscular, and just plain handsome. LED daytime running lights are located beside the fog lights, while automatic LED headlights provide excellent illumination at night. Some might miss the off-road biased looks of the body-on-frame Vitara it replaces, but if anything, the looks alone already seal the deal for this small crossover in my opinion.
Once you step inside, you’ll also appreciate how well thought out the interior design is. Every control and storage area has been well thought out, which means that there’s no awkward fussing for anything if you want to adjust the temperature or see your fuel consumption. Well though out it may be, the interior is far from plush. There’s an abundance of hard, brittle plastics all over the place, plus the doors don’t sound particularly pleasant when closed. However, Suzuki’s engineers have done their best to try to uplift the cabin by adding a combination of leather and suede inserts into the door panels and seats. For a car at this price point though, many will like the panoramic sunroof. Despite the opaque sun shade, it still does a pretty decent job of preventing heat to enter the cabin, aided by the fact that the automatic climate control is also competent at doing so.
Space and Practicality
Drivers will find it easy to set their ideal position thanks to generous adjustments for the seats and the tilt/telescopic steering. The seats are clad in leather and suede, and while they do look good, the suede inserts keep you in place under hard cornering. That said, the seats lack actual lateral support, but for the most part, the seats feel fine even after long drives. There’s a lack of center armrest, but given the price, it’s not a big deal.
At the back, there’s a decent amount of space for three adults. The panoramic sunroof cuts into headroom, but someone with the same height as me (5 feet, 10 inches) can still sit comfortably at the back. Legroom is quite good, too, though the rear bench seats also lack a center armrest.
Numerous storage places are scattered all over the interior. The glove box is illuminated, which is a rarity in this class of vehicle. Pop open the trunk, and you’re provided with 375 liters of space. Folding the 60/40 split rear seats expands this to 1,160 liters, which is about par for the rest of the competition.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
Keep in mind the Vitara’s sub-P1.1 million price tag, and you’ll be astounded by the huge amount of features this car offers. Standard features include automatic LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, passive entry with push button start, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof, and part-leather interior. What I’m even more astounded, however, is the generous amount of safety kit it offers for the price. Stability control is fitted as standard even in the entry level variants, while this top trim GLX variant ups the ante with the addition of six airbags, hill descent control, and hill start assist. We commend Suzuki for including stability control as standard on all variants.
It’s in the infotainment where the Suzuki Vitara is a mixed bag. Like in my other reviews, I am not a fan of Android-based infotainment systems, and the Vitara’s is no exception. The only thing that looks amazing about it is the size. Literally placing an Android tablet interface onto the dashboard is never a good idea, as there is a smorgasbord of icons all over the interface. It’s responsive, sure, but the lack of shortcut buttons on the sides of the screen
Under the hood of the Vitara is a 1.6-liter inline-4 petrol engine with 115 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 156 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Power is sent through the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission.
How It Drives
Let me tell you a secret. While this Suzuki Vitara is a new vehicle, the platform used is actually from the SX4’s, which may seem weird considering it is an older vehicle from the Suzuki line-up. In reality though, it was quite an intelligent move for them. Not only does it save the brand from higher R&D costs, but the platform they chose is a very good one. On the road, the Vitara drives more like a hatchback rather than an SUV, and that’s a good thing for most people. The suspension does an excellent job of controlling body roll, making the Suzuki Vitara feel planted around the corners. Combined with the reactive and slightly heavy steering, the Suzuki Vitara is a genuinely fun small crossover to drive through bends and twisty roads. For more fun, there are paddle shifters to let you be in complete control of the vehicle.
The 1.6-liter petrol engine does a decent job of pulling the Vitara’s weight. It’s not a heavy car, so despite the low horsepower and torque figures, it never feels underpowered at any point. The engine pulls well, albeit in the upper rev range. When overtaking other vehicles, the engine can sound a bit coarse during the process. This is also when some of its weaknesses are shown, mainly, its NVH suppression. The sporty suspension sometimes lets a few bumps go through the cabin unfiltered, and road noise is somewhat present especially out on the highway. Lastly, the steering may be extremely responsive and weighty, but the minor steering corrections needed to keep the Vitara straight are far too many.
Within cities and through winding roads, however, the Vitara is a pleasant surprise in how fun the small crossover is to drive. Trips to the fuel stations are few and far in between, but at least you’ll enjoy the Vitara on the way there. In terms of fuel economy, the Vitara is one of, if not the most fuel efficient subcompact SUV I’ve ever driven, achieving an average of 11.2 km/l over a 7-day period.
The Suzuki Vitara genuinely surprised me. Considering how long this Vitara was absent from the Philippine market, my expectations dwindled as time went by, but when I finally got the keys to the new Vitara, its solid and fun driving dynamics were the least of my expectations. It may not be the most refined, nor the most relaxing on long trips, it easily makes up for it in other aspects. With its gorgeous looks, sporty handling, generous features, and comprehensive safety kit, the Suzuki Vitara is easily one of the best small SUVs we’ve ever tested. Fashionably late it may be, the Suzuki Vitara didn’t need to play catch-up, because its arrival was a threat to its rivals.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.5 out of 5