The latest Suzuki Vitara on test for Changing Lanes!
The latest Suzuki Vitara on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the 2021 Suzuki Vitara!

The Vitara is an icon of the Suzuki range that has managed to stay relevant throughout its 33 year career in the automotive industry. That means that over the years it’s been repositioned and softened to appeal to the compact SUV market that has emerged. Now the Vitara evolves again with the addition of some mild hybrid technology to the mix.

To backtrack a little, Suzuki has been dabbling in 12 volt mild hybrid technology for some years now before it was even fashionable to lend a little electrical support to reduce emissions and eke out better fuel consumption. In fact at Changing Lanes we’ve always been impressed with the real world economy of Suzuki vehicles like the latest Swift, Ignis and S-Cross. No fibbing from Suzuki. The cars always deliver what matters.

What’s new for the 2021 Suzuki Vitara?

Now the Japanese brand is excited to tell us about the 48 volt mild hybrid technology that now feature across the Vitara and S-Cross ranges. Well frankly everyone is excited about hybrid these days.

The Vitara has stayed relevant since it was first launched back in 1988
The Vitara has stayed relevant since it was first launched back in 1988

In Ireland the Vitara now comes exclusively with a new ‘K14D’ Boosterjet petrol engine with 1.4-litre capacity and 48 volt mild hybrid technology, which replaces the old 1.4-litre Boosterjet derivative. The new hybrid powertrain is said to offer up to 20% lower CO2 emissions, a greater level of torque and 15% overall improvement in WLTP combined fuel consumption.

The new system is similar in basic principle to the 12V Hybrid SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) system that Suzuki debuted in 2016 on the Swift. The newly developed 48V hybrid powertrain remains very lightweight in design and the components add less than 15k g to the overall weight of the vehicle. Could it be magic? You will have to read on to find out!

What’s on offer?

The Vitara itself had a minor facelift back in the beginning of 2019. It remains the most popular Suzuki on sale in Ireland. With pricing starting from €23,230, it is also competitively priced to compete in its segment. The range kicks off with the SZ4, followed by the SZ-T from €25,750, and the SZ5 from €27,760.

The interior of the 2021 Suzuki Vitara Hybrid
The interior of the 2021 Suzuki Vitara Hybrid

Standard equipment on the new Vitara for 2021 includes automatic climate control, 16″ alloys, and LED headlamps. There is also a standard safety equipment including Dual Sensor Brake Support, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Adaptive Cruise Control.

In our eyes, the SZ-T remains a sweet spot of the range with touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, rear parking camera and 17″ alloys.

All models are front wheel drive as standard though 4×4 is available from €29,745.

Inside the Suzuki Vitara

In the last revamp, Suzuki gave the Vitara’s cabin a little upgrade in quality, with the upper instrument panel now finished in a soft touch material. The interior is basic but cheerful enough, just like the rest of the car. There is a plucky spirit to the Vitara that remains after all these years. Buyers will love the authentic small SUV feeling from behind the wheel thanks to a genuinely elevated driving position. And of course it looks different from the outside too, with a boxy charm that hasn’t really changed much. It’s definitely a tad dated, but Vitara’s loyal customers don’t seem to care.

Interior space also remains good for this class of vehicle. It may be compact but it’s not cramped, like some rivals. There is decent enough legroom in the back, and it feels roomy up front. The boot is 375 litres and well capable of most tasks, with split folding rear seats.

New Vitara Hybrid range on sale from €23,230 in Ireland
New Vitara Hybrid range on sale from €23,230 in Ireland

Driving the Vitara Hybrid

The 1.0-litre turbo petrol is now gone from the Vitara line-up in Ireland, leaving the more powerful new 1.4-litre with 129 bhp, paired to a 6-speed manual gearbox. It’s a lively companion for the Vitara, feeling nippy and capable whether in town or on the motorway. The added electrical assistance adds smoothness to take off and low speed manouvres.

And what about that fuel consumption? Over a few days driving the Vitara Hybrid, my average fuel consumption was 6.6 litres per 100 km.  I found this a little disappointing considering the high billing of the mild hybrid technology, but otherwise I would probably say it was acceptable for a petrol powered compact crossover.

On the road, once again the Vitara proves to be more fun than you might expect from the little Japanese compact. Steering is light making it agile around town, but out on the open road it is entertaining to drive. I took it the long way home through the Wicklow Mountains and I was suitably impressed with the smiles per mile!

It’s no hot hatch or even hot SUV, but it brings some rudimentary joy. Well up for a jaunt down a twisty road. Not that Vitara owners are interested in such frivolous fun(!). Are maybe they are? You tell me. But it’s nice to know it can. Again Vitara punches above its weight in this department. Always full of surprises. There are a few refinement issues, like road noise at high speeds, but it’s comfortable for the most part.

Suzuki adds mild hybrid technology to the Vitara
Suzuki adds mild hybrid technology to the Vitaranology to the Vitara

Did you like it?

Do we like the Suzuki Vitara? Yes we do! It’s an honest little compact SUV with big attitude. It performs well on practicality, offering better space inside than many rivals. It’s not the most luxurious inside, but it’s not trying to be either. Pricing remains competitive for the segment with a decent level of standard equipment.

Suzuki continually impresses us with its engine technology and real world fuel consumption. Again the Vitara gets their most modern mild hybrid technology. Is it a success? Perhaps expectations were too high but we did anticipate a better return on economy than what we got, which seemed about average for a petrol powered compact of this size.

It is roaring fun to drive. You certainly wouldn’t think it to look at it, but some rivals are sheer boring beside it.

The Vitara is showing its age though it remains a subtle but solid buy with plenty of fans out there.

There’s still lots more to discover in the Suzuki range in 2021, with a newly facelifted Ignis that we will be driving soon, along with a refreshed version of the fabulous Suzuki Swift supermini.

The Vitara is a subtle but solid buy in its class
The Vitara is a subtle but solid buy in its class

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet Hybrid SZ-T
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
129 hp
Torque: 235 Nm
9.5 seconds
Top speed: 190 km/h
Fuel economy: 
5.7 l/100km
CO2 emissions: 
Motor tax: 
€200 per year