Suzuki Vitara hybrid: A mini-4×4 more expensive than a Dacia, but very nice
Suzuki is a world renowned specialist in small 4x4s. Present in Europe since 1985, the Japanese family firm had started there with the archi-rustic Samurai, then assembled by the Spanish company Santana. Then Suzuki added the first Vitara three years later, still simplistic but still less rustic. It was in 1998 that the manufacturer launched the Grand Vitara, more versatile and less meager. But equipped with the traditional technology of the front axle engageable, which generated a road behavior at the very least random. Today, Suzuki SUVs have nothing to do with their predecessors, except their still small size and their entry-level positioning.
Launched in 2015 in gasoline and diesel (Fiat engine), the current Vitara has hardly changed aesthetically since then. Very compact (barely 4.17 meters long, 17 centimeters less than a Dacia Duster), it is recognizable among a thousand by its square face, simple and friendly, a small pure and hard all-terrain. Looks like a scaled down 80s and 90s Nissan Patrol. At the time of SUVs that ape each other, the Vitara sports great originality by remaining faithful to its true 4×4 silhouette. Cheer. Even if its reduced ground clearance compared to real off-roaders shows that it is essentially a road model, although its 4×4 transmission (optional) allows it to face the harsh climatic conditions of the mountains. If the body changes little, and that’s good, the mechanics, it is changing profoundly.
An unpleasant single-clutch gearbox
After the 48-volt light hybridization on the 1.4 engine (129 horsepower), the Vitara this time adopts a true hybrid system of only 115 horsepower, which owes nothing to Toyota, which nevertheless owns 5% of its capital. On the menu: a 1.5 petrol engine combined with a 24 kW electric machine positioned at the box outlet. The latter drives the transmission and compensates for breaks in torque. The set is combined with a robotic single-clutch gearbox. An economical solution according to the principles dear to Suzuki. Even if it is unfortunately not the most pleasant.
Indeed, this hybrid mechanics does not offer the fluidity of that of a Honda, Toyota or Renault in town. Disappointing. The robotic box, which we once knew on the Peugeots for example, clearly lacks softness. As the system is also rather slow, the sequence of reports is punctuated by a marked jolt, even a jerk. This phenomenon appears even more obvious in Sport mode. But, in Normal mode, it’s the starts that are slow… You get used to it, but it’s hardly pleasant in town. On the road, the defect is less of a problem.
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