Latest Vitara 1.4S provides both on and off-road thrills
Having driven well over 5,000-miles in various Vitaras since the new model was launched in late-2015, I can inform you that I have driven it on Croft racing circuit, near Darlington, on a rally stage, in South Wales, and in seasonal weather on roads all over the UK and even Europe. It is fair to state that levels of respect grow from a raft of positive experiences.
As an all-weather machine, the drive that I took from my Lincoln home to Belgium, in the week between Christmas and New Year 2017, was memorable for a number of reasons. For a start, the domestic departure was around 3.30am, to arrive at Dover Ferry Terminal at 7.30am. It demanded a fairly-high average speed but, much like Lincolnshire’s and Cambridgeshire’s roads salting and ploughing crews, I had not planned for a snowstorm on the A1 southbound between Grantham and Ely.
The solution lay in Suzuki’s AllGrip Select 4WD system. Turning the dial located at the base of the centre console from the default ‘Auto’ setting to ‘Snow’ and what could have been scary progress on untreated and very lightly-trafficked roads covered by around four inches of ‘insta-snow’ was turned into a relaxing drive. Of course, the Vitara slithered occasionally but it remained controllable.
We made the ferry. The crossing to France was one of the stormiest I have ever experienced. On Gallic soil, we were greeted by glorious sunshine, with temperatures hovering around ‘zero’. The drive north to the medieval City of Bruges, Belgium, was uneventful and my co-driver and me enjoyed a fabulous lunch, shopping trip and mini-tour of the region, before returning to Calais on rain-lashed roads to catch the 90-minutes delayed ferry back to Dover.
Although it was now around 10pm, we made our first fuel stop at the Cambridge Services (A14). Re-brimming the petrol tank, which was full at the start, my calculation showed a tremendous 51.7mpg return, which is not to be scoffed at, for the 617-miles, one-day trip. At no time was I feeling fatigued, which proved the orthopaedic quality of Suzuki’s outstanding (heated) seats.
Of course, driving the Vitara 1.4S around a racetrack, especially one as challenging as Croft, was an especial treat. Skipping off the kerbs, oversteering through the chicanes and power-sliding around the back of the circuit (AllGrip set in ‘Sport’ mode) were genuine delights that underscored the GTI-like performance potential of the car. Armed with 137 very earnest gee-gees, the BoosterJet engine delivers a remarkable amount of zest. However, the Monroe dampers and resilient spring settings ensure that body-roll is contained, while surgically crisp steering turns an SUV into a perfect track-day car.
You might recall from my previous story about Jimny that I was privileged to drive at a Welsh rally centre a few months ago. Having been granted carte blanche and unmonitored access to a seven-mile rally stage, I put the Vitara 1.4S through its paces (again in ‘Sport’ mode), splashing through standing water, ditch-hooking on tighter bends and scrabbling for grip on loose gravel. In every circumstance, on every surface, in all weather conditions, the Suzuki Vitara 1.4S displays phenomenal driving characteristics, no matter how extreme the driving experience is.
Luscombe’s summary: Even attempting to drive the Vitara’s wheels off, the car proves to be resilient, compliant, comfortable, tough, sporty and economical. It is a genuine all-rounder that simply comes back for more.
Next week, Iain discusses his unashamed ‘love affair’ with Baleno.
Keeping your keys in your pocket, or handbag
A number of Suzuki models are available with ‘keyless entry and go’, reports Iain Robertson, which is a convenient and programmable feature that makes access easier and safer, while stop-starting becomes an effortless pushbutton affair.
Do you recall the days of car keys rattling in your jacket pocket? After a while, they would wear out the lining and even fall out, often in the most inconvenient spots. I can still remember sitting on Looe harbour wall, when the keys to my car of that period, which included a different one for the hatchback, as well as a separate key for the alarm system, plopped casually into twenty-feet deep seawater. The only saving grace was that my wife had the spare set in her shoulder bag.
Today, an ergonomic key-fob serves purpose. It is no less readily lost, if you are careless, but it is lighter, nicer to hold and is less likely to rip away at material. Within its compact fob, it is packed with up-to-date technology. You can use it as you might any electronic key-fob, by depressing its door-open/close and boot-open buttons, as you approach the car. The electronic ‘tumblers’ inside it make the latest phenomenon of ‘fob identity theft’ almost impossible, as an added security feature.
Alternatively, secreting the fob about your person means that, as you approach the car, all you need to do is depress the small rubber button on the door pull to be recognised. While the opening priorities can be altered by accessing the on-board computer, one depression of the button will open the driver’s door only, Depress it twice in close succession and all doors and the boot will be unlocked. When departing the car, a single depression deadlocks the car securely.
Central locking has posed some issues for some car manufacturers, especially when accessing the boot but not desiring to unlock the rest of the car. It has not been unknown for car thieves to watch for people returning to their parked cars and to gain access to the cabin, sometimes without the owner being aware! With your Suzuki fob concealed in your preferred spot, it is possible to reach below the hatchback-lid and open it, without unlocking the rest of the car.
You will be able to feel both a longer rubber device and a small one that is not dissimilar to those fitted to the door pulls. Depress the small one once and only the boot can be opened by sliding your finger to the adjacent longer item. Depress it twice and your passengers can enter the cabin. It is a neat touch that provides you with enhanced security.
Naturally, when a keyless system is fitted to your Suzuki, both starting and stopping the engine demands no more than the depression of a button that is illuminated at night-time. An interlock ensures that the car will not start, unless your foot also depresses the clutch pedal, via an intelligent instruction that appears in the small information screen located between the speedometer and rev-counter dials. There is no fiddling about blindly, looking for a place to position an ignition key, which makes the ‘keyless-go’ situation both convenient and speedier.
Luscombe’s summary: If you are unfamiliar with Suzuki’s ‘keyless-go’ technology, a member of our team will guide you through the process, until it becomes second-nature.
Next week: Iain takes a closer look at Lane Discipline.
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