Vitara – An understandably popular SUV
Just reviewing the long list of product names that have been attached to Suzuki’s important midfielder should provide a generous idea as to its overall reach. Intended to slot above Jimny/SJ in the corporate pecking order, it became known as the fun-loving Sidekick in the North American market, where it gained acceptability as both a low-cost rental car and ideal, low-insurance, student transport. To be fair, it was also the first product of the ill-fated collaboration between General Motors and Suzuki in that part of the world.
However, just consider some of the other brand names that have been applied to it over the years: Mazda Proceed Levante, Santana 300, Chevrolet/GM/Geo Tracker, Pontiac/Asuna Sunrunner and Grand Vitara. Typical of Suzuki, the Vitara has always been produced flexibly. Of course, I do not mean that ‘it’ is flexible, because the Vitara has always been renowned for its durability, but rather that it was a model that could be stretched (in XL7 guise), could have its top lopped-off (SV), could be re-engineered into a sporty two-seater (X90) and be powered by a wide choice of engines (from three-cylinder to V6 petrols and diesel variants) and transmissions, some of which were appropriate to local market demands.
Partly due to its affordability, the Vitara was responsible for kickstarting a massive tuning and modifying industry that led to a strengthening of its market presence. At various times, it became a ‘wide-boy’, an ultimate off-roader and a rolling showpiece, sometimes complete with splendid (potentially illegal) light-shows and glamorous paintjobs. No hairdressing salon worth its salt could be seen with anything less than a customised and vibrant pink-painted Vitara parked adjacent to its shopfront.
Naturally, the off-road and 4WD set simply adored Vitara. Its signature lightweight construction and equally important light footprint allowed it access to some of the least forgiving and most testing terrains around the world. ‘Green-laning’, now largely outlawed in the UK, was a popular Vitara owner’s weekend pastime and venturing along gravel roads to geographical outposts remains a core attraction of Vitara’s overall capabilities. The farming community adores it and few Young Farmers’ gatherings would be complete without several examples of the different generations of Vitara in their car parks.
From a personal standpoint, while much of the brand hubbub seems to be missing these days, I rate the Vitara as a supremely competent on-road sporty hatch, while its off-road potential is at levels largely unrealised by owners. As you may have read in a past appraisal of Vitara, I reckon that the current model is one of the best ‘rallycars’ ever produced!
Luscombe’s summary: Whether used as a work of art, or for purposes more mundane, the Vitara is (after the Swift) our most popular model by far and that lies firmly in its 40+ years of memorable past.
Next week: Keeping Suzuki clean
Suzuki’s current awards tally
Despite being begged by both Suzuki GB and its dealers NOT to promote certain Suzuki models, due to supply issues, Iain Robertson states that the HQ of the company’s trophy cabinet is bulging and is likely to grow further in coming weeks and months.
There are two ways to look at awards. The cynical view can consider them as little more than a ‘reward’, in a mutual back-slapping exercise, between a product manufacturer and the various outlets through which it promotes its wares. It is accompanied usually by a vibrant stage show, a smattering of List D celebrities and the customary ‘bun-fight’, held at some faded, formerly glorious venue.
Typically, the manufacturer is inveigled into buying one, or more tables (for its invited guests), at an exorbitant rate that more than funds the cost of the ‘extravaganza’. Every black tie-wearing attendee gets ‘pie-eyed’ and some of the reports of ‘derring-do’ veer into the arena of ‘Hooray-Henry’ immoral and possible illegality. Now, what was the award for?
On the other hand, some awards are actually genuine (the best ones are those fostered by the general public), based on carefully arraigned criteria related to the products’ strong-points and broader benefits, whether they be style, design, competence, quality, or just plain and simple consumer appeal. Just the other evening, at a modest and casual London venue, the Suzuki Jimny (one of those models that warrants significant clamour, even with its supply problems) was given a GQ award.
Jimny has been lifting a few of that class of trophy lately. Of course, the ‘biggy’ (and best) is the completely independent World Car of the Year, which is awarded by a cadre of 80 automotive industry journalists from around the world, some of whom may have alternative agendas at play, although most rely on ‘national pride’ alone. Suzuki’s performance has been outstanding in this prestigious activity. Ignis received a top three rating in 2017, with Swift following suit in 2018. However, Jimny has passed through several stages of the competition to reach the semi-final level in the World Urban Car category for 2019. It is already in the Top Five for World Car Design and the Top Ten for overall honours.
However, your local Luscombe Suzuki is not short of awards, many of which are related to the high quality of its customer service, consumer protection and high satisfaction levels. Next time you visit the Leeds dealership, have a closer look at the various certificates and trophies received by it. Naturally, the company is proud of its achievements but it is more proud of the fact that its customers believe in its priorities and that is what makes Suzuki, in Leeds, a winning concern.
Luscombe’s summary: As a customer of our company, we are always grateful to you, for your on-going support. We work very hard to ensure that YOU are our priority, whether we see you regularly, or for an annual service.
Next week: Suzuki’s rallying past
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