Suzuki’s all-new Grand Vitara has hit South Africa’s shores, bringing with it a chance for Stuff to sample the automaker’s new flagship model; the 1.5 GLX 6AT AllGrip Hybrid. As the name suggests, this is an all-wheel driver, with Hybrid functionality to boot, making it a real machine on the offroad. We would know. Stuff set off through torrential rain in George, in the Western Cape, through long stretches of muddy track and possibly the most dangerous of South Africa’s hazards — plain-old concrete roads, potholes and all. Yeah, we gave it a proper test.
Before going any further, there’s no skirting around the price. Laying your hands on Suzuki’s most kitted-out model – the one we played with — will set you back a cool R530,000. If you don’t have that kind of cheddar lying around or, you know, hate the planet, there are cheaper models out there with a regular engine in the bonnet that’ll pull in a better value. At least, in our opinion.
If you’ve seen Suzuki’s Vitara before, you’ve seen the Grand Vitara (GV) before. The added grandeur here – also known as a bigger chassis – is noticeable, though the sexy boxy design that was apparent there hasn’t yet disappeared. That extra space certainly helps the car’s interior, giving the designers more room to work with and the ability to pack in more than they’d be able to in a normal car.
But we’ll return to the interior in a bit. There’s still the GV’s front and weirdly futuristic-looking rear to deal with. We’ll deal first with the multi-level grille mounted to the front, stuck right in-between the car’s 3-point daytime headlamps that act as the eyebrows of the operation. Below are the car’s standard lights and standard-issue bumper that doesn’t add frills where they don’t need to be.
The back keeps a similar theme, with two plain-LED lines encompassing the ornate S. With only the license plate and bumper left back there, it’s all a rather formal affair with little flair to help it stand out. We can’t see Suzuki struggling to get these off the lot. Whether the owner can get it off or not is another question entirely.
Gettin’ a view
We quite literally had a front-row seat to check out the GV’s innards, of which there were plenty. Unlike the outside, which opted for a more… subtle look, it’s clear Suzuki spent most of the budget on the spacious interior, adorned with comfortable faux leather and glossy black trims everywhere you look. Oh, and it’s big, too. That’s important to… some people.
Our eyes were immediately drawn to the 9in infotainment system, which says more about modern society than it does the car. Philosophy aside, we had no trouble hooking up our Samsung smartphone through Android Auto, though we found that the process was smoother still with an iPhone at hand. That’s not Suzuki’s fault – but it’s certainly worth remembering if you’re an Android person.
Taking refuge underneath the screen (and the vents) are a few physical buttons you’ll find on the front docket. These control the temperature, though the built-in automatic climate control was intelligent enough throughout our journey that we hardly needed to fiddle with buttons at all.
In truth, most of our touching went to the infotainment system which was simple enough to operate, though best done while parked. We got on alright with (and much preferred) the steering wheel’s physical buttons, which kept our music blasting throughout the trip. There wasn’t enough time to dig into the dashboard’s speedometer controls, which says enough about the customization on offer there.
If you’re springing for Suzuki’s GLX models and above, you’ll be greeted with more USB ports than you know what to do with. There’s also a wireless charging port that our phone occupied, even if the charging was somewhat slow and might have done better with a physical cable involved. Still, a charge is a charge.
Take me home, country roads
Eventually, it was time to finally drive the thing. We weren’t particularly thrilled with the Vitara’s on-the-road performance, with the pull-away power and overall performance leaving us a little downhearted. Once the car picked up a bit more speed and we became accustomed to the car’s ins and outs, the ride proved to be smooth and comfortable, though not extremely fast. It was responsive when we needed it to be – especially when the rain began pouring sometime around the Montagu Pass, giving us an excuse to really put the AllGrip name to the test up the winding, uphill turns.
The real test came when the trip took a turn (no, really) onto a dirt track laden with the day’s mud. We locked it into 4×4 mode and set off. It navigated the rain-glutted roads with ease, and for off-roading novices like ourselves, it made the experience far simpler and less stressful than expected. Maybe it’s the weight, the hybrid engine, or our excellent driving that did the trick. Either way, it made for an experience we wouldn’t mind doing in the Grand Vitara all over again. Whether we’d do it in one of the GV’s less-expensive models…
There are a couple of features that made an appearance along the drive. Our favourite was the 360-degree camera that helped us navigate the trail with a little more ease (though the raised suspension did plenty to help too) when the roads narrowed. Like most vehicles, it’s hard to fault a rearview reverse camera. That came in handy once or twice.
We’d hoped for a little more power on the everyday roads than we got and a pull-away that excites us just a little. We weren’t all that impressed with the Hybrid K15C engine (instead of the K15B which is reserved for the petrol models). Its power wasn’t all too noticeable, though that’s by design, with Suzuki’s main ambition in the Hybrid being to save on fuel – what with the added 125kg the AllGrip and 4-wheel-drive our model had extra. It begs the question; is it worth it?
Suzuki Grand Vitara Verdict
We’d have liked at least a few more hours of driving to get our thoughts in order on the Suzuki Grand Vitara. But, we didn’t and this is the result. Overall, we enjoyed our time with the car, and are even willing to look past the few minor issues. If you’re looking to get into a Grand Vitara, we’d suggest sticking to one of the model’s cheaper variants, regardless of the (slight) savings on fuel. Still, more time would have been appreciated
We’ll shortly get our wish and will be spending a full week behind the wheel of the Grand Vitara 1.5 GLX 6AT Hybrid AllGrip to get a better sense of the range, fuel consumption, and ease of navigation through Joburg’s traffic. Expect that… soon.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that our hours-long test drive was made possible through Suzuki’s new partnership with FlySafair – with the airline bringing us to George for the drive. Better yet, the collaboration includes a competition where you could win yourself one of two Suzuki Grand Vitara 1.5 GLX 6AT AllGrip Hybrids if you book a flight with FlySafair before 31 July – after which you’ll be automatically entered into the draw.