Let’s face it, we are all assaulted by runaway overheads on our cars and, whether the taxman, or the local garage, is chasing you for more ‘spondoolicks’, trying to place a lid on them is becoming increasingly tough. The latest crop of 1.0-litre compact crossovers is certainly one route to avoiding perdition and the best by far comes from Suzuki’s stable, in the form of Vitara.
Consider typical family parameters: five-door hatchback practicality is probably a prime requirement; a wieldy chassis would make it a liveable, fun proposition; however, low running costs (insurance, road tax, servicing and fuel) would confirm the deal. Slam dunk that lot into your computations and a Suzuki Vitara SZ-T comes out on the top of the heap.
Its 1.0-litre, 109bhp, three-cylinder power unit, backed up with 125lbs ft of torque, may seem like an unlikely contender for a 4.175m long, 1.61m tall car but the far from vocal power unit delivers a healthy top speed of around 111mph, having despatched the 0-60mph dash in a modest 11.1s, while emitting just 121g/km CO2 (NEDC rating) and a stated 53.2mpg. It uses lightness as its means to an end, tipping the scales at a mere 1,160kgs. Mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, it is so singularly undemanding of the driver, yet so eminently rewarding to drive that you wonder why you had not contemplated sensible downsizing before.
Equipped with ISG, Suzuki’s lightweight but efficient integrated starter-generator, it stop:starts obligingly and imperceptibly at traffic signals and junctions. Its ride and handling that you might expect to be compromised is not and, riding quietly on 215/65 section tyres, fitted to easy-to-clean 17.0-inch diameter alloy wheels, it provides front-wheel drive grip in abundance. Beautifully weighted steering provides an assured handling envelope and good suspension damping gifts the car truly exceptional handling overall.
In SZ-T trim, it is exceedingly well-equipped, with climate control, rear privacy glass, a reversing camera and full connectivity options for mobiles and music. It is also a good-looking family car, with its slightly wedged profile and excellent, easy access cabin space. Its false-floored boot provides 375-litres of space that can be extended to 710-litres by folding forwards the 60:40-split rear seats, with good out-of-sight stowage for personal possessions. The ‘soft-touch’ dashboard moulding is detailed with a fillet of metallised trim that looks and feels satisfyingly high-class.
Do not turn up your nose at the prospect of living with a mere 1.0-litre crossover. This Suzuki more than proves several points, not least with its sheer on-road eagerness, appealing all-round comfort and a driving position that is multi-adjustable (both driver’s seat and steering column provide a huge range of movement to suit all sizes of occupant). It is probably the strongest card in Suzuki’s hand and its sheer popularity suggests that the company has got the mix just right.