2018 Suzuki Vitara

The 2018 Suzuki Vitara was unveiled last November and it was a sight to see. Our editor Martin Aguilar said that it looks like a Japanese Evoque. It’s not a far-off comparison given that the launch displayed GLX models – the ones with 2-tone paintjobs.  But what really piqued our interest was the price point. Though the GL model doesn’t have a sticker yet, the middle GL+ is at P938,000 while the top of the line GLX is at P1,048,000.

Now, banking on the momentum brought by the launch, Suzuki Philippines invited us for a drive from Suzuki Caloocan out to Thunderbird in Poro Point, La Union to try their new crossover. For this drive, they brought a fleet of Vitara GLXs.

To be honest, the Vitara’s exterior isn’t too flashy. The front is a bit sporty, sides are simple with a slight bump above the side skirt and to the rear wheel, which leads to an okay back side. No outlandish lines or questionable curves; it’s simple, safe, and contemporary. The GLX variant is very appealing, though, thanks to its 2-tone paint job. I don’t know about you but to me, a black top will make me reconsider my budget for the next 5 years.

Opening the rear, I was surprised by how much cargo space there was — 375 liters to be exact, and it increases to 710L with the rear seats down. There’s also no dip in the main cargo area which made it easy to put our camera hardcase in there. Along with a camera case, tripod, and 3 overnight bags from us passengers, there’s still a good amount of room for smaller items. The luggage board might be flimsy but it’s a welcome touch to protect our belongings from intense heat.

At the backseat, the first thing I noticed was the fair amount of legroom. Now, the driver and front passenger at the time were only of average Filipino height. If they were taller than, let’s say 5’7, things would be a bit too tight. Three people can easily fit at the rear seats, given that they’re not fat like me.

I also found the seats to be weird. The GLX comes with leather mixed with suede at the center so most of your butt will rest on that suede part. Now, it’s sort of okay but it just feels different. Maybe it’s the effect of being too used to fabric, leather, or bare seats. Another thing with suede is it’s harder to clean and once you spill drinks, it will be absorbed fully compared to leather.

My biggest worry though was with the air conditioning. See, the Vitara GLX has a panoramic sunroof and the ceiling inside is not solid. It’s more of a thick automated curtain so I was worried how the aircon would fare when there’s nothing solid obstructing the sunlight and rear vents are absent. Result? It was pretty good. We drove highways going to Thunderbird Poro Point and the fan wasn’t even halfway despite the noontime heat and glass roof.

Up front, things are fine. Door is not heavy, legroom is good, the circular air vents aren’t flimsy, and the “dash-clock” is a great touch to this crossover. What’s upsetting are the very small volume buttons above the 10-inch Android infotainment screen. We didn’t even notice they’re there. For a good hour or so, we were adjusting the volume via the steering wheel, rendering the passenger powerless on such vital feature. No, I am not overreacting. As everyone knows, the driver should focus on the road and that’s why features of the infotainment should also be accessible and intuitive for the passenger. Navigating through the system is fine; it’s just that the volume buttons are too small to press and the volume up and down are on both ends of the screen.

Moving to the driver’s seat, I must say everything feels nice about the Vitara GLX. The instrument cluster is bright and uncluttered, gear shifter is at a familiar place, and the paddle shifters have a good feel when pressed.

The thing about trying out different cars, for me at least, is getting familiar with the pedals. Some are very sensitive, while some have a delay in the gas pedal, or very spongy with the brake pedal. In the new Vitara’s case, it doesn’t have those problems. The gas pedal is responsive at slow press, as expected, but doesn’t have a long lag when you floor it. The brake pedal has just the right amount of feedback when you step on it and doesn’t skip from ‘slight braking’ to ‘full on brakes.'

Steering is good. It’s not too light, but not 90s power steering heavy either. Feedback is good on the highways and nimble enough inside the city. Also, the tilt and telescopic function is appreciated, though it doesn’t tilt enough for my taste, but that’s okay.

Cabin noise reduction is quite nice for the Vitara. In the city, outside noise is blocked out pretty well. Highway driving is a bit different since wind hitting the vehicle is audible once you hit more than 80 km/h. However, it won’t become a shouting game or full volume blast inside the cabin even if you reach 100 km/h.

The 1.5L gasoline engine produces 115 hp and 156 Nm of torque, which is surprisingly just the right amount to carry the new Vitara with 4 passengers (my weight counts for two average people).  It doesn’t have a hard time accelerating, thanks to the 6-speed automatic gearbox. Most of the time, it downshifts when you floor the gas pedal, making it quicker for you to reach higher rpm where there’s power for better acceleration. Lift your foot on the gas for a bit and it will shift up, returning to 2,000rpm.

Compared to the competition, the 2018 Vitara has the features and size that put it up a notch. If there’s one thing in this crossover that will sum it up, it would be the clock on the dashboard. It says how this Vitara GLX wants to give its owner the premium appeal. The clock, suede and leather seats, and distinct roof – these are features you’ll find in a more premium vehicle. Sure, they are not executed as well as premium cars, but Suzuki tried and combined with the overall feel and functionality, I must say, its price tag is justified.

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