Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Suzuki banks on rich heritage for new Grand Vitara

Iconic nameplate's return coincides with Suzuki first hybrid powertrain in South Africa.

The Vitara badge is a very important one for Suzuki. In 1988 the Japanese manufacturer used it on what was the world’s first compact SUV, pioneering a body shape that would change the motoring landscape over time.

The name was later changed to Grand Vitara that became very important for Suzuki Auto South Africa. It was one of the first local models when the carmaker opened its doors in Mzansi in 2008.

The Grand Vitara nameplate was discontinued four years ago, leaving the Vitara and Vitara Brezza to carry the baton.

Back with a bang

Last month the Grand Vitara has returned to local showroom floors. As per usual, its introduction is of substantial importance to the brand. The latest incarnation of the iconic badge brings with it Suzuki’s first hybrid powertrain to South Africa.

Even though the Grand Vitara’s return coincides with the discontinuation of the Vitara Brezza, it is not a replacement.

The new Grand Vitara is a bigger vehicle and positioned slightly higher in the food chain than the Vitara Brezza. A replacement for the Vitara Brezza is likely to happen in the near future.

Suzuki Grand Vitara
GLX derivates ride on machine-polished alloy wheels. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

The new Suzuki Grand Vitara SUV is the latest model to emerge from the partnership between Suzuki and Toyota, a collaboration which also includes the likes of the Toyota Starlet and Suzuki Baleno.

It was designed and developed by Suzuki and is manufactured alongside the new Urban Cruiser in the Toyota Kirloskar factory in Bidadi, India.

The two trim levels on offer are Suzuki’s customary GL and top-spec GLX derivates.

Paying homage

Although the new Grand Vitara does not share its predecessor’s platform or any technology, its design pays homage to the iconic nameplate.

It rides on a new generation monocoque TECT-platform and features a generous ground clearance of 210 mm – the same as the go-anywhere Suzuki Jimny.

Powering four models in the line-up is the brand’s tried and trusted K15B 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine.

It sends 77 kW of power and 138 Nm of torque to the front wheels via a choice of four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.

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The range’s flagship model not only features Suzuki first local hybrid powertrain, but also all-wheel drive. This K15C petrol engine features an always-on mild-hybrid system. It produces 76kW/137Nm which is sent to all four wheels via six-speed automatic gearbox.

Suzuki Grand Vitara
The Grand Vitara’s hybrid powertrain is a first for Suzuki Auto South Africa. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Grand Vitara goes hybrid

The mild-hybrid system works continuously to support the petrol engine to deliver similar power to a naturally aspirated engine across a wide torque band.

This results in lower fuel consumption and emissions. Suzuki claims this system lowers the average fuel consumption from 6 L/100 km to 5.6 L/100 km despite carrying an additional 125 kg of weight.

The new Grand Vitara has a modern interpretation of its forebear’s clamshell bonnet. It has a multi-level grille flanked by three-point LED daytime running lights on either side.

A thin three-dimensional LED light bar stretches the width of the car at the rear, with reverse and turn signal lights situated at the edges of the lower bumper.

Roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels are standard across the range, with GLX models getting silver roof rails, machine-polished alloys and privacy glass on the rear doors.

Suzuki Grand Vitara
A nine-inch infotainment system is standard on the GLX. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Generously specced

Standard on GL models are a seven-inch infotainment system with reverse camera, with GLX models featuring a nine-inch screen with panoramic video display, Head-Up display, sunroof, full leatherette interior, wireless charging tray and ambient lighting.

Standard safety features include six airbags, electronic stability control and ABS with EBA. Plus hill-hold assist, rear parking sensors and ISOFIX child seat mountings with both top and bottom tethers.

The Citizen Motoring had the chance to drive the new Grand Vitara over a variety of off-road terrain in the Southern Cape recently.

The all-wheel drive model performed well on a very rocky and slippery trail up the Outeniqua Mountains. And the two-wheel drive derivatives’ suspension was just as solid over gravel stretches.

With the hybrid powertrain matches the KB15B engine in terms of output, there wasn’t a massive difference in performance between the two.

Coming in at a hefty premium over the other models, the hybrid is not going to be volume seller. But is an important stepping stone for Suzuki’s future nonetheless.

Grand Vitara pricing

  • 1.5 GL – R339 900
  • 1.5 GL AT – R359 900
  • 1.5 GLX – R397 900
  • 1.5 GLX AT – R417 900
  • 1.5 Hybrid GLX AT – R529 900

Grand Vitara pricing includes six-year/90 000 km service plan and five-year/200 000 km warranty.

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