A dated fix to a futuristic problem
Why you can't just slap a hybrid system into a car and call it a fix?
Technology as a whole moves pretty fast. Apple seem to release an iPhone each year, Tesla has come on in leaps and bounds since their revitalisation in the early 2010s and I'm sure you can buy such a thing as a smart toaster these days. The constant ongoing march of technological advancement is at this point unstoppable. But as hard as it is to stop it, it's just as hard to stay ahead of the curve and produce something of the moment for the market. This means your designers and technicians needs to be able to engineer something for a future market. Ford actually did this and hired Sheryl Connelly as their head of trends and futuring. It sounds like a role from W1A but trust me, there was a person at Ford employed as a futurist. And after driving the Suzuki Vitara Hybrid, I can't help but feel that Suzuki need to employ someone similar.
I shan't beat about the bush, the new Vitara feels like an old design held together with sticking plaster. The whole concept seems to unwind once you spec the hybrid gubbins. The Vitara is a sweet-handling little thing, weighing in at about 1200kgs it's considerably lighter than its smallish SUV brethren, and it goes about on-road business with fair aplomb. It turns in neatly, grips well and doesn't roll so much that you're in any fear of falling out; even if the steering is a little light and absent of feedback for my liking. It smooths out most jolts from the road well, though you can tell it was set up with some sans-tarmac adventures in mind. You can have those adventures too if you spec it with the All-Grip four-wheel-drive system.
Otherwise, it is adequately soundproofed enough that long distances in it never become too droning (the same can't be said for my Jim). The seats are comfortable if a little flat and the dash is laid out with the same level of common sense you'd expect from a company that just do things well. Although, the materials are a bit harsh and rough, but you can somewhat forgive this as they add an air of ruggedness to the car. Oh, and the infotainment system is atrocious. Thankfully it does come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can bypass the woeful system and go from there. Boot space is best described as cavernous and almost enough to make you think a third row of seats would fit back there, albeit with some incredibly pinched headroom. 375 litres with the seats up and a fairly impressive 710 with them down if you really want to know.
But my main gripe with the hybrid Vitara is its powertrain. I'm not denying the importance of hybridisation and electrification, but with the Vitara, it feels like turning Grandad into a cyborg. Yes, it'll be relevant a bit long, but it isn't really Grandad anymore is it? The electric poke is pleasantly substantial and dumps all its volts from the moment you prod the throttle meaning you can startle people away from the lights. But once the system has used up its electric juice, it thrums away happily on the petrol engine. The four-cylinder engine isn't bad either, happy to rev and not awful to listen to as you do so. It builds speed nicely and the manual gearbox has a clean shift to it. Speed is shed well through the brakes, aided no doubt through regeneration. The whole system seems a little lacklustre for a hybrid. Spend some time driving a truer hybrid where you can whirr about on the power of electrons alone and you get your hopes up quite a bit, stepping into the Vitara from one of those feels like stepping back in time. It feels like a dated answer to a modern issue. That and I never crested 40mpg with it the entire time I had it. Which for a hybrid is pretty shocking. I left my drive feeling wholly underwhelmed by the Vitara. It had none of the character of the Jimny to make up for its shortcomings, as a result, it feels a tad half-arsed.
The current Vitara is now six years old, but Suzuki always seems to be slow to refresh their big names. The 3rd gen Jimny lasted 20 years before being updated. So perhaps this sticking plaster isn't a temporary fix and is what Suzuki anticipated would be enough to see the Vit's relevancy long into the future. A future they never predicted.
Must try harder, practicality and durability only get you so far.