I got stranded in a snowstorm, a Suzuki Vitara S got me home.
That's the exact situation I found myself in, stupidly unprepared for a freak snowstorm miles from home with a morbid sense inside telling me 'I told you so'.
The Vitara S is the Suzuki 'range-topper', powered by a 1.4 Boosterjet engine which comes with AWD as standard and costs just over £22,000 when new. 138bhp, 162lb ft torque, lots of gadgets as standard and (most importantly) AWD (did I mention it has AWD?). It's what many perceive as a 'budget' 4x4 - really that's what I used to think too.. that is until it proved to me it was so much more than that.
It's the middle of March and the UK is bracing for a snowstorm of epic proportions, many roads up north have been closed by snow drifts.. and I've got a gig 150 miles from home right in the belly of the storm. "No problem", I proclaimed, I'll be home before snow even starts laying.
30 minutes after I arrive at the venue I notice a fine white powder beginning to lay on the roads, it still doesn't cross my mind I'm in the middle of nowhere 150 miles from home and 20 miles of backroads from a major route. I enjoy the gig, pack down, open the stage door and then it hits me..
..the entire car park is covered in snow and the road is covered in snow.
Initially the 'worry' was minimal, the snow at this point was very little. 1/8 of a foot at most, not enough to worry even a RWD car with, let alone something with AWD.
I get on my way, within 5 minutes it's completely white out - no matter what you did you could barely see the edges of the road. The snow was coming down thick and fast and I wasn't getting any closer to being on a major route. I was too far away to turn back, so I considered sticking it out. No sleeping bag, 1/4 tank of fuel, no food.. no water.. looks like I'm driving on then.
I stuck the Vitara S into locked AWD mode, prayed to the car gods that this perky little machine could get me home safely and begun my long and epic snowy journey homewards.
Very quickly it hit me that this 'budget' 4x4 was so much more than I'd ever given it credit for. Approaching a steep hill I saw a BMW X5, 535D xDrive and an Audi Q7 struggling to get any traction - what happened next made all of them envious of my unstoppable red machine.
It passed them with ease all the way to the top, without a moment of issue.
This perky little 4x4 had walked all over vehicles 3 times the cost, but the journey wasn't done yet. Over the following hour I climbed multiple hills, went down some seriously steep roads and the Vitara performed like it was driving on tarmac.
I finally battled my way onto a major route which was entirely engulfed in snow drifts. Abandoned cars were of abundance, vehicles which I considered 'proper 4x4's' were just left on the side of the road (Range Rover Sport Autobiography etc) for the owners to collect when the weather got better.
The Vitara S powered through. At no point did I feel the wheels slipping - at no point did I feel unsafe. This car had just beaten all prior misconceptions and was showing me over and over again just how capable it was in any circumstance at all.
Just remember - prior to the snowstorm I drove 150 miles with ease, in comfort, with relative frugality and had an easy drive. I was now driving 150 miles through deep snow drifts with ease, in comfort, with relative frugality and it was an easy drive. How a vehicle could do both so well absolutely blew my mind and changed my concept of the Suzuki Vitara forever.
A few hours later and running on fumes, I finally get home. The entire car is covered in snow, the licence plate is unreadable, I'm shattered and ready for bed - but I had to take a moment to think what had just happened.
The brazen little Suzuki which I didn't think had huge 4x4 capabilities had proven me so wrong, beaten cars 3 times the price with utter brilliance, been entirely comfortable and most of all had been so reliable through the entire journey - never even missing a beat.
Thank you Suzuki for making the Vitara S as good as you have. Thank you Suzuki for giving it to me when it was due to snow. Thanks you Vitara S for being awesome, getting me home in one piece and generally being a superb vehicle.