Suzuki Vitara 1.5 Full Hybrid SZ5 UK review

Suzuki takes it one step further by electrifying its compact crossover, putting it in direct competition with the Toyota Yaris Cross

What is it?

Engineers are seizing this moment to experiment with new technical solutions to their hybrids, despite mechanical homogeneity becoming more common as everything is built around skateboard-style electric vehicle platforms.

Motors have been seen in the rear axle, or in the gearbox. We’ve also seen Honda’s pretend CVT, Toyota’s planetary gearset, and Renault’s four-speed dog box. Suzuki has resurrected the much-maligned automated Manual for its Vitara Hybrid.

Suzuki has transformed the Vitara compact crossover vehicle into its second full-hybrid model, following the Suzuki Swace. The Vitara’s hybrid system, unlike the rebadged Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Estate, is entirely Suzuki’s work. Although we would normally be supportive of Suzuki’s decision to chart its own course, the hybrid system in the Vitara is not convincing. It uses mild-hybrid power to great effect in many of its cars.

It doesn’t have the 1.4-litre turbo engine that the Suzuki Vitara has, but instead uses a 1.5-litre unit with only 114 bhp. A belt-driven electric motor generator with 33 bhp is also used to assist this hybrid. This car, combined with the fact it doesn’t increase the peak power output (it just boosts the power curve at lower revs), is more like a mild hybrid than a fully hybrid.

It is also quite small in terms of the drive battery’s capacity of 0.84kWh. All power is supplied by a 6-speed manual automated gearbox.

Suzuki offers the Allgrip four-wheel drive option as an option for its range-topping SZ5 trim.

It’s what?

A manual that controls the clutch, gearchange, and clutch pedal. The gearbox is also known as a manual. These ‘boxes were obsoleted in 2010 because they were slow and cumbersome in many applications.

This is a technology that should not have been invented. The electric motor provides some torque fill to the gearbox while it does its thing. However, gearchanges are almost always smooth. Upshifts, however, are still very slow, especially when you open the throttle. It can take some time for the electric motor to provide you with meaningful acceleration when you are requiring a lot from it (such as at busy intersections).

The motor and battery are so small that you cannot drive the engine on for very long. You need to be careful when you are driving around town. The Eco mode can be activated, but it only helps a small amount. The small battery has a few benefits, but not enough to make the Vitara more spacious or easier to handle.

It’s still economical, right? Yes, and no. Yes and no. Its official 53mpg figure is just below the Toyota Yaris Cross’s and Renault Captur E-Tech’s, but our test drive suggested that it will be close in real life. However, the current mild-hybrid Vitara got only 49.5mpg with its torque-converter auto ‘box.

The hybrid replaces the mildly-hybrid auto in the range. However, it is priced at PS25,499 and is significantly more expensive, slower, and not nearly as enjoyable to drive. All this for a 3.5mpg improvement and an 8g/km CO2 emissions. The full hybrid is now in the lower BIK range, however, due to its higher list price, the savings in company car taxes comes to just about PS50 for someone with 20% income tax.

Do I need one?

It makes sense to use the mild-hybrid manual Vitara because it is less expensive than most competitors and offers excellent performance, good interior space and decent standard equipment. The full hybrid version of the Vitara is both more expensive and worse in every way.

The Vitara Hybrid, especially with the PS2000 contribution Suzuki is currently providing retail customers, is still cheaper than either the Yaris Cross, or Captur E–Tech. However, that does not excuse the outdated transmission or low-rent interior or infotainment.

You can save PS1750 by opting for the mild-hybrid manual, or one of its competitors.

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