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Sunday, July 11, 2021

Review: 2021 Suzuki Vitara AllGrip


In 2017, the Suzuki Vitara returned as an entrant in the then niche sub-compact SUV segment bringing with it their proven formula of “high equipment, low price.” What other brand could give you an assembled in Europe (Hungary to be exact) SUV with a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, and 17-inch alloy wheels for about P 1.1 million? This here represents the perfect convergence, and lo and behold: it clicked.

Four years on, Suzuki finds itself in a pickle. How do you respond to the changing market conditions? How do you keep ahead of the deluge of cheap Chinese SUVs? How do you keep the Vitara fresh after a facelift in 2019? The market has certainly changed and whereas sub-compact SUVs were a niche before, today they’re as staple as white rice. Their answer? Give it all-wheel drive.



Ultimately, this begs the question: is the all-wheel drive transformative? Do you actually feel where the extra money went? In all honesty, no. It’s the very same Vitara formula you’ve known for quite a while now. And, depending on your point of view, that could either be good or bad.

For starters, the Vitara AllGrip, as the model’s officially known, looks exactly like its front-wheel drive counterpart with the exception of some added trimmings like more chrome, overriders, rear spoiler, and of course, the “AllGrip” badge. Overall, it’s the same timelessly handsome looking crossover as before. Compared to other small SUVs, it takes on a more old-school SUV as opposed to a hatchback-on-stilts approach. With that, it manages to look bigger than its 4,175-mm long frame suggests. Even better (or at least expected at its price point), it also manages to keep all the key features of the front-drive Vitara intact such as the automatic LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The only option is the two-tone color scheme, and you pay P 10,000 more for that privilege.



Climbing aboard reveals the weakest point of the Vitara AllGrip. Whereas the fit and finish are generally alright for an SUV priced at P 1.1 million, they don’t anymore pass muster for one that’s competing at the P 1.45 million mark. Although everything is well assembled, the materials could be better. The exception of the soft-dash topper aside and the convincing aluminum accent, everything else is made of thin, hard plastic. For example, the door frames are hollow and brittle that the panel would actually budge every time the window would go up and down.

That’s a shame really because the interior packaging is actually quite good. Finding a comfortable driving position is easy with the Vitara AllGrip’s tilt/telescopic steering column and a driver’s seat that moves 6 ways (the passenger seat does too). The leather/suede combination on the thrones don’t just look good, they actually keep you in place during cornering. Towards the back, the rear accommodations will struggle to fit three adults, but two will have livable shoulder and leg room. That said, there’s no rear arm rest, and the panoramic sunroof could be a problem for taller passengers due to limited headroom.



The panoramic sunroof’s translucent cover and large windows also create a rather unexpected problem in the Vitara AllGrip: excessive glare on the 10-inch infotainment system. This issue aside, hitting the large icons is easy enough despite the lack of physical buttons and controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard too. Thanks to its high-resolution display, in CarPlay mode, it displays the icons in a 5x2 format as opposed to the standard 4x2.

In terms of storage, there’s plenty of it aboard the Vitara AllGrip. Not only is the glovebox lit (a rarity in this class), but mobile phones and media players can fit perfectly in the bin located in front of the shifter (the USB port is located there as well). There’s also a center armrest with a sizeable storage underneath. The cargo hold itself is squarish and upright. The two-tier floor provides a secure compartment to keep valuables away from prying eyes, or can be adjusted to maximize luggage volume to accommodate bulkier things like plants or boxes. Cleverer is that false floor can be held open with a smartly designed frame bracket giving you good access to things you’ve placed in there.



Under the hood, the Vitara AllGrip relies on the same 1.6-liter gasoline engine as its front-wheel drive sibling. With just 115 horsepower and 156 Nm of torque on tap, it sounds like a recipe for disaster as far as power and efficiency are concerned. It’s not. It does take some poking to get this 1,120-kilogram SUV going, but once it does, it settles into a nice, balanced rhythm. It’s no road rocket, but it can pull strongly even with three adults onboard. It is, however, very coarse-sounding and extremely boomy at higher revs. Perhaps the most surprising aspect here is that the added weight of the all-wheel drive system hasn’t affected the fuel economy at all. It still does 9.61 km/L—a figure that’s comparable with the two-wheel drive Vitara.

The accompanying 6-speed automatic is good as well. Although there are times it can be slow to change gear, but most of the time it’s smooth enough that you can just forget about it and leave it to do its thing. The steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters can also override gears at any time, and with both cruise control and speed limiter functions, it makes long drives much easier.



New for the Vitara AllGrip are selectable driving modes with Snow, Auto, Sport, and Lock (must be used in conjunction with Snow). Part of AllGrip Select, the system runs on two-wheel drive by default. However, it takes into account steering angle, throttle opening, and other factors, to anticipate possible slippage. It then allocates torque to the rear wheels to prevent this from happening. The entire system is transparent to the driver, although switching between Auto and Sport noticeably increases throttle sensitivity and lightens the steering.

In terms of on-road performance, the Vitara AllGrip has a firm, but well-damped suspension. Big bumps or potholes will send a dull thud through the interior, but the ride rarely gets unsettling and never becomes jarring. Plus, toss it around, and it obliges. The suspension is sporty and playful. Joined by a zippy-feeling steering, this is one SUV that’s fun to throw around corners. The rear end is always willing to follow suit and help rotate it though corners. Couple that with excellent visibility all around, and it is a great easy-to-drive SUV.



The Suzuki Vitara was once one of the lower priced small SUVs on the market, but the decision to drop the two-wheel drive variant, and offer the all-wheel drive AllGrip solely may result in some head scratching. There are plenty more small SUVs in the market today than there was four years ago, but instead of competing with them head on, Suzuki’s decided to niche.

There’s no denying that it still scores very high in the features department. Aside from the aforementioned features, it gets everything and the kitchen sink: push-button engine start/stop, power folding mirrors, 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control, front and rear proximity sensors, and a rear parking camera. But in the end, Suzuki’s answer to sub-compact SUVs becoming mainstream is to seemingly admit that they’d rather continue to remain outside the limelight. 

Whether it’s a decision made to disguise higher margins is another topic altogether, but an increase of about P 300,000 (P 1.458 million SRP) is, no matter how you look at it, excessive. But then again, when looked at the context of other SUVs, at that price, the Vitara still saves you P 300,000 compared to other small SUVs with four driven wheels. Indeed, this is a case of glass half full or glass half empty. Price notwithstanding, the Vitara AllGrip comes across as a fun to drive urban runabout with a nice balance of comfort and responses.

2021 Suzuki Vitara 1.6 AllGrip

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Ownership 2021 Suzuki Vitara 1.6 AllGrip Select
Year Introduced 2017 (Refreshed: 2019, 2021)
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Compact Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD, Locking
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.6
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 115 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 156 @ 4,400
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 9.61 km/L @ 17 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,175
Width (mm) 1,775
Height (mm) 1,610
Wheelbase (mm) 2,500
Curb Weight (kg) 1,120
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Manual
Tires Continental ContiPremiumContact 5 215/55 R 17 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Descent Control
Hill Start Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual
Seating Surface Leather/Suede
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof Yes
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto
Audio System Stereo
USB
Bluetooth
GPS
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

7 comments:

  1. While the 1.6 NA engine is ok, I think Suzuki should have brought in the 1.4 boosterjet. That should differentiate it more vs the competion (cx30 and XV which both have 2.0 NA engines).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brand not withstanding,
    The coolray trumps this in all areas but the AWD system.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Chinese vs European? Its a no-brainer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Remember, Mercedes Benz is also European and their cars are a bunch of crappy money pits

      Delete
    2. The suzuki is japanese, not european.
      And yes, its no brainer- the chinese brand wins.

      Delete
  4. I think this is nothing but a prelude, just market testing the price for the coming 5 door Jimny. Too much Suzuki, if you're reading this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hope Suzuki will bring back the 4x2 version (priced at P1.1 million). Much more affordable and already with very good features. Not too late for Suzuki to do this 😊👍
    - Mark J.

    ReplyDelete

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