ON THE ROAD- IAN LYNAS DRIVES THE SUZUKI VITARA HYBRID
I am often asked why buy a hybrid and there are two main reasons, lower emissions and improved fuel economy and in the current climate the latter matters means more than ever
My latest opportunity to drive a hybrid came with the new Suzuki Vitara Hybrid, which is a full version; (121g/km) previously the Vitara featured a mild hybrid system. Over a route in Wales, thanks to Alun Parry (Head of Suzuki PR for the UK and Ireland) and his team, a mix of fairly demanding rural roads and motorway, I explored the drive qualities of the newcomer. The Vitara is a best seller for Suzuki, manufactured in Hungary, and it competes in what can be described as currently the most competitive in the motor industry, that for compact SUVs. In fact it has no fewer than twenty three competitors.
With a new the 1.5-litre (K15C) engine which has been developed for the Vitara, the full hybrid is fitted to all model grades. It has multipoint fuel injection as well as latest design fuel injectors and a high pressure fuel pump. Fuel is injected at high pressure into the combustion chamber during the air intake stroke which then forms a rich mixture around the spark plug and leaner mixture around the outer edge of the piston. The tumble flow of the fuel is created by utilising a straight intake port and a complex shape piston crown design. The new and higher-powered Suzuki system consists of a 140V lithium-ion battery and inverter, Motor Generator Unit ( MGU), a 12V lithium-ion battery as well as a conventional 12V lead-acid battery to power components requiring lower voltage such as lights, instruments and heating and air conditioning. The new system has two switchable modes which are Eco and Standard. One switch enables the driver to change between the two modes depending on conditions and also increases the frequency of EV driving. In Standard mode operation, the MGU more frequently assists the petrol engine to allow more spirited driving enjoyment. The Auto Gear Shift (AGS) is standard and it automatically shifts the manual transmission and gear ratios that are optimised to help provide a good combination of performance and fuel economy. This enables the driver to enjoy both the direct driving experience of a manual gearbox and the shifting ease of an automatic transmission. Worth noting, another key advantage is lower component weight versus a conventional torque converter type automatic and the transmission also has a manual mode with steering wheel mounted shift paddles.
Behind the wheel, this member of the Suzuki family does deliver a sporty drive which is aided by a suspension set up with higher rigidity to also deliver better driving stability. With 115bhp at the command of the right foot it is certainly not lacking. The hybrid version of the Vitara is offered in two wheel drive or Suzuki’s ALLGRIP Select system; this is available as an option on the SZ5 and incorporates four driver-selectable modes for safe, enjoyable driving on diverse surfaces. This system first appeared in the S-Cross and has proved very popular. In development, this system was enhanced by the addition of a feed forward function that allocates torque to the rear wheels before any slippage can occur. The system’s four driver-selectable modes are as follows- Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. No surprise to discover that this new model comes with a host of safety and convenience features, in fact better than any of its competitors. Grades available SZ-T, SZ5 and the already noted the option of ALLGRIP on the top of the range SZ5, Suzuki do keep it simple when it comes to grades. The Vitara Hybrid will be available in the Republic of Ireland next month and expect grades to be similar to those available in Northern Ireland.