This writer has a profound distrust of favourable recommendations. For instance, I recently heard about the most incredible club, restaurant and bar in Johannesburg’s history.
You get free admission, plus free food and drinks all evening. And, after all of that, you are guaranteed to have sex.
I was told about this by my sister – she went to the place and everything listed above happened.
When I went, things were different. I had to pay for admission, food and drinks.
And, when I demanded sex, the management be came nasty and threw me out. Equally, I heard good reports about the television shows Days of our Drives and The Bolt and the Bootlid Fuel.
But, on closer inspection, neither of the programmes deal with the driving of cars, or the fitting of car parts.
Do not believe everything you hear. That is why I was sceptical when it was my turn to drive long-term test vehicle, the Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+ 5MT AllGrip.
My colleague Mark Jones has tested said vehicle before me, and gave it glowing reports.
Mark, as you know, now spends a lot of time ferrying his mountain bike around the place, when he is not trying to drive everything fast as our Road Test Editor.
I, being old, fat and feeble, was given a simple brief – drive the car around Gauteng during the holidays, test its fuel consumption and report on its user-friendliness about town.
Which is what I did. Viewed from any angle, the Vitara is without doubt a Suzuki, due to the marque’s traditional clamshell bonnet, two-blade grille, bold lower air intake, smooth, aerodynamic roofline, plus short front and rear overhangs.
It is a compact vehicle, measuring just 4 175 mm long, 1 775 mm wide and 1 610 mm high. Inside, the test vehicle certainly meets all reasonable expectations.
The front bucket seats are height adjustable for both driver and passenger, while the rear bench seat is split 60/40 and can be folded flat partially or completely to provide massive loading space.
The dashboard hosts an easyto-read instrument cluster directly ahead of the driver, plus a centre stack that is home to the switchgear for the air-conditioning and audio system.
The main instrument binnacle is dominated by dual analogue dials for the speedometer and rev counter, while an information display between the two dials offers selectable trip computer information, including instant or average fuel consumption, operating range, average speed, outside temperature, a trip meter, odometer and a digital clock. Meanwhile, a U-shaped centre console houses the gearshift lever.
The steering wheel, adjustable for tilt and reach, is equipped with multifunction controls for the audio system, hands-free telephoning, plus cruise control systems.
The MP3/WMA-compatible multi-speaker audio system includes a CD player and FM/AM tuner, plus USB connectivity.
Of course, being ancient, I fiddled with it until I had found 947, after which I carefully left it alone.
And that is one of the test vehicle’s most endearing points – you do not have to be a computer fundi to operate this Suzuki.
It is simple and easy to drive, aided by things like standard front and rear parking sensors, hill hold control, automatic headlight activation and keyless starting.
The fuel-injected four-cylinder 1 586cc petrol engine delivers 86 kW of power at 6 600 rpm, combined with 151 Nm of torque at 4 400 rpm.
This does not make for scintillating performance, but the Vitara will stay with Gauteng traffic, and cruise at 120 km/h in fifth gear with 3 000 rpm on the clock all day long.
You can do so in safety, as the Suzuki is equipped with a full array of active and passive safety features.
They include ABS with brake assist, electronic stability control, seven airbags, front seat belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, plus IsoFix child seat tethers.
We made some efforts to drive the test vehicle frugally, which yielded an average fuel consumption figure of 6.2 litres/100 km.
At heart, this Suzuki is a solid, comfortable, able SUV, for its asking price of R307 900.