Being well used to driving a much-smaller Suzuki in London and whizzing round and in and out of traffic I found the chunky, positively gutsy Grand Vitara was a bit of a handful at first.
But after getting it on to the motorway for a grand test and tour of Scotland’s Highlands I appreciated its roomy feel and very positive handling – and not he least its user-friendly cruise control and its 37mpg return, as fuel prices had soared at the start of the trip.
The test vehicle, the DDiS 1.9 is the biggest of all Suzukis – and best value 4×4 in its range – and it ate up the miles on the A1 from London and I was soon in Durham for City visit and stopover.
What a wonderful city, with one of England’s great cathedrals and it was a pleasure on my tour to speak to the rector who reminisced long about the Durham Light Infantry’s illustrious war record – all displayed beautifully recorded in the cathedral.
Next day we whizzed past Newcastle and took probably the worst main road in Britain – the dreaded A167 through very hilly and bendy, and mainly rainswept hills to Edinburgh. Great for car testing but the 3-lane highway is dangerously-congested with lorry traffic and we cursed ourselves for not staying on the A1 with its scenic sea views and more leisurely pace.
Once past Edinburgh and Perth we were on the A9 and then the long haul to our destination of Aviemore in the Highlands – Britain’s biggest sporting area with millions of acres of mountains to hike or bike or hunt in and ski in winter but we were there in mid-summer test drive our magnificent machine in the tough mountain roads and off-road – and sometimes across heather – in the glens.
The Grand Vitara performed well in all conditions, particularly off-road on dirt tracks and even on slightly-swampy terrain and the only letdown was the cost of fuel in Aviemore – 20p a litre more than in England. Grants, the area’s only garage, had a quick reply – it’s cost of transport sir. Oh really – I thought Britain brought ashore its North Sea fuel from a mere 100 miles away!?
Back on the roads we enjoyed the Vitara’s responsive handling on winding roads and en-route back south we enjoyed sitting back in cruise watching the changing scenery and changing to warmer weather as we drove south, this time stopping in the Ayrshire hills for more testing on the tracks around Cairn Table, in Muirkirk, the county’s highest hill at just under 2,000ft. Here the machine performed very well again and local hikers and bikers were surprised to be over-taken (slowly and politely, I add) by our gleaming bright red 4×4.
Then it was back on the A74 and M6 back south London bound, but we could not resist an overnight in the Peak District, where there are very tricky ascents and bending and narrow roads galore – and where again our Suzuki starred with its permanent four-wheel drive. The firm suspension let the Vitara stay composed through corners. Good grip with well-weighted steering and a very assured journey for both driver and passengers.
At cost of under £24,000 it is our best value buy in the range, and a good vehicle for longer winter treks to the Alps.