It has been a while since he last referenced his Suzuki crossover but, with 20 months of the lease deal expired, Iain Robertson felt it important that he should underscore its capabilities and maybe look unwillingly towards its replacement.
Since Christmas just past, I have refuelled my Suzuki Vitara just once and there remains almost a full tank of two-star unleaded beneath its back seat. Sticking to a prescribed ‘one essential trip’ per week to the local supermarket, 11 miles away, I actually have enough fuel to serve my present needs until the end of May, if the pandemic restrictions were to remain in place.
While I am sure that the lack of mileage is not doing Vitara any good at all, that it starts dependably once a week, does not appear to be suffering from tyre flat-spots (a downside of long-term inactivity) and has remained remarkably clean during its week-long periods of enforced lockdown are the positive aspects that long-term operation of a car serves to highlight. Naturally, with fixed monthly payments to make on a vehicle that I shall never own, I am protected from depreciation and not having to face service charges (only one a year), or replacement road tax, my only additional overhead is my insurance premium, a very reasonable £190 annually fully-comprehensive. Petrol is a running cost.
Although some of my near neighbours have been bemoaning the costs associated with a blend of Ford B-Max, Mitsubishi PHEV, Honda Civic and Saab 9-5 motorcars static on their driveways, Suzuki oncosts have been minimal and of zero concern. Yet, only using the car once a week does make me reflect on the efficacy of an electric-assist bicycle. My Scottish resident relatives, who have far more money than they deserve, have acquired electric bikes, which at around one-and-a-half-grand a pop does seem ever so slightly extravagant, especially as the only tangible benefit seems to be fresh air intake.
It was a mere fleeting thought, believe me. However, with ‘E-Day’ approaching in less than nine years and a government uncertain of its future sources of road tax from each EV owner and a much-reduced tax take from the oil companies, I have also been contemplating my EV choice. Yet, I remain miffed. After all, the decision to stop selling fossil-fuelled motor vehicles after January 1st 2030 is not merely arbitrary but also something that will force me into spending at least 40% more to stake my claim, without payback, other than lower fuel costs (electricity). When you factor in the Chancellor’s projected tax increases just to cover the cost to the nation of the pandemic in furloughing and business loans that are unlikely ever to be recovered, you can probably add another 10% to the future’s motoring costs.
I might just buy a gas-guzzler to outlast my tawdry existence. After all, investing in an EV today, or in 16 months’ time, when the Suzuki’s lease is terminated, is a sure-fire guarantee that its technology will be more than just overtaken come ‘E-Day’. There is zero benefit to acquiring one now.
Although I have managed to put a few thousand miles on Vitara’s odometer since the beginning of 2020, not going anywhere means that its internal condition remains as good as new and, thanks to superb AutoGlym bodywork protection, the outside is not stone-chipped and washes like a new pin. When it returns to the lease company, it will have markedly fewer miles on the clock than the lease allows. At least I will not have to confront excess mileage charges!
Among my sometimes-vivid Technicolor dreams (come on, we’ve all had them!) are memories of enjoyably quick cross-country forays on largely deserted roads. It is something at which my Suzuki excels, despite its 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine (now discontinued, for some ungodly reason), which thrums along gutturally and surprisingly punchily. This car has proven conclusively that 111bhp is more than adequate in a one-tonne, front-driven crossover, driving through a five-speed manual gearbox. Motorway legal limit cruising is a peaceful 2,400rpm but the Swift-platformed hatchback handles engagingly on even the most challenging A and B-roads. Perfect damping affords a decent, roll-resistant ride quality, supported by delicious steering responses and dependable braking reserves. The truth is, I do not need much more.
Thanks to returning in excess of 54mpg on longer trips (around 45mpg on shopping trips), I can trek from Lincoln to Edinburgh comfortably on a single tank. Fortunately, the driving position for a two-metres tall occupant is fantastic and supportively comfortable, while a neutrally balanced handling envelope means that exhaustive wheel twirling is unnecessary. I do emerge at the end of a long drive relaxed and ready to return home, if I needed to.
The Vitara does feature ‘stop:start’ technology, as long as I select neutral and handbrake at traffic lights and busy junctions but, how much of an impact that has on CO2 emissions remains questionable on a car that emits only 121g/km in the first place. It does report the ‘status’ in the dashboard read-out but I cannot perceive it as planet-saving.
That is it, really. Not driving the car, not by choice, may have some unrequited benefits on the rest of society and I do miss the freedom that personal transport provides under all normal circumstances. I can scarcely wait for Boris to state that the Chinese disease is under control, so that I can continue to enjoy my Suzuki Vitara in the manner it ought to be, with abandon, on my favourite roads. More anon.
Conclusion: The object of long-term, ‘real’ testing has been stymied of late but it does not stop me from recommending a Suzuki Vitara, now in 1.4-litre hybrid form, which is definitely not a demerit. I guess it might be my next choice of personal transport, when it becomes necessary to change my car.