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Suzuki is putting the finishing touches to the dramatically different, next-generation Vitara, with comprehensive changes and wide-ranging updates to match the striking all-new styling.
Expected to be unveiled around October, with global sales commencing soon after, the fifth generation of the long-lived series will adopt a far-bolder appearance than today’s ageing warhorse, to better take on the hot-selling Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona, Toyota C-HR and other popular small SUVs.
Letting the cat out of the bag was none other than Suzuki Iberica president Juan López Frade, who told a Spanish publication recently that the redesigned Vitara will be one of three fresh models slated for launch in Europe this year.
At least one of the other two Suzukis is said to be based on the phenomenally successful Jimny – a two-seater panel van variation to allow the series to return to Europe since it doesn’t need to meet strict emissions regulations. Some pundits are predicting that the eagerly awaited five-door wagon version will be the other debutante, though there is no confirmation of this.
Said to adopt a more rakish silhouette, more prominent character lines and a larger and more expressive grille, the 2022 Vitara will also stand taller, wider and longer than the LY series that debuted way back in 2015. Renderings published last year by Japanese website Best Car Web point to a fussier yet more contemporary style.
A concerted effort to lift the interior into this decade is also anticipated, with the next model poised to gain a much larger touchscreen offering a completely updated multimedia system, the option of a digitised and configurable instrumentation layout, wireless charging and higher-quality materials.
Predictably, improved cabin space for passengers and cargo alike will be the main beneficiaries of the new monocoque body’s growth spurt, even though reports out of Europe suggest that the wheelbase will remain the same as the current model’s 2500mm item, while the tracks will only be slightly wider this time around.
These point to the fact that the new Vitara’s platform may be a development of Suzuki’s small-car architecture as found underneath the existing model as well as the slow-selling S-Cross hatchback/crossover, rather than an all-new engineering creation, albeit with fundamental upgrades and changes to accommodate essential electrification requirements.
In Australia, the current model is powered by an ageing naturally aspirated 1.6-litre twin-cam four-cylinder petrol engine or a far-stronger 1.4-litre four-pot turbo-petrol unit Suzuki calls ‘Boosterjet’, with the latter also offering the option of AllGrip all-wheel drive in lieu of the default front-wheel-drive configuration.
Only the turbo engine is expected to carry through to the 2022 Vitara, possibly with mild-hybrid tech that might include a circa-10kW electric motor, 48-volt batteries and regenerative braking for increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Whether we also see the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo Boosterjet (as available in Europe and elsewhere) remains to be seen. Don’t hold your breath for the old 1.6-litre turbo-diesel, though, as that’s likely consigned to history’s dustbin.
Speculation out of Europe also suggests some form of Toyota's full hybrid system for the new Suzuki SUV, as an upshot of the model and technology sharing agreement between the two companies that has already seen the Toyota RAV4 and Corolla wagon hybrids sold in some parts of the world as the Suzuki Across and Swace respectively.
With such advances in store for the Vitara, prices are likely to jump substantially. It’s also worth remembering that the existing model has become considerably more expensive in recent weeks, copping rises of between $2000 and $2500, putting the cheapest grade at $25,990 before on-road costs, or $26,990 if you want an auto. Is Suzuki priming us for further increases? Time will tell.
Interestingly, it has been widely reported that Suzuki intended to release the fifth-generation Vitara in October last year (2020), but delayed the launch due to Covid-19. While it is unlikely that it would be pushed out much further beyond this year, further postponements might arise if the pandemic does not abate this year.
Otherwise, pencil in October 2021 as the crucial debut date for the fifth Vitara, with our fingers firmly crossed there are no more roadblocks for Suzuki’s vital small SUV series.