FINGERTIP control is the way the world works these days and increasingly this new dexterity is required when
FINGERTIP control is the way the world works these days and increasingly this new dexterity is required when driving a car.
So this week’s drive, the Suzuki Vitara, had a feature I had not encountered before — a touchscreen that included fingertip volume control.
Now this may be commonplace in cars. And, of course, most of the cars I drive these days have touchscreens of varying degrees of quality and design.
But I had not had to use the tip of my index finger on my left hand before to turn the car radio volume up or down.
This took a bit of getting used to. At first, I was either ripping the volume up to full or plunging it to a whisper with what I thought was the faintest of touches.
However, as with most things to do with computers after several repetitive goes I soon got the hang of it.
Actually, you might think that the distraction issue — something that should concern us all — would be either solved or exacerbated by fingertip controls on any car’s touchscreen.
I come down somewhere in the middle: ideally you should sort out your chosen radio station, volume, or satnav, before setting out. But unfortunately not a lot of people do that. There are still idiots who text or make calls on handheld mobiles while driving and forgive me if I believe those kinds of drivers will always be with us.
Besides, the levels of standard equipment on this Vitara showed excellent value for money and also included steering wheel audio controls. But touchscreens are here to stay — until the next big invention — and the one on the Vitara was handsome and well-designed for an inexpensive medium-sized SUV (sports utility vehicle).
I liked the way this car was turned out. Suzuki has definitely upped its game in recent years and there is nothing at all wrong with the way the new Vitara — launched eight months ago — looks.
Colour is a matter of choice and its Horizon Orange Metallic/Cosmic Black Pearl Metallic (which would cost you an extra £800) was not to everyone’s taste. A small poll revealed that this kind of “vibrant bright” colour was more popular among younger people than older drivers.
It was I thought a smart-looking livery inside and out. There was something bright and cheery about getting into the Vitara each day for a drive. What I was not so convinced about was its 1.6-litre petrol engine, which I think lacked depth and torque (pulling power).
Suzuki has traditionally made high-revving engines and, indeed, if you accelerate hard you will get performance out of this Vitara. But I thought the 1.6 engine on the test car lacked good old-fashioned oomph — particularly for a car with full off-road potential.
However, that is about to be rectified with the introduction of an S model in January 2016 that will have a new 1.4-litre petrol engine that utilises what Suzuki calls Boosterjet technology.
This is a petrol engine with a 140PS 1.4-litre Direct Injection turbocharged unit (DITC). All I look for in any car is some “grunt” in its power unit — whether it is a big 4x4 or a medium to small one.
Suzuki says the new engine offers 17 per cent more power than the 1.6-litre version and I think that this is a step in the right direction for the Japanese car maker.
The Vitara — and Suzuki in general — has so improved in recent years it would be a shame not to up its pulling power to make it even more of a contender.
This smaller SUV segment is a growing global car marketplace as large SUVs become less desirable. I am looking forward to testing the Vitara S with the new engine in the new year.
Standard equipment for all Vitara models in the range is comprehensive and the SZ4 model includes seven airbags, alloy wheels, DAB Radio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control with speed limiter, auto air conditioning and front and rear electric windows.
SZ-T adds 17-inch silver painted alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, Smartphone link audio and navigation system. Moving up to SZ5 adds LED Projector headlights, 17-inch polished alloy wheels, suede seat fabric, keyless entry with start button, Adaptive Cruise Control, Radar Brake Support and panoramic sunroof.
The S model is equipped with 17-inch gloss black alloy wheels, unique grille design, satin silver door mirrors, rear upper spoiler and black side body mouldings.
For the interior the sporting theme continues with red interior stitching, red air conditioning vent and instrument accents and aluminium alloy pedals.