February 25, 2018, 9:55 am
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The all-new Suzuki Vitara impresses on a drive to La Union

One of my most memorable experiences with the Suzuki Vitara was in early 2000 when some 40 Vitara owners got together for a weekend drive to Subic in Zambales, some 130 kms away via NLEX, San Fernando-Olongapo Highway and Morong, Bataan.

It was an event spearheaded by Suzuki Philippines, Inc. and by the members of Suzuki Club, one of the more active car clubs in the country at that time and until now. It was a delight seeing the Vitara owners with their families and friends enjoying the scenery along the way and the lunch and some activities held at the APEC Summit Hall which hosted the APEC leaders in 1995.  

A year after, we also did the Grand Vitara 48 Hours Non-Stop Challenge in which we drove a Grand Vitara from Manila to Cagayan, Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte and on to Baguio with only a few hours rest in between for drivers and passengers but not with the Vitara’s engine.

Fast forward to 2017 and again we get to see a long convoy of  Suzuki vehicles this time featuring the all-new Vitara in another well-organized event driving to Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union.

It was quite a surprise seeing 15 brand-new Vitara units being put to a test by some 31 motoring journalists two weeks after the model’s impressive launch. The convoy also had a couple of Ciaz, Ertiga and Grand Vitara as support vehicles.

We were welcomed at Suzuki Caloocan by SPI General Manager for Automobile Shuzo Hoshikura, “It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to this year’s test drive activity with our very own Suzuki Vitara. I believe since its launch we were able to position ourselves accordingly, having targeted the millennial market. Bringing this new subcompact SUV all the way from Europe and adapting its advanced features and functionalities, we set our sights on reaching out to more Filipinos and sharing with them the Suzuki Way of Life.”

The all-new Vitara definitely looks very sporty, vibrant and dynamic with its uni-body construction. It features attractive colors- blue gray, orange and red which would easily appeal not only to the young but people who would like to feel young even with the kind of car they drive.

 The Vitara is powered a 1.6L 4-cylinder gasoline engine paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission and a front-wheel drive system. Driving the new crossover from EDSA to San Fernando, Pampanga via NLEX was a breeze. It impressed me as a preppy SUV with a powerful responsive engine and with a comfortable ride for five persons. It was when we arrived at the Le Souq Restaurant in San Fernando that I appreciated the new colors even more. The convoy was predominantly blue but the red and orange were  very striking as well.

Our colleague, Earl Manalansan of Powerwheels Magazine took the driver’s seat and we opened the panoramic sunroof to let the hot air out. It is long and wide and with this feature I can imagine the occupants enjoying fresh air when they go out on a trip to some provinces.

Looking at the side mirror to my right, I easily noticed the Vitara’s DRL or daytime running lights. Unlike other cars whose DRLs are incorporated in the headlights, the Vitara’s DRLs are positioned semi-vertically on its bumpers. They are very visible from a good distance but
they are not glaring to the eyes.

 We all used the top-of-the-line GLX models in this test drive. I has s a dual gauge cluster with larger multi-info display and a new 10-inch infotainment touchscreen. This is perhaps the biggest screen I’ve seen in compact vehicle and is very useful when one goes on a reverse drive and parking on tight spot.

It is also equipped with 12V power sockets, AM/FM radio, USB, Aux, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connectivity, and automatic climate control. Its 3-spoke steering wheel also has multimedia controls.

I told Earl this SUV has almost all the features found in some luxury vehicles. In fact, when it was my turn to drive again, I thought I was driving a premium compact SUV. Earl also enjoyed using the car’s Cruise Control System  and its stability on both highway and provincial roads.

 We arrived at Thunderbird Resort in La Union just in time to take more photos for the photo contest and the famed Ilocos sunset.

 Our best fuel mileage as seen in the fuel average monitor was 14.6 kms/L which is impressive considering that we have to keep up with the fast pace of the convoy most of the time.

 On day two we had so many things and extra bags to load in the Vitara and the more we saw how spacious the rear section is.

 The all-new Vitara is competitively priced P1,048,000 for the GLX and P938,000 for the GL+.

 With a good price and excellent features for the new Vitara, do we see more Vitaras going on relaxing or even adventure drives to various destinations in the near future? 

The all-new Vitara. It lives!
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