Suzuki Vitara 1.5 Full Hybrid SZ5 2022 UK review

Suzuki Vitara 1.5 Full Hybrid SZ5 2022 UK review

What is it?

With mechanical homogeneity looming as everything becomes based around skateboard-style EV platforms, engineers seem to be seizing the moment as a final opportunity to go a bit mad with weird and wonderful technical solutions for their new hybrids.

We’ve seen motors on the rear axle or in the gearbox, Toyota’s planetary gearset, Honda’s pretend CVT and, quirkiest of all, Renault’s four-speed dog ‘box. Now here’s another one to add to the collection: Suzuki has revived the much-maligned automated manual for its new Vitara Hybrid.

Suzuki has made the Vitara compact crossover into its second full hybrid model, after the Suzuki Swace. Unlike that rebadged Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate, the Vitara’s hybrid system is all Suzuki’s own work – and that’s not necessarily a good thing. We would normally applaud Suzuki for charting its own course, because it has applied mild-hybrid power to very good effect in most of its cars, but this full hybrid isn’t so convincing.

For one, it doesn’t use the very capable 1.4-litre turbo engine of the normal Suzuki Vitara but an older, naturally aspirated 1.5-litre unit with 114bhp. And that’s assisted by a belt-driven electric motor-generator with 33bhp, which is pretty puny for a hybrid. Combined with the fact that it doesn’t add to the peak power output (it just beefs up the power curve at lower revs), this car is actually more like a potent mild hybrid than a full hybrid.

The drive battery’s 0.84kWh capacity is pretty small, too. As already mentioned, all power is fed through a six-speed automated manual gearbox.

Suzuki offers its Allgrip four-wheel drive system as an option on range-topping SZ5 trim.

What’s it like?

The gearbox is a manual with actuators to take care of the clutch and gearchange and minus the clutch pedal and gearstick. Such ‘boxes died out in the 2010s, because in most applications they were slow and clunky.

It’s a technology that should have stayed dead. Thanks to the electric motor providing some torque fill while the gearbox is doing its thing, at least gearchanges are smooth most of the time, but upshifts are still veeeeery slooooow, especially under big throttle openings. When you demand a lot of power from rest (as you might do at a busy junction), it can also take a moment to give you meaningful acceleration.