Sometimes, reading about a new engine design creates huge expectations, only for them to be dashed after just a few meters of driving. Not so with the Boosterjet: it’s a really sweet little thing.
There’s still a momentary hesitation while the small turbo whizzes into action, but when it does, cramming the combustion chambers with fuel and air at 1.1bar, it feels jolly perky, revving keenly from 1500rpm and never letting up until it trips the limiter. It’s refined as well, so you feel obliged to chase the red line and enjoy yourself.
When it’s time to change gear the feelsome clutch action helps you to be smooth and the gear change is surprisingly positive, albeit with some notchiness, particularly from second to third gear.
Sadly, the steering isn’t quite so appealing. It’s quick enough to make the Vitara feel pointy and alive, but the weighting is decidedly contrived. With just a couple of degrees of lock on, there’s no self-centring at all, so you find yourself carving a radius you didn’t actually want; add on more turns and it tries to make up for its initial tardiness by adding too much counter-torque.
In line with its sportier bent, the S version gets stiffer springs and dampers, so it's noticeably jigglier over patchy surfaces than other versions we've tried. However, it calms down at speed and it’s pretty good at dealing with major intrusions without rattling your teeth.
It certainly feels firmer than some of its rivals, such as the Citroën C4 Cactus, which works well for the handling. Where the Cactus will wallow about in corners, the Vitara stays pretty impervious to the effects of lateral g. Along with decent damping that gives good control over undulating roads, you feel inspired to push on with some degree of enthusiasm, and the Suzuki responds by holding itself together admirably.
Being four-wheel drive, it grips well, too. Immediately after gunning the throttle, there’s some corruption to the steering as the front tyres scrabble for purchase, but in a moment the rears are allowed to take some of the strain and it hooks up and goes.
When you hit the motorways, there’s some road roar if the surface is particularly coarse, but wind noise is pretty well suppressed, making the Vitara a relatively good little cruiser when it needs to be.
At first glance the cabin looks a bit cheap – and with hard plastics everywhere, that's a reasonable conclusion to draw – but in reality everything seems well screwed together, while the switches and stalks feel robust.
Ergonomically everything important is in the right place, and even the infotainment system works fairly well. The 7.0in touchscreen operates snappily, and while some of the menus take a bit of fathoming, you soon learn its quirks.
The front seats are extremely comfortable, despite lacking adjustable lumbar support, and there’s plenty of space up front, even for someone as lanky as me. In the rear, it’s also roomy enough for a couple of beefy lads, although stick a third in the middle seat and things get a bit cramped.
And contrary to the schoolboy me, who, according to numerous teachers, was neither big nor clever, the Vitara’s boot is. A wide opening with no load lip, a useful false floor and a wonderfully angular shape that’ll cope with a Christmas food shop for you and your extended clan are just some its highlights.