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  • Picture: SUPPLIED

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FM Edition:

One shouldn’t laugh. Dogs have feelings, too. But the miserable look on the face of my boerboel, squashed into the luggage compartment of the Suzuki Vitara on the way to the park for his regular walk, was priceless.

He’s used to plenty of space in my own stationwagon, so being unable to move and having things sticking into his sides was not his idea of fun. He does not like the Vitara.

Which is a shame, because I do. It’s not perfect. The 1.6l engine on the GL+ version I tested is not designed for excitement; in third and fourth gears, you need surprisingly high revs before the engine “takes” and acceleration kicks in. And Suzuki is guilty of the same sin as many other manufacturers by fitting compact sun visors. They offer inadequate protection against the dazzle of the midwinter SA sun, particularly in the early morning.

But enough of the negative stuff. There’s a sense of fun about the Vitara — starting with the dashboard clock with Japanese numerals (I assume they’re Japanese: my knowledge of Asian languages and symbols is pretty sketchy).

Suzuki describes the Vitara as a crossover — a vehicle that blurs the boundary between a car and a sports utility vehicle (SUV) — but one that errs on the side of SUV. Does that make it a crossover crossover? Of the five models in the range, two are equipped with an all-wheel-drive system which includes downhill descent control. There’s also a choice between five-speed manuals and six-speed automatics.

There’s a pleasing quirkiness about the exterior design. Marketing bumf talks about “muscular haunches”. I just think it looks like it means business. The 185mm ground clearance adds to the perception.

Inside, human passengers commented on the Vitara’s roominess and comfort. I like the high driver position and uncomplicated dashboard display and controls. It’s an easy car to drive. Notwithstanding the lack of outright power, it feels light and supple.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Vitara. As my family commented, it put a smile on my face. Pity the same can’t be said for Beezer the boerboel.

Prices range from R261,900 to R329,900. They include a three-year/100,000km warranty and four-year/60,000km service plan.