x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

My Car: Suzuki is Grand choice for motoring marketer

In her 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara, the Dubai-based marketing manager Kate Boyle found an SUV to match both of her sides.

This Suzuki Grand Vitara may look like a toy, but its lightweight and powerful engine have been a pleasant surprise off-road for its owner, Kate Boyle. Charles Crowell for The National
This Suzuki Grand Vitara may look like a toy, but its lightweight and powerful engine have been a pleasant surprise off-road for its owner, Kate Boyle. Charles Crowell for The National

Born in Abu Dhabi 25 years ago, Kate Boyle works as a cosmetics marketing manager and is the proud owner of a 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara, which she was gifted from her father last year. Kate's model is the 2.4L unit, which produces 165hp - 50hp more than the basic 1.6L model, giving the lightweight 4x4 a decent amount of grunt both on and off-road.

With her budget in hand and a desire to do business, Kate opted for the Vitara, which she felt was a cut above the competition. "I wanted to buy new and it had to be a high driving position, so within my price bracket there was a choice between the Suzuki, a Daihatsu or the Kia Sportage - need I say more?" she says.

Having racked up more than 20,000km already due to regular trips from her home in Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Kate explains how she now has a slightly different perception of the car since buying it. "When I chose it, I loved it - I thought it was really tough looking and tomboyish, but I've since been told it looks more like something Barbie would take to the beach," she laughs.

Kate is a person of contrasts. Despite being partial to dressing up as a Goth or "rock chick", she claims to be quite girlie underneath the extreme make-up, so the Vitara was perhaps another attempt to hide her softer side.

"I deliberately chose what I thought was a more boyish car, but have never seen a guy driving one so could stand corrected," she says.

However, the trusty steed has proven reliable so far, despite what Kate claims is a lightweight bodyshell. "It's got a 2.4L engine and polystyrene bodywork so it really flies at the lights and it's great off-road, but I'm possibly dicing with death on a daily basis due to its flimsiness," Kate says.

"It had to go into the garage to be repaired as a savage eight-year-old boy elbowed it on National Day, which basically caused the side to cave-in, but otherwise it's been mechanically sound."

And it has even embarrassed some stiff competition during a camping trip to Oman, where the group took their 4x4s off the beaten track. "Because it's so light, with a decent-sized engine, it's actually impressive off-road. It was the only car on our trip that came back in one piece, which I was pretty proud about, because next to the Pajeros it didn't look like it stood a chance," she says with pride.

Kate explains she would love something a bit more retro to suit her individual personality, such as the diminutive Nissan Figaro but, with the perceived dangers of the UAE's roads, she doesn't think she would last too long unscathed.

"We look after a number of cosmetics brands, which we distribute to retailers and spas, so I am often out and about driving on motorways," she says.

"To be honest, my driving often isn't great, so a small, retro car is probably out of the question," Kate concedes.

It seems her favourite feature of the Vitara is that it's small for a 4x4, which makes parking more convenient. "I'm a terrible parker, so need all the help I can get," she says. I've still reversed into the front of a couple of cars, but who knows how many mirrors the Suzuki's compact shape has prevented me from clipping," she says.

When asked whether she would sell the Vitara, Kate became quite defensive of her vehicle. "It's my first car so I'm still pretty chuffed with it," she exclaims. "I'm hardly going to start using buses and the Metro but, if I was offered a Ferrari California in return, then I'd have to let the Vitara go.

"In the end, I love my little Japanese motor - it's perfect: quick, small, good height for visibility and it's cheap to fill with petrol," concludes Kate.