Suzuki has added a turbo-charged diesel engine to its stable of Vitara SUVs – an engine that delivers more than twice the torque of the entry-level Vitara – and sips distillate at a miserly 4.9 litres per 100 km. It’s an impressive addition as we found out on the Queensland launch of the vehicle between Cairns and Cooktown via the Daintree Forest in Far North Queensland.
Suzuki pioneered what we now know as compact SUVs – well before the segment was defined – way back in 1988 with the first Vitara. At a time when Japanese heavyweights, Nissan Patrol and Toyota LandCruiser, were still lumbering around on leaf springs the three-door Vitara offered coil springs all-round, power steering, a five speed transmission, 4WD on demand and a dual-range transfer case. Vitara was an instant hit and still commands a die-hard legion of fans.
The new diesel variant, known as the Vitara GLX Turbo diesel, joins the entry-level 1.6-litre CL petrol 2WD Vitara released in August 2015 as well as Suzuki’s first turbo-charged petrol engine in the 1.4-litre S Turbo GLX petrol 2WD and AWD launched in March this year.
The diesel stands as the hero car with an impressive array of features including dual panoramic sunroof, Android phone connectivity, integrated Sat/Nav and four drive modes to suit the conditions: high-speed black top, snow, sand and mud.
All Vitara models now have five doors. What they no longer boast is a transfer box – the Grand Vitara being the 4WD headline act for Suzuki. Suzuki plan to phase out the Vitara CL models in the coming months.
Vitara AWD models have Suzuki’s AllGrip technology which offers the driver four selections depending on road conditions.
Coupled with 185mm of ground clearance and a short wheelbase Vitara is a capable off-roader. Leave it in auto mode and the transmission defaults to 2WD but if it detects and wheel spin or loss of traction it switches seamlessly to AWD.
The Sport mode is designed for tarmac driving on twisty roads with the computer refining the acceleration and torque characteristics in the low and mid-range rev range. This makes it more responsive to driver input. The setting for Snow defaults to AWD and assists grip and stability on slippery surfaces. The Lock setting targets mud and sand driving and shifts torque from any wheel losing grip to those that have traction.
Vitara has come a long way on the outside too, no longer just a square box but a stylish European-looking aerodynamic body style that should attract buyers from other brands. One could be forgiven for thinking the Vitara is part of the Land Rover family – in particular the Evoque. The shoulder line extends from the headlights through to the taillights while the doors feature an upsweep the climbs over the rear wheel arch. This is complimented by a diving roof line accentuated by the vehicle’s two-tone paint job. The grille also sits high adding to the European flavour.
At this launch provided three AWD models: the standard 1.6 litre petrol CL, the recently released S Turbo 1.4 litre GLX and the new turbo diesel. Basically all Vitara models run the same interior and exterior with minor changes to denote which model. Also, they have the same six-speed dual clutch auto transmissions. So, the real differences are under the bonnet. Suzuki has done well with the choice of transmission. It’s a smooth piece of kit with none of the harshness found in some other DSG gearboxes and seems well suited to these smaller turbo-charged engines.
Sitting on the speed limit of 110 km/h the 1.6-litre turbo diesel did not even raise a sweat at under 2000 rpm. At the same time it returned 5.9 litres per 100 km. It’s not so much how miserly the Fiat-sourced engine is, but how quiet it is at speed and under hard acceleration. Most punters would not pick it as an oil burner.
A couple of times we asked the passing question of the Vitara diesel and in no time we were out, past and back into the left lane at a terminal speed we cannot mention here. Suzuki engineers have really sorted this little wagon out.
The refinement of ride, lack of any NVH (Noise Vibration Harshness) at speed, smooth delivery of acceleration and braking as well as cornering is impressive.
In off road work down the Bloomfield Track Vitara absorbed all the corrugations thrown at it and delivered a comfortable ride. We expected some rear end jitters, but the vehicle kept the line well needing little driver input. For most of the gravel roads we put the Vitara in AWD lock mode by engaging the mud/snow dial and then locking it in. The difference between 2WD and AWD was significant with the SUV’s stability over corrugations improving with all four wheels under engine load.
Vitara’s interior is fairly uninspiring, but it is functional and can be jazzed up with the use of coloured highlights around the central dash-mounted aircon vents and analogue clock. These can be themed in with seat highlights, for instance in red, and makes a significant improvement in the interior’s visual appeal.
We found the front seats reasonably comfortable and the driving position pretty good. We would have liked a central driver and front passenger armrest. Also, leg room is pretty tight for rear-seat passengers, depending on how far back the front pews are set. This is common to all compact SUVs.
All in all this is a real option for buyers – Vitara is a must to test drive if you’re shopping in the compact SUV segment including Mitsubishi’s ASX and Mazda’s CX3 .
AT A GLANCE
1.6 litre RT-S petrol 2WD 5 speed manual: $21,990
1.6 litre RT-S petrol 2WD 6 speed auto: $23,990
1.4 litre S Turbo GLX petrol 2WD 6 speed auto: $28,990
1.4 litre S Turbo GLX petrol AWD 6 speed auto: $32,990
1.6 litre Turbo GLX diesel AWD 6 speed auto: $35,990
Note: This price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Suzuki dealer for driveaway prices.
1.6 litre direct injection:
86kW @ 6000 rpm
156 Nm @ 4400 rpm
5.8 L/100 km
1.4 litre turbo:
103 kW @ 5000 rpm
220 Nm @ 1500 – 4000 rpm
5.9 L/100 km