SWIFT SWITCH A WAKE-UP FOR LITTLE SUZY

suzuki_vitara_frontOnce upon a time, the Suzuki Swift was small car among many. Then an epiphany; the little hatchback took on a more aggressive stance with a hands-on-hip look-at-me style. The Swift took off.

Meanwhile, the company’s Vitara, eschewing the funky refashioning of some rivals, trundled on as a comfy, albeit conservative, compact sports utility vehicle. This year the Vitara was reinvented, taking on an up-to-date chic urban spirit.

Not satisfied, the Japanese maker, who pioneered the genre, has added all manner of modern accessories and engine turbocharging which takes the Vitara to a new level of performance and fuel economy.

Latest addition to the band is the Vitara GLX 1.6-litre turbo-diesel which delivers double the pulling power of the entry-level 1.6 litre GL+ 2WD five-speed manual and ‘oily rag’ fuel consumption. Like all Vitara turbos the engine is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.

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And like the Grand Vitara, the top two variants take advantage of Suzuki’s AllGrip all-wheel drive system, making them ‘go almost anywhere’ candidates. The 1.6-litre Turbo GLX diesel AWD tops off the Vitara range at $35,990, plus on-road costs, the 1.4-litre S Turbo GLX petrol AWD (the test vehicle) sheds $3000 at $32,990.

STYLING
There’s no ignoring the new Vitara’s head-turning ability. The small SUV ‘shirt-fronts’ rivals with a five-slot chrome radiator grille with the Suzuki ‘S’ badge prominent.

Red-rimmed LED low beam and halogen high beam automatic headlights flank the grille above standard foglamps and daytime running lights. Gloss black 17-inch alloy wheels lead the latest automotive trend.

Our test vehicle came in Savannah Ivory Metallic paintwork, which I have on excellent authority is among the latest in nail varnish colours. With a contrasting Cosmic Black Pearl Metallic roof, this gives some indication of the Vitara’s potential appeal to automobile fashionistas.

The sporty exterior finds its way inside the Vitara’s cabin with quality finish and materials. For example, seats are upholstered in leather with suede inserts, the latter extending to door inserts.

Red accents scattered around the cabin are in sharp contrast to the somewhat dark surroundings which present a chance for instruments and controls to shine. A nod to well credentialed luxury cars comes from a traditional analog clock situated in the centre of the dash.

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A multi-function three-spoke steering wheel incorporates cruise control and audio system buttons, while wipers and lights are at hand on column-mounted stalks, along with shift paddles.

The cargo area, often cramped in compact SUVs, is a generous 375 litres with the rear 60:40 rear seat backs up and is capable of taking a golf bag. The space is doubled with the seat backs folded and stretches to 1120 litres with the cargo cover removed.

Two-tone body colours and a choice of interior trim provide personalisation.

INFOTAINMENT
Central to convenient operation of vehicle systems is a 7.0-inch full-colour touchscreen with a quadrant of information from audio to phone links to internet connection via Apple CarPlay.

The screen is also home to an easy-to-use satellite navigation system with voice control, while a rear-view camera displays objects in the way when reversing. Parking sensors monitor the space outside the vehicle front and back.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Performance and fuel efficiency are possible with the latest in turbocharging technology in the Vitara S Turbo’s 1.4 litre Boosterjet four-cylinder engine mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Add to this Suzuki’s AllGrip all-wheel drive system and the vehicle is geared to take all but the most arduous set of conditions.

Operated via a knob on the centre console, AllGrip offers four driving modes – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. Auto defaults to two-wheel drive to save fuel; Sport alters acceleration and torque to optimise handling in tight situations; Snow defaults to all-wheel drive when necessary; and Lock in which torque is switched from a spinning wheel to wheels with grip in mud or sand.

SAFETY
A lightweight, rigid body presents the protective shell for new Vitara occupants, which is actively supported by electronic stability control, anti-skid braking with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

Seven airbags – dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee bag – are standard across the Vitara range.
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DRIVING
At 1.4 litres the four-cylinder petrol engine had every reason to sacrifice performance at the altar of fuel economy. Not so, the Boosterjet turbo had the SUV sprinting off the mark, slipping into fast moving traffic with ease and overtaking slowcoaches with confidence.

Add to this the frugal fuel consumption figures of five to six litres per 100 kilometres on the open road and eight to ten litres per 100 in an urban environment and the owner has plenty to enjoy. The shift paddles add a further driving dimension.

A more rigid suspension set-up up front, make for greater driving stability, while an improved torsion beam suspension out back also adds to stability without reducing ride comfort.

If the designers have not done enough to have the new Vitara stand out from the crowd, a heap of accessories is there for the taking to personalise your pride and joy.

SUMMING UP
The Swift soared on the back of a trendy makeover to lead its segment in sales. There’s no denying the new Vitara stands out from the crowd. Time will tell if the Suzuki SUV can repeat the Swift success.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE

Suzuki Vitara 1.6 litre GL+ petrol 2WD: $22,490 (manual), $24,990 (automatic)
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 litre S Turbo GLX petrol 2WD: $28,990 (automatic)
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 litre S Turbo GLX petrol AWD: $32,990 (automatic)
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 litre S Turbo GLX diesel AWD: $35,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Suzuki dealer for drive-away prices.

FEATURES
17-inch gloss black alloy wheels
7 airbags
Electronic stability control
ABS anti-locking brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist
Cruise control with speed limiter
Reversing camera
Keyless entry & start system
Satellite navigation
Digital climate control
Bluetooth, iPod, USB connectivity
Apple CarPlay
Steering wheel audio controls
LED daytime running lights and auto-levelling on/off headlamps
Power windows and mirrors
Front and rear parking sensors
Electric folding door mirrors
Suede door insert
Leather accented seats with suede inserts & red stitching
Red accented interior

SPECIFICATIONS (Suzuki Vitara 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo-petrol AWD SUV)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.373 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 103 kW @ 5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 220 Nm @ 1500-4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.9 L/100km

DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic, AllGrip AWD

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4175 mm
Wheelbase: 2500 mm
Width: 1775 mm
Height: 1610 mm
Turning Circle: 10.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1120 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 47 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Three years / unlimited kilometres

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