New car review: Suzuki Vitara Turbo FWD

The Vitara makes an honest case for consideration.

Suzuki has updated its compact SUV, the Vitara.

The Series II range now comprises three versions – the entry model, a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated petrol front-wheel-drive with either manual or auto gearbox and known simply as Vitara, followed by Vitara Turbo and Vitara Turbo AllGrip.

Turbo models are powered by Suzuki’s Boosterjet 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine mated to a six-speed auto and driving either the front wheels as tested here, or driving to all paws as the name suggests, in the case of the AllGrip. The relatively expensive turbo-diesel model previously offered has been consigned to history.

The model revision brings welcome additional safety features including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, weaving alert, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The last of these helped save our bacon in a busy parking lot when reversing the little Vitara out of a space land-locked between a van and hulking off-roader with little visibility of the cross-traffic.

Other changes include use of embossed suede for seat coverings and suede inserts on the front doors only, and a sliding centre-front armrest. Suzuki has tried to give the

Series II interior a more premium look fitting a soft-touch dash pad. However, there’s still plenty of hard plastics in the dash below it and cladding the doors, and overall, the cabin presentation still looks a little downmarket. That said, the brand has a decent reputation for reliability.

The front pews offer reasonable comfort; however, you will only find height adjustment on the driver’s seat and neither provides cushion tilt or lumbar adjustment. The rear seats are rather flat too. Space for backbenchers is respectable though three adults would feel cramped for width.

And the centre console extends well back into the middle-rear occupants foot space. The cargo area is useful at 375litres capacity expandable with the 60:40 split-fold and a floorboard that can be lowered for extra load height.

The force-fed engine feels punchy and responsive and with a relatively light 1235kg kerb mass to haul around, it’s capable of delivering quite sprightly acceleration. Suzuki have hit a sweet spot with the Vitara’s blend of taut but comfortable ride characteristics and confident secure handling.

The same can’t be said of Vitara’s power-steering though, feeling overly light with a slightly vague and ‘artificial’ quality to it, all more obvious at around town speeds. Overall, Vitara makes an honest case for consideration.

KEY STATS

  • MLP: $29,990 (plus on-road costs)
  • ENGINE: 1.4-litre, turbo-petrol 4-cyl
  • ANCAP SAFETYRATING: 5 stars
  • TAILPIPE CO2 (g/km): 145
  • FOR: Extra safety features, responsive turbo engine, ride and handling, brand reliability.
  • AGAINST: Mediocre steering, spacesaver spare, interior still looks cheap, needs better seats.