WE put not one, not two, not even three – but all four 2016 Suzuki Vitara models (as at time of writing, yes we know there are now five with the addition of the diesel model) through their paces over a one month period, and the results, particularly the Turbo S (2WD) model option, left us smiling.
Definitely the stand out in the range, the Turbo S offers a kind of hot hatch feel, it’s quick and nimble, but it still feels like a baby SUV, just with all the punch you would expect from something smaller and sportier.
The entire range is a whole new look for the Vitara, a model that has been a hallmark of the Suzuki model range (not unlike the Swift, and the Vitara’s larger cousin the Grand Vitara). It’s smaller than it’s ever been, and looks tiny when you size one up from the outside (think Mazda CX-3 kind of size, or even smaller), but inside Suzuki has done an exceptional job.
Every car in the entire Vitara range feels roomy. There’s no denying the company has worked exceptionally hard to get the interior spacing to its maximum usability, and it shows. For example, we took the whee family in the Turbo S to the Blue Mountains and crammed everything in the boot space for two nights in Leura.
At no point in our worldly travels, with a 4-year-old in a child seat and a bunch of heavy jackets and toys no less, did we feel crammed in, or uncomfortable, and the driving position and overall driving experience was enough for the ‘other half’ to want to know how much they were and could we buy one.
The RT-S and RT-X are powered by Suzuki’s 1.6 litre four which puts out a pokey 86kW of power and 156Nm of torque, but delivers it in a solid fashion, while the Turbo S offers a boost in power to 103kW and 220Nm of torque.
You’ll find better styling in the Turbo S too, with lots of brushed surfaces, red highlights and much better alternate colour keyed layouts throughout – both inside and out – for an improved look and feel.
All of the auto models feature paddle shifters, which gifts back a level of manual control, should you desire to drive it harder than the gearbox wants to. The 47 litre fuel tank is tiny, but the economy is exceptional – we’re talking 5.8L/100km up to 6.2L/100km – great figures.
Towing capacity is limited to 1200kg (to be expected in a baby SUV), but the safety features are also on the exceptional side, with everything that opens and shuts just about on offer from a safety standpoint.
Standard across the range is an immobiliser, seven airbags, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control, traction control and hill hold control. On the high-end models you’ll also find hill decent control, folding mirrors and automatic headlights.
The infotainment system is outstanding (it uses the same or a very similar system to that used by Jaguar, Land Rover and Range Rover), and offers outstanding SatNav, and integrated mapping, music and phone integration (including full support for ApplePlay).
The biggest let down model for us was the auto version of the RT-S (the base model in essence), because it feels cheap, certainly much cheaper than the other model variants, and had more of an all-plastic buzz going on – there were rattles here and there too.
While it’s powered by the same engine and gearbox as the RT-X (which is a lazy box from a driving perspective when coupled with the non-turbo version of the Vitara), it lacks the more elegant styling of the better model.
With the RT-X, you’re somehow prepared to forgive the hard ride and tame power delivery with the auto gearbox, because it feels like a luxury baby SUV, which is not so much the case with the base model.
Across the range, the downsides include a harsh ride and a serious lack of road noise suppression – here lies one of the biggest overall issues with the affordable offering that is the Vitara – it’s noisy on rough roads, really noisy.
There’s no CD player either, another let down if you are a fan of the now departing CD player (gone from a number of car brands and models admittedly). There’s no full size spare, and the doors are a bastard (can we say that) to close – you’ll need to have a few goes, all the time.
The RT-S in its manual form, ironically the cheapest model in the range, is actually a bit of fun. It’s affordable, it’s a baby SUV, and even though the five speed manual is seriously dated, it’s a lot of fun to kick around in because you have a far greater level of control over the power delivery.
In a nutshell, if you drive it, as we like to say, like you stole it, then this car is seriously cool to mess around in, and it looks cool and cruisy too. Overall the model range starts at $23,990 drive-away for the manual RT-S, you’ll pay around $33,000 for the RT-X, and the 2WD Turbo S slots in between them at just over $30,000.
Across the various setups, and there are bucket loads of various options, packs and add-ons, and there’s plenty of colour to choose from too, including Cool White Pearl, Cosmic Black Pearl, Galactic Grey Metallic, and four colours that feature a black roof – with those being Bright Red, Atlantis Turquoise Pearl Metallic, Horizon Orange Metallic and Savannah Ivory Metallic.
Our test vehicles were provided by Suzuki Australia. To find out more about the 2016 Suzuki Vitara model range, contact your local Suzuki dealer.