Latest take on Vitara well-executed, tech-laden


There is often no obvious reason why some models in our fashionable but fickle compact SUV market are mega sales hits, while others that are just as worthy are largely ignored.
A couple of recent Suzuki models are good examples of this. One is the S-Cross, an SUVstyled hatch offered inboth 2WD and 4WD forms that buyers haven’t snubbed. By contrast, they are totally smitten with the similar-sized new-generation Vitara launched here about nine months ago, which now outsells the S-Cross. There are two reasons for this. One it looks like an SUV, while the S-Cross is a hatch masquerading as an SUV but fools no-one. Secondly, the Vitara is a trusted name that’s been around our car market for over 25 years, as opposed to newbie S-Cross.
This latest take on the Vitara is well executed, packs plenty of modern technology and it’s the same price as the inferior S-Cross. Suzuki’s four-mode Allgrip drive system defaults to front-wheel drive, distributing power to the rear axle only when it detects wheel spin. Four-wheel drive is engaged by default when ‘‘snow’’ mode is engaged and is really handy when negotiating slippery road surfaces.
The five-strong model line-up has something to suit most buyers and their budgets. The entrylevel JLX 2WD five-speed manual retails for $27,990, plus an extra $2000 for the optional six-speed automatic. Throwing in the AWD Allgrip system nudges the price up to $32,990, the same price as the 2WD version of the flagship LTD model. For this road test, we sampled the $35,990 LTD in 4WD form.
The Vitara shares the same 86kW 1.6-litre motor used in the S-Cross hatch. In essence, it’s a de-tuned version of the delightful 100kW motor that works so brilliantly in the outstanding Suzuki Swift Sport hatch. On paper, the power downgrade seems sizeable, but enough grunt remains to keep the Vitara competitive. The 1.6-litre motor in the test vehicle was as smooth as any I have driven in this class.
The Vitara is thankfully spared the droning CVT automatic used in the S-Cross. Instead, its career has been launched with a new crisp six-speed automatic that really knows how to get the motor working in its sweet spot, something the CVT in the S-Cross never really achieved.
Passenger space is fairly generous for a vehicle of this size, although headroom is on the snug side for taller backseat passengers. The rear cargo hatch with its high floor area is smallish, although there is a bit of flexibility around how you configure the area thanks to a 60:40 split folding rear seat.
All Vitaras come with cruise control and speed limiter, 7-inch touchscreen display with voice actuated audio navigation system, smartphone connectivity, hands-free connectivity and reversing camera. Extra equipment exclusive to the LTD includes an electric glass sunroof with one of the largest openings in its class, keyless entry with push-button start and six-speaker audio system.
Handling is solid even on ropey road surfaces.
The extra ground clearance does mean some body lean if you up the tempo when driving over undulating terrain.
Unlike it predecessors, its suspension has suppleness along with bump-absorbing abilities that put it in a whole new league.