Update needed for Suzuki Vitara

Vitara has been overtaken by its Chinese competitors. (Supplied)

CHRIS RILEY

CAPTION: Vitara has been overtaken by its Chinese competitors.

The Suzuki Vitara is a car crying out for an update. The design of the five-seat wagon dates way back to 2015, although there has been a minor facelift since then.

The little car that could has been overtaken by cheaper and better equipped Chinese offerings from MG and Haval.

Significant price increases haven’t helped its quest for the buyer dollar. When we tested this car in 2019, the auto kicked off from $24,490 – it’s now $28,490. The turbo was $29,990 – now $33,490.

Suzuki risks pricing itself out of its own market segment.

STYLING

Although distinctive, the squarish, three-box design hasn’t changed much since 2015.

There are three grades: Vitara, Vitara Turbo and Vitara Turbo Allgrip, priced from $26,490 or $30,490 driveaway. Metallic paint is an extra $500 and two-tone with a different coloured roof is another $1250.

Vitara Turbo is $33,490 or $34,990 driveaway, while the all-wheel drive AllGrip — is priced from $37,490 or $39,990 driveaway.

The entry grade is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, while the turbo gets a punchier, 1.4-litre turbocharged unit that produces 20 percent more power and 40 percent more torque. The latter figure is the more significant.

Our test vehicle was finished in Savannah Ivory with optional Cosmic Black Roof and comes with cloth trim, a leather-clad steering wheel and single zone climate control air.

Standard kit includes keyless entry and start, tilt and reach adjust steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, rear view camera, LED DRLs, halogen headlights, cruise control, manual lights and wipers.

INFOTAINMENT

The infotainment system is well laid out and easy to use. Features include a 7.0-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AM/FM radio and four-speaker audio. Missing is DAB+ digital radio.

Satellite navigation is built-in although it could do with speed camera warnings.

There’s one USB and one 12-volt socket in the lower centre console, with another 12-volt socket in the luggage area.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS

The 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine produces 86 kW at 6000 revs and 156 Nm of torque from 4400 revs and can be paired with either a five-speed manual or six-speed sequential automatic with paddle shifts – and drive to the front wheels.

Outputs from the Turbo are 103 kW at 5500 rpm and 220 Nm at 1500 revs.

INTERIOR

Vitara is starting to show its age. Although it sits in the budget-buy category, the cabin and instrumentation looks and feels dated.

The analogue clock between the air vents is a classy touch, but we’d swap it for a digital speedo.

You do however get some other totally irrelevant information cycling through the trip computer, including graphs for power and torque.

Rear legroom is okay thanks to scooped out seatbacks in front, but that’s not saying much. It’s still pretty tight and lacks air outlets, or really anything for back seat passengers.

Cargo capacity with the rear seat in place is 375 litres, with a hidden area under the floor which in turn hides a space saver spare.

Vitara is 4175mm long and in automatic form weighs in at 1180kg – 15kg more than the manual.

SAFETY

Vitara has a five-star safety rating, seven airbags and a rear-view camera, but this rating dates back to 2015 which is really another era now.

It’s missing the latest advances in crash avoidance, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

If you want them, you’ll have to shell out an extra $5000 for the turbo model.

I don’t know about you, but I have a very low tolerance for car manufactures that reserve any safety features at all for their higher priced models. You can’t put a price on safety.

Two Isofix and three tether style child seat anchor points are provided.

DRIVING

Small engines aren’t necessarily bad, or even relatively low power output, depending on what they are being asked to push or pull. But the engine in this car doesn’t produce a helluva lot of torque, which is the stuff that gets you off the line quickly and up hills easily.

Performance isn’t too bad, but you will find yourself wishing you had paid the extra dosh for the turbocharged version the first time you encounter a big hill.

Be that as it may, around town, day-to day performance is fine. The six-speed auto, however, sometimes feels like an old four-speed the way it carries on, changing down and roaring dramatically to life if you punch the accelerator.

Also, and this has been well documented, reefing the transmission selector back for drive will see manual mode selected and the engine max out before you’ve figured out what is going on. It becomes tiresome.

The car sits flat, feels taught and has a firmish ride, and can be driven enthusiastically with confidence. In fact, the suspension is excellent on backroads.

Steering is sharp and accurate and the brakes are confident. But the Continental tyres are a bit of a disappointment as they lack grip.

Fuel consumption is excellent. Rated at 6.0 L/100km, we were getting 6.5 L/100km after 555 km. It takes standard 91 RON unleaded.

SUMMING UP

What you’re looking at here is no frills Japanese transport, but at $30,490, even if that is driveaway, it is far from competitive.

Vitara is a practical, well-engineered little wagon (maybe even over-engineered going on the size of the manual) that uses hardly any fuel.

But seven years down the track it needs to be more than that.

Suzuki is unique in Australia in that Queensland has a different importer than the rest of the country. While specifications are identical the model names differ, so the base Vitara is called GL+, the Turbo is S-Turbo and the AWD Allgrip is AWD S-Turbo.

RATINGS:

Looks: 7/10

Performance: 7/10

Safety: 6/10

Thirst: 8/10

Practicality: 7.5/10

Comfort: 7/10

Tech: 7/10

Value: 7.5/10

Overall: 7.1/10

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE

Vitara FWD: $26,490 (manual), $28,490 (automatic)

Vitara Turbo FWD: $33,490 (automatic)

Vitara Turbo AllGrip AWD: $37,490 (automatic)

Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Suzuki dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Suzuki Vitara 1.6-litre petrol five-door wagon)

PERFORMANCE:

Capacity: 1.586 litres

Configuration: Four cylinders in line

Maximum Power: 86 kW @ 6000 rpm

Maximum Torque: 156 Nm @ 4400 rpm

Fuel type: 91 RON petrol

Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 6.0 L/100 km

CO2 emissions 139 g / km

DRIVELINE:

Drivetrain: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:

Length: 4175 mm

Width: 1775 mm

Height: 1610 mm

Wheelbase: 2500 mm

Kerb weight: 1180 kg

Fuel Tank Capacity: 47 litres

Turning circle: 10.4 metres

BRAKES:

Front: Ventilated disc

Rear: Solid Disc

WARRANTY:

Five years / unlimited kilometres