Simon Lai has a first look at the new 2015 Suzuki Vitara at its Australian Launch.
The Suzuki Vitara is back!
The iconic Suzuki off-roader has made a reappearance after going off the radar for the best part of two decades with no new model since 1998.
The once sporty, blocky looking, mini-4WD has been redesigned into an up-to-date, city-centric vehicle that can still get rough and tough.
Chief designer Takehito Arai says he aimed to preserve the heritage of the model. Personally, I don’t see the resemblance (there’s probably more in common with the Grand Vitara). But what Arai-san has done is brought the Vitara into the modern age, giving it a fresh new look that is chic and in line with current trends.
Meanwhile, for those that miss the small, rugged package, there’s still the Suzuki Jimny which we also reviewed this week.
They’re trying what companies like Honda should be doing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the best car out there but brownie points for at least attempting to revamp a tired design and keep up with the rest of the field.
The 2015 Suziki Vitara will come in only two specifications – the two-wheel drive RT-S and the four-wheel drive RT-X. They both come with a 1.6L engine (86kW/156Nm) and a six-speed automatic transmission. The base model is also available in a five-speed manual.
Prices start at $21,990 for the RT-S manual, $23,990 for the auto while the top of the range RT-X with 4WD is in a whole other category at $31,990.
And, in order to attract more buyers, Suzuki is also offering a driveaway price of only $1000 more for the 2WD RT-S models meaning you can still take one out the dealership for under 25 grand.
Another point of enticement is the Vitara’s customisation options which seems to be the flavour of the month with recently mentioned Jaguar XE and Citroën Cactus both offering colourful, interchangeable fittings.
Aside from the six body colour choices – containing three two-tone combinations with turquoise, orange and ivory for $995 extra – you can have on the inside to spruce up the cabin.
But unlike the other brands offering this personalisation, Suzuki says customers can change them with the seasons, switching colours whenever they take their car in for servicing and the install only takes half an hour.
All Australian models come standard with 17” alloy wheels, LED DRLs, digital climate control, 7” touchscreen as well as cruise control and speed limiter, reversing camera, roof rails, Bluetooth and satnav.
It’s worth mentioning the touchscreen was is great definition with vibrant colours arranged in quadrants possessing smartphone connectivity. The satnav was user friendly but the viewing area was narrow and made it hard to see ahead.
Upgrading to the RT-X will get you smart keyless entry and push button start, panoramic sunroof with mesh blind cover, front and rear sensors, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, electric folding mirrors, suede door inserts and leather and suede seats and of course the Allgrip 4WD technology which we’ll get into later.
We spent most of our drive in the top spec RT-X making our way from Melbourne to Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula.
The Vitara does reasonable well considering the small output but is much more capable in Sport mode; one of four available including the default auto mode which is basically AWD on demand.
The ride is more dynamic as the system controls the throttle, transmission and torque distribution while delaying stability control allowing you to keep up with the traffic and take on corners more aggressively.
Proof of this was down some tight mountain bends combined with the new model’s wider stance and improved suspension, the ride was stable showing no body roll and great handling and traction.
Testing the 4WD capable RT-X out with some light off-road action, utilises the other two drive modes Snow, 4WD for unsealed surfaces by directing torque to the rear wheels when needed, and Lock which is a more permanent setting, both injecting more stability control.
The compact SUV certainly displayed better traction on gravel and rutted tracks however it wasn’t as capable with very wet mud and while having a higher clearance than its competitors, is still not enough for major undulations.
Onto the on-ramp of the freeway and ride is still comfortable though there is noticeable tyre noise.
The Vitara did have a tendency to waver from tracking in a straight line on the freeway and needed correction. Strangely this wasn’t so evident in normal suburban driving or on dirt tracks.
Suzuki is also pushing the fuel economy with the official combined listed at 5.8L/100km for the manual RT-S helped along by the lightweight body.
The RT-X comes in at 6.3L/100km though after a few hundred kays drive, the gauge registered just over 7L/100km – still respectable mind you.
Space-wise the Vitara boasts extra height and therefore headroom and a bigger boot than its rivals but while legroom up front is satisfactory, rear passengers may be a little cramped despite the comfortable seats.
The vitara is yet to be tested by ANCAP but does have seven airbags fitted plus ISOFIX anchors, reversing camera/sensors, brake assist and hill descent.
The 2015 Suzuki Vitara overall is a neat package – versatile, attractive and correctly priced. A good consideration for those in the market for a trendy, practical compact SUV.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2015 Suzuki Vitara
Engine: 1.6L petrol producing 86kW and 156Nm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, five-speed manual
Warranty: 3 Year/100,000km
Safety: Not yet tested
Price: From $21,990