When Suzuki released the Vitara compact SUV, consumer response was positive – a stylish, spacious, comfortable and versatile SUV. But it needed more grunt. Six months after the initial Vitara launch, the Japanese carmaker responded with the Vitara S Turbo.
This 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 103kW and 220Nm. That’s a very handy 17kW and 64Nm more than the standard 1.6-litre model. But it’s not free. The more powerful engine, available with front-wheel or four-wheel drive, also brings a $4K price hike over the base model RT-S.
- The appeal is obvious. It’s packed with all the good stuff of the Vitara, enhanced by the turbocharged engine which definitely gives it a bit more oomph, especially at lower speeds. Suzuki has also had a fiddle with the steering, wiping away some of the stickiness of the Vitara.
- Vitara comes with a front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive option, bridging the gap in tech and price between the RT-S variant and the Rt-X. The 4WD option uses Suzuki’s AllGrip System which features a mode for auto, sport, snow or lock, but it doesn’t come cheap.
- It’s packed with equipment such as push-button engine start, parking sensors, LED headlights, sensor wipers, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and leather or suede upholstery.
- There’s no question the styling in the Vitara looks good, but it’s the small details that really let the S Turbo down. Upgrading the interior’s cheap plastics and the mismatched headlights would really take it from Nicole Richie in the Simple Life, circa 2003, to the more sophisticated version of the reality TV star. Even things like the heavy doors which don’t close easily would be a simple but noticeable fix.
- While the Vitara Turbo drives better, it’s not perfect. It may have more real-world power, but the ride is firm and unsettled. You can feel the suspension working hard over bumpy roads, especially when carrying a load. By the same token, around town and as a solo driver, the S Turbo soaks up bumps adequately.
- Then there are the weaknesses we expect Suzuki to address in the near future. It doesn’t have a manual option, and only one colour combination is currently available – red with a blacked-out roof. But Suzuki has said more colour options will arrive in the future.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD ALSO CONSIDER?
Since its launch last year, the Suzuki Vitara has done well in the small SUV segment, currently sitting as the seventh most popular behind the Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Honda HR-V, Nissan Qashqai, Holden Trax and Subaru XV. With the addition of the new S Turbo, the Vitara could gain ground on the segment’s best sellers. The CX-3 is a small, zippier option albeit a lot less spacious. The Honda HR-V, on the other hand, beats the Vitara in boot space by more than 70 litres, and gives the S Turbo a run for its money in terms of packaging. The new Volkswagen Tiguan launching later in 2016 could pose a threat to the S Turbo, offering a refined, premium and practical option to SUV buyers, albeit with a higher price-tag.