Superb Suzuki Vitara diesel SUV
  |  First Published: October 2016

Introduced mid last year, the stylish five seat Suzuki Vitara has been a standout SUV right from its release. This mid-sized wagon with character, charm, and a host of useful driver-friendly accessories. The initial offerings were powered by a 1.6L petrol engine, which was adequate, but hardly earth shattering. It did the job, revved a bit when pressed hard off the mark, but was all round okay for commuting and highway runs. I towed our Trek Kudu trailer with one, easily.

Suzuki like to keep moving ahead, so this year a 1.4L petrol turbo engine was installed under the shapely bonnet, followed shortly after by a very willing and smooth 1.6L direct injection turbo diesel, which upgrades the Vitara to a new class – potential buyers will struggle to find reasons not to sign the dotted line.

As the new diesel is the star of the show, we’ll let the output figures tell the story. The 88kW of power and 320Nm of torque sees this model peaking at 100Nm more than the 1.4 turbo petrol, and over double the torque output of the 1.6 petrol engine.

The big picture

The increased power and torque do a lot more than simply shift the Vitara along at an increased rate. The diesel is the flagship of the line up. There’s notably improved NVH levels (Noise, Vibration and Harshness), an easy transition of power that sees the car punching well above its weight. It has comfort and sheer driveability that’s hard to define, but easy to detect from the driver’s seat.

Designated the RT-X, the oil burner does more than just offer fuel economy – a specified 4.9L/100km. As the flagship, the interior is luxury, with standard equipment such as leather and suede seat trim, single zone air conditioning, keyless entry and ignition, dusk-sensing LED headlights, LED daylight running lights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, a big reversing camera, power folding door mirrors, rear privacy glass and 17” alloy wheels.

Infotainment is not overlooked. There’s a 7” colour touch screen, panoramic sun roof, radio and USB port stereo, sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, with a six speaker audio system, delivering the sound. In truth, there’s a fair degree of hard plastic about the interior of the Hungarian manufactured Vitara. While not quite up to the standard of some competitors, it looks like it’s built to last and that’s no bad thing. Remember, Suzuki offer alternate colours around the dash area with removable panels to be replaced by colour schemed inserts. Customise the dash, why not?

Safety features include seven air bags, ABS with electronic brake distribution and hill descent control. With a five star ANCAP rating, the Vitara is a family wagon with attitude.

To drive it is to love it

I enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the Vitara diesel. With a punchy turbo diesel engine, superbly linked to a six-speed dual clutch auto unit with all-wheel drive, the AllGrip, there was power to spare. Overtaking slowpokes on the highway, this powerful diesel wagon whips around the plodders. Speeds rapidly approach speed camera fodder in a few seconds.

With a braked trailer rating of 1200kg, 400kg unbraked, there’s no issue towing a lot of small craft with this wagon. Around the ramp, this AWD system is an asset, but it’s around the open road that the diesel really shines. Easily able to keep up with any traffic, overtake with alacrity, it delivers sensational economy at the end of the day. A long day of driving saw my fuel economy figures of 5.2L/100km come very close to Suzuki’s 4.9L/100km claim to fame.

At 110km/h saw a miserly sub-2000rpm on the tacho, hence the excellent fuel consumption. It’s not so much the frugality of the engine, but more likely the ultra quietness at speed or easy acceleration that will really impress drivers.

Ride quality was again very good with Macpherson struts up front and torsion beams at the rear, to iron out the bumps. A console-mounted dial switches from standard all wheel drive to high speed black top, snow, sand and mud. The concept is simple – left to itself, the wagon remains in two-wheel drive until wheel slip is detected, and then all four wheels get into action. Lock mode applies to snow and mud mode and will rapidly shift torque from any wheel losing grip to others that are detected to be more capable at that time.

Although a very capable wagon, today’s Vitara is not a beach buggy or bush basher. Forest trails, dirt roads and muddy sections of these are its forte. Better leave the really hard stuff to big brother Grand Vitara.

Summing Up

As mentioned, it’s going to be a tough choice for compact SUV buyers. While the likes of the Mazda CX3, Mitsubishi ASX and Skoda Yeti have earned a lot of kudos, the diesel Vitara, with its two-tone colour styling, impressive outfitting and features, plus a modern-as-tomorrow shape, is going to be making inroads into sales, no question about it. The RT-X Vitara is punchy and a fine example of just how well this small car manufacturer is doing against the really big boys. The price of this diesel variant is around the mid $30,000 mark, plus on road costs.


Shapely lines and a high standard of finish even extend to the rear of the Vitara wagon.


Flowing well-sculpted lines and a stand-out appearance, backed by a smooth powerful engine, are traits of the new Suzuki Vitara diesel.


The Vitara’s boot size is 375L, but there’s always the option of dropping a rear seat for a little extra room.


Daylight running lights are all the rage – naturally Suzuki’s Vitara has them as well.


The Vitara has a pair of very comfortable front seats. These in the RT-X are suede with leather trim.


While there’s a fair amount of hard plastic around the dash and door areas of the Vitara, it looks like it’s built to last.


Quiet and smooth, drivers will have trouble saying no.


There’s a reason for such good fuel economy – less than 2000rpm at over 100kph.


The interior design of this car is all comfort, and equipped with wicked sound system technology.

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