Hot hatch: Suzuki Vitara Turbo
  |  First Published: February 2017

Suzuki has made an art form of releasing new models at just the right intervals to make a good impression on potential buyers. First came the neat Vitara SUV with a four-cylinder 1.6L petrol engine in both manual and auto guise, outputting 86kW of power and 156Nm of torque. Then the punchy 1.6L common rail direct injection turbo diesel (another four-cylinder engine) came onto and stole the scene, thanks to it’s well-tuned output of 88kW of power and 320Nm of torque – double the torque of the 1.6L petrol model.

Turbo charging sells cars, so Suzuki read the market pretty well and recently introduced the newly revised Vitara with it’s turbo petrol engine, outputting 103kW of power and 220Nm of torque linked to the proven 6-speed smooth-as-silk auto gear box.

For my money, there has never been much to complain about with any of the Suzuki Vitara models. I enjoyed driving the 1.6L manual petrol last year for a road test of country and city driving. I enjoyed the ride, the balance of the little wagon and the high seating position that comes with any of the Vitara range.

Petrol turbo the goods

The Vitara Turbo petrol, whether in front wheel drive auto or all wheel drive auto – the latter is called the All Grip – is that much better performing, quicker in response and more fun to drive all round. The new comer’s turbo charging tells the story.

The 1.6L petrol auto sprints to 100km/h in 12.5 seconds, according to Suzuki, whereas the Turbo petrol slices the time back to 9.5 seconds. Tests by another independent reviewer saw the 0-100km/h figure consistently timed at around the 8.4 second mark. That’s some food for thought there. Those figures might not do much for die-hard petrol heads, but for work around town away from the traffic lights or highway overtaking, there is plenty of get up and go in reserve.

One of the more pleasing aspects of the new 1.4L Turbo petrol power plant is the way it’s cosseted by the 6-speed auto to cater for a long work life. At 110kph, the engine is sitting just on the 2000rpm mark. A lack of appreciable turbo lag means instant response to right foot input at any speed whatsoever.

The same engine, with all it’s willing performance, is as quiet as a sewing machine at idle, hardly noisier under hard acceleration. Linked to the 6-speed automatic are seamless shifts. Only the tacho’s movement really indicates what’s happening within the engine and drive train. The Hungarian made Vitara has wheel paddles for those drivers who like to take charge of the gear changes.

On a road with some hill or a series of bends to negotiate, the Vitara’s well-tuned suspension setup handles with great ease. The powerful braking system and chassis make light work of demanding situations. Off the hard bitumen, the All Grip system of the reviewed unit can handle a serious array of road conditions.

Four driving modes are on hand via a push and turn dial on the centre console. Auto mode sees the front wheels doing the work until tyre slippage is noted, and then the AWD kicks in. Sport mode sees the AWD system engaged for maximum adhesion on bends, and changes to both accelerator and torque characteristics, so the auto unit revs just that bit higher for greater response.

Lock mode constantly distributes high torque to the rear wheels to generate maximum traction in sticky road situations. Lock automatically moves into Snow mode at speeds over 60kph. Snow mode provides optimal configuration on slippery surfaces such as snow, ice or mud, in accordance with accelerator or steering inputs at the time. This mode utilises sensors to detect slippage and prevent wheel spin by allocating torque to the rear wheels as required.

All Grip tops the range

The All Grip 6-speed auto as reviewed – the top of the range – featured push button starting, leather trimmed seating and steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, hill descent control, hill hold control, LED headlights, Apple Car Play, auto electric window, cruise control, a rear view camera linked to the 7” touch screen with it’s many features, red highlights around the dash, seating and other subtle eye catchers.

A five star ANCAP rating is standard along with seven airbags. If the cap price service program ($1540 over 3 years) is maintained, Suzuki’s warranty is extended to a full five years. With a 47L fuel tank (premium unleaded, please) there’s a substantial cruising range for the smart looking hatchback with fuel economy figures of around 6.7L/100km.

The only downside to the Vitara is the lack of a full-sized spare wheel. It’s a pity given the amount of boot space available, which, even with the 60/40 fold down rear seats upright, is a handy 375L. This extends to some 710L of cargo space with the rear seating right down.

To sum up the Vitara Turbo, there’s a lot to like about this well-finished, well-performing SUV with spot-on handling. The only question is: is at a hatch or wagon? It’s certainly not troubling buyers!

Prices for the Turbo petrol autos are $29,990 for the two-wheel drive version and $32990 for the All Grip, plus onroads for both.

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