Suzuki’s Vitara turbo is a practical and fun car to drive

Brian Joss – Suzuki’s Vitara has always been a practical and versatile vehicle. A few years ago I did a road trip around the Garden Route fully loaded in a Grand Vitara and it behaved impeccably.

Now the range has been given a super boost with the 1.4 Boosterjet engine, the same turbo that’s fitted to the Swift Sport. The 1.4T is available only in GLX spec which means that it has everything you need and a bit more.

Standard is Suzuki’s infotainment system with CarPlay and Android Auto. The 17.9cm touchscreen works with a touch, no finger-prodding needed. There is a reverse camera, cruise control, automatic climate control, auto lights and wipers, multi-function steering wheel, ESP, seven airbags and LED headlights.

 There is no standard volume control knob but you can turn the music up on the touchscreen or on the steering wheel. There is a 4.2″ multi-information full-colour display in the instrument binnacle and electric windows and mirrors.  Let’s get the sort of bad news out of the way first: at R360 900 it is a little on the high side, in my opinion, compared to Ford’s EcoSport (reviewed the Gremlin February 26, 2019). Inside, the Vitara 1.4T has been smartened up a lot. The seats are covered in a suede and leather combination and with a diamond-shaped stitching pattern. The seats are really comfortable with lots of lateral support.

The Vitara’s engine delivers 103 kW at 5 500 rpm and 220 Nm from 1 500 to 4 000 rpm. Power is delivered to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox that felt suitably solid and the gear changes were smooth, with a sporty feel to it. And even in sixth, there was still a lot of grunt. The 1.4T sailed up and down the mountain passes with ease and it was quite happy going around the bends. You’d expect the ride to be a bit on the hard side but it wasn’t. It was also quite at home in some fast-moving traffic on the freeway; neither did it skip a beat skimming some of the deeper puddles in the road.

But back to the engine: technologies include direct injection, a turbocharger with electric wastegate control, variable valve timing, 16 valves and lightweight construction and a compact integrated exhaust manifold. The Vitara Turbo boasts the same specification and equipment levels as the range-topping GLX grade. These include 17″ alloy wheels and the choice of five solid colours and seven dual-tone combinations, where the body colour is contrasted by the choice of a black or white roof.

 Despite its boxy-shape, it has a sporting look to it thanks to the trapezoidal lower front intake, which opens towards the road, a clamshell bonnet with power bulge, a sloping roofline ending in thick C-pillars and an accentuated rear hipline with a kicked-up character line that runs over the rear fenders, is how Suzuki describes it. The Vitara Turbo drew quite a bit of attention from the ‘kyk-daars”, especially at one stop where a few people asked about it.

The Suzuki emblem is becoming more ubiquitous by the day. When we stopped at a traffic light,  in front of us was a Swift, in the next lane was an Ertiga which I took on a round trip to Johannesburg this time last year (reviewed the Gremlin, July 15 2019) and at the back what looked like a Grand Vitara.

Incidentally, the Vitara range has an impressive heritage stretching 30 years, from the introduction of the first generation in 1988. Through the years it has evolved into a slightly larger compact SUV and the global debut of the evergreen second-generation Grand Vitara in 2005 that is still on sale today.

The rear can seat three adults in reasonable comfort with enough leg-and-headroom. Being in lockdown there were only two of us. The passenger didn’t complain and there is a good view of the road from the driving seat.

Instrument panels are close at hand and the figures and information display are easy to read, even in bright sunlight. The automatic climate control also worked like a dream, the demister especially, on one cold and miserable rainy day. The boot at 375 litres is average for its class but you can still pack quite a bit of holiday luggage. It expands to  1 120 litres when the

60:40 split rear seats are folded down and there are more than enough storage spaces for bits and bobs, cup holders and bottle holders in the door frames. 

As always what’s it like to drive? It’s a peppy performer with excellent fuel consumption. Although Suzuki claims a low figure of 5.8l /100km I managed just under 7l/100km which is excellent. The Vitara 1.4T is quick off the mark and responds eagerly to a prod on the pedal. It also has plenty of power to overtake safely when necessary. The engineers had a Kodak moment when they decided to include a sixth gear: it makes for happy cruising on the highways and on the open road. It’s agile and an engaging car to drive.

It feels solid on the road and the steering is responsive.

Suzuki says the turbo-petrol can go from 0 to 100km/h in 9.5 seconds. But that number is not very important in the scheme of things.

Safety features include seven airbags as standard, ABS with EBD, brake assist and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Summing up,, the Suzuki 1.4T GLX ticks all the right boxes. It is a practical family car that you can use on your daily commute or on a holiday trip without too much stress. It is a fun and engaging car to drive and helps to underscore Suzuki’s ever-growing popularity in this country. It may not have the Grand pre-fix but it’s a grand car.

The Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX  is sold with Suzuki’s promotional 200 000 km / 5-year mechanical warranty and a full 6-year / unlimited kilometre warranty against corrosion. Suzuki has also added a 24//7 roadside assistance plan for the same period as the warranty and a comprehensive 4-year / 60 000 km service plan.

CAPTION: A superboost: the Suzuki Vitara 1.4T GLX , everything you need and a bit more. Picture: Motorpress

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