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REVIEW | The 2019 Suzuki Vitara is a surprisingly vivacious package

16 October 2019 - 12:04 By Bruce Fraser
The new turbocharged Suzuki Vitara.
The new turbocharged Suzuki Vitara.
Image: Supplied

The folks at Suzuki must be getting used to the taste of champagne these days, considering how well the brand continues to perform.

While some manufacturers must be rueing the release of the monthly Naamsa sales figures, Suzuki continues to record impressive numbers. Take August as an example. Widely regarded as a lean month in the industry, the Japanese manufacturer sold 1 581 new cars and light commercials – raising it to eighth position overall of best-selling manufacturers.

To give that figure some perspective, it is an increase of 21% compared to the corresponding period last year. Equally relevant is that the overall market showed a decline of 3.9%.

A large slice of new car sales for Suzuki comes down to one vehicle – a car that has undeniably transformed the fortunes of the brand in SA – the Swift.

Launched locally in 2008, this budget compact car continues to go from strength-to-strength based on a number of factors. When it comes to pricing, it ticks the box as it starts at a very competitive R162 900. Admittedly, though, the entry-level GA model is pretty sparse when it comes to standard features.

But many consumers will overlook this aspect as exterior design, build quality and the tried-and-trusted 1.5-litre petrol engine sets it a notch above many of its competitors. But Suzuki is not just a one-trick-pony as it also has the highly-underrated Baleno, quirky Ignis, practical Ciaz, entry-level Celario and go-anywhere Jimny, all contributing to the impressive sales figure.

Don't worry – teal paint isn't mandatory.
Don't worry – teal paint isn't mandatory.
Image: Supplied

Another vehicle that tends to fly under the radar, and the subject of this review, is part of the brand's SUV offering, the Vitara. The importance of a good SUV in a manufacturer's line-up cannot be over-emphasised, as it is a division of motoring that continues to evolve and dominate the sales charts.

Suzuki does not have an expansive model line-up of the Vitara, with just seven derivatives available. A relatively new addition is the range-topping Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX. Sitting under the bonnet is Suzuki’s 1.4 litre Boosterjet engine – the same as you find in the Swift Sport – which delivers 103kW and 220Nm, and mated to a six-speed manual transmission (auto is available), it is a pleasant combination.

The delivery of power is smooth, gear changes in manual guise short and precise and whether about town or on the open road, one always feels there is enough power at hand.

Suzuki has made it a habit – and one that is very welcome in my books – of packing its vehicles with loads of standard goodies. The Vitara is another example of this.

Equipped with LED daytime running lights, automatic LED headlamps, a set of silver roof rails and chrome detailing in the front grille and under the fog lamps coupled with 17-inch alloy wheels, lends the exterior a stylish appearance. 

The list of luxuries continues in the technology department with the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system incorporating smartphone connectivity, reverse camera, Bluetooth connectivity, built-in Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink systems.

The interior comes festooned with many standard features.
The interior comes festooned with many standard features.
Image: Supplied

But It is also what you don’t see with the eye that makes the Vitara an attractive proposition. By this I mean a comprehensive list of active and passive safety features across the range, including a commendable seven airbags, electronic stability control with traction control, ABS brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist.

Sit down and do a comparison as to what some of the Vitara’s competitors offer and you might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was. While the previous generation Vitara was bordering on being nondescript and lost in a plethora of SUVs, this latest incarnation (relaunched in 2015) displays some much-needed personality.

An example of this is where the body colour is contrasted by the choice of a black or white roof. Our test unit came in an attractive red colour, with the black roof complementing the overall appearance nicely. It has a claimed fuel consumption figure of 5.8l/100km for the manual – slightly higher for the auto – and this is an easily achievable figure as I recently found on a drive to KwaZulu-Natal.

Although, technically, the Vitara falls into the "compact’’ SUV segment, there is nothing small about the interior space. Four adults can be easily accommodated without a word of complaint about leg or head room. Fold the rear seats down and you will also be surprised at the storage space that becomes available.

Suzuki is also building a strong reputation when it comes to reliability, which is illustrated by the Vitara Turbo GLX being sold with a 5-year/200 000km warranty, a 4-year/60 000km service plan and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Overall, it’s a nicely-rounded package and complements the rest of the brand's range nicely.

Price: Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX: R378 900

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