VI­TARA A HEAD-TURNER

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Drive Way - Bill Buys

IT'S hard to turn heads in a compact SUV th­ese days be­cause there are so many of them.

But Suzuki 's re­born Vi­tara does a lot of that with its neat styling and funky colours, and apart from turn­ing heads, is at­tract­ing po­ten­tial buy­ers like half-price day at Wool­worths.

The compact, nicely-styled and funkily-coloured Hun­gar­ian-made SUV comes in three mod­els, all sim­i­larly pow­ered with a 1.6 litre mo­tor: the 2WD RT-S with a five-speed man­ual shift, a same-spec vari­ant with a six-speed auto and the RT-X.

The one with the X-fac­tor has more fea­tures, in­clud­ing an on­de­mand four-wheel drive sys­tem, a panoramic sun­roof, leather/suede seats, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, and au­toon wipers and head­lights.

The base RT-S mod­els are sur­pris­ingly well equipped, with satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, re­vers­ing cam­era, LED day­time run­ning lights, 17-inch al­loy wheels and pri­vacy glass all stan­dard.

And with prices start­ing from $21,990 for the RT-S man­ual, $23,990 for the au­to­matic model and $31,990 for the all­wheel drive RT-X, they put a lot of snooty small cars to shame.

The RT-S is the value star of the range, the sole dif­fer­ence be­tween the man­ual and au­to­matic be­ing the trans­mis­sion. We liked the man­ual but know most folk pre­fer an auto, and this one comes with pad­dleshifts on the steer­ing wheel to keep sportier driv­ers happy. A sporty SUV? In­deed. De­spite the av­er­age 86kW/156Nm out­put from its 1.6 litre en­gine, its light weight, nim­ble han­dling and sharp steer­ing give it de­light­ful char­ac­ter. It's also one of the most fru­gal in its class, with an of­fi­cial av­er­age of 5.8 litres/100km for the man­ual and 6.3 for the AWD RT-X. We got 7.4 on the lat­ter, which we thought pretty de­cent.

The $31,990 RT-X has an on­de­mand four-wheel drive sys­tem, avast sun­roof, leatherand-suede seats, prox­im­ity key and all the rest of the good things, plus a ro­tary se­lec­tor be­tween the front seats which of­fers auto, snow and sport modes.

Snow doesn't hap­pen much in WA, so it's best to just leave it in auto for day-to-day travel, al­though the RT-X's ex­tra 110kg make it a bit slug­gish. Switch to sport and the world be­comes a much brighter place.

It runs in front wheel drive most of the time and en­gages all four wheels if it de­tects slip­page. There's no low ra­tio but the AWD will cope with most light off-road sit­u­a­tions.

The new Vi­taras have a gen­er­ous 185mm ground clear­ance, which make them easy to get in and out of, and they have good ac­com­mo­da­tion front and rear, plus a spa­cious twin-deck cargo area.

Of course, it also has all the elec­tronic safety stuff, an easy to op­er­ate seven-inch screen, Blue­tooth and as­so­ci­ated whizzes, but more im­por­tantly, it has su­perb vis­i­bil­ity, a tight turn­ing cir­cle and im­pres­sive road man­ners.

Ver­dict: A bit more power would be nice, but the new Vi­tara is a sexy, hard-to-fault lit­tle beaut.

Suzuki's bor­na­gain Vi­tara is one of the cutest and best-equipped of its kind.

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