VITARA IS THE NEW BLACK
SUZUKI ADDS EXTRA GRUNT TO THE COMPACT SUV
WATCH out for Suzuki Vitaras with black alloy wheels.
The wheels and a grille with angular downward, rather than horizontal chromed slats, are the sole signs that they are Vitaras with extra vitality.
Because under the neat bonnet is a new 1.4litre Boosterjet engine that gives the compact SUV a lot more zip than the standard models.
The Boosterjet is a turbocharged petrol unit that pumps out a healthy 103kW and 220Nm, and with a vehicle mass of only 1160kg, it gives the Vitara S Turbo the Red Bull treatment.
It's a fair amount of extra wallop over the 86kW/156Nm of the standard models.
Available in front or all-wheel drive, all models come with a sixspeed automatic transmission and at $29,990 driveaway for the 2WD and $32,990 for the AWD, they're about $6000 more than the nonturbo jobbies.
The auto trannie has paddleshifters for more hands-on drivers.
Our 2WD was a perky number that ran to 100km/h in a whisker under nine seconds and displayed linear power delivery right across its rev range.
But an unexpected bonus was its remarkable fuel economy.
We averaged 6.8litres/100km on a mix of urban and suburban roads, and tootled along a national road for a while at 5.2litres/ 100km.
Unlike some rivals, Suzuki refrained from adding silly words like ' Sport' to its hot little SUV.
These vehicles are essentially tall-riding, practical boxes with touches of luxury, and somewhere along the way the marketing folk got lost between 'equipment' and 'handling', but 'sport' sounded good.
Yet the unpretentious Vitara Turbo is the sportiest of the lot.
The turbo engine and the slick self-shifter go hand-in-hand with a refined and well-sorted chassis that cruises over imperfect roads and handles corners with confidence.
It has the same brakes and suspension as standard Vitaras, but runs on 17-inch premium Continental rubber, which add extra comfort and grip.
Interestingly, the Vitaras are not made in Japan or Thailand, but in Hungary, which explains their Euro-style road manners. Excellent fit and finish too, not to mention how quiet the car is inside.
There's lots of room and comfort – in leather – for four inside.
Items like a reversing camera, cruise control, a big multi-function touchscreen with satnav, Apple CarPlay, LED head and daytime running lights, parking radar, and auto-on lights and wipers are all thrown in. We loved the analogue clock, set high and centre on the dash.
There's a big double-deck cargo area too.
Of course it's big on safety, with seven airbags, the usual clump of electronic aids and a five-star Euro Ncap rating.
Fashionistas will love the striking two-tone paint options.
Verdict: Space, power, style, handling and economy make the Vitara S Turbo a standout.
Top of its class... Suzuki's new Vitara Turbo.