Suzuki’s Vi­tara turns 30, and to cel­e­brate, we needed to drive the Turbo.

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story: Dean Evans

HAPPY 30TH BIRTH­DAY TO THE VI­TARA! Launched in 1988 with a 60kw 1.6-litre, per­for­mance was not its pri­or­ity, de­spite this be­ing a time when Turbo was the buzz word of 1980s: Mitsubishi Cor­dia, Star­ion, Nis­san Exa, Saab 900, Volvo 850, Porsche 944, even Holden’s Com­modore VL jumped on the band­wagon of strap­ping on a tur­bocharger. They all shouted per­for­mance at­tributes to the world via badges, stick­ers, seat stitch­ing and a whis­tle, and reaped sales suc­cess. Ap­pli­ances be­came adorned with turbo badges, from vac­uum clean­ers and mi­crowaves to blenders. But then turbo be­came a dirty word when joyrid­ers, and sub­se­quently in­sur­ers, looked upon turbo as the root of all au­to­mo­tive evil, and the badges, mar­ket­ing and tur­bocharger it­self all but dis­ap­peared for decades.

But now, Turbo is back with Vi­tara. Not that it ever com­pletely went away, but in the 20-teens, turbo has be­come pop­u­lar again for a dif­fer­ent rea­son: main­tain­ing per­for­mance through smaller ca­pac­ity en­gines, while of­fer­ing lower emis­sions, both deci­bels and tox­ins.

It’s heart­en­ing to see the Turbo badge so proudly em­bla­zoned, 1980s style, on the rear of Suzuki’s Vi­tara, as an ’80s ode, but an ’18 show­case of speed, econ­omy and emis­sions.

Just qui­etly, Suzuki’s Vi­tara is also avail­able sans turbo with a nor­mally as­pi­rated 1.6-litre four-cylin­der, but that’s like pur­chas­ing a Mcdon­ald’s sun­dae with­out hot fudge; sure, it’s good, but cloud nine is just one step away. The 2WD 1.4-litre Vi­tara Turbo is our pick, of­fer­ing the best power-to-weight ra­tio within a sev­en­model range that starts with a 1.6 man­ual, and tops out at the 4WD 1.4-litre Turbo two-tone auto.

If 1.4 sounds small, no need for con­cern: the turbo ups the wind­chill fac­tor so it ‘feels like’ a 1.8-2.0 turbo, and com­bined with a six-stage auto, and a gen­er­ous 220Nm across 2500rpm – ba­si­cally half its idleto-6000rpm rev-range – we’re re­minded of its lithe 1160kg to dis­cover how Suzuki man­ages so much from so lit­tle. And it’s not re­liant upon moun­tains of boost pres­sure ei­ther, with just 12psi blow­ing in.

Con­sider for a sec­ond that Holden’s Trax Turbo has the same 103kw from a 1.4-litre four-cylin­der, with 1-2psi less boost, but weighs 1398kg - or 20 per­cent heav­ier than the Vi­tara. Ver­sus Trax’s 0-100km/h time of 9.8 sec­onds, Vi­tara Turbo has waved good­bye, a full 1.4 sec­onds faster at 8.4 sec­onds.

A Suzuki Vi­tara with­out a turbo is like a Mcdon­ald’s sun­dae with­out hot fudge; sure, it’s good, but cloud nine is just one step away.

Prov­ing weight also helps at the pump, Vi­tara sips less, too, with 5.9l/100km ver­sus Trax’s 6.9l/100km.

We’re not out to bash Trax, just to high­light how good the Vi­tara Turbo is, and though sports han­dling may not be a vi­tal fac­tor to con­sider, the Suzuki has fan­tas­tic road-hold­ing and han­dling that sim­ply in­spires con­fi­dence.

The com­pact SUV isn’t short of equip­ment in­side, ei­ther. With the range start­ing at $27,090 all the way up to $38,790, the 2WD Turbo sits in the sweet spot at $34k, com­bin­ing a stylish, mod­ern dash with com­fort­able leather/ suede seats and al­loy ped­als. It’s quite a high seat­ing po­si­tion for its size, but easy to get com­fort­able thanks to the tilt and reach steer­ing ad­just­ment.

Key­less en­try and start­ing is great, as is the abil­ity to lock/un­lock the car when stand­ing out­side the boot via the sim­ple

Red rings are the theme of the in­te­rior, with them cir­cling the main gauges and the vents.

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