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