Loading indicator
News & Reviews
Last 7 Days
  • Funky design inside and out; handles rather well; well-priced, notably at entry level; good levels of standard equipment, six-speed auto rather than CVT
  • Underpowered; steering not engaging enough; base version has no 4WD option, some cabin plastics; rear headroom when fitted with sunroof, NVH

OUR RATING
7.5 / 10



2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

The original Suzuki Vitara is one of the progenitors of today’s small SUV craze, and despite having been off the market since 1998, the nameplate maintains a certain kind of cache. This is one company that knows a thing or two about small, cheap off-roaders.

That’s why it makes perfect sense for Suzuki to dust off this iconic badge and return it to the fold, affixed to the boxy and uncharacteristically characterful small crossover you see here.

Suzuki Australia has high hopes indeed for the reborn Vitara — replete with familiar clamshell bonnet and fender flares — with the expectation being that this Hungarian-made SUV will become its second top-selling model after the Swift.

But it’s not just brand equity that’ll get it there. The Vitara also breaks the mould for Suzuki in terms of design. Not only does it have a real edge not found on its S-Cross twin-under-the-skin, it also comes with some fun customisation options.

Of course, those S-Cross origins also means the Vitara rocks a monocoque construction, no low-range, good but hardly epic levels of ground clearance, and the availability of four-wheel drive (on demand, not full-time) only on the top-spec version. Is it still a terrier off the beaten path?

It pays to remember that the Vitara of today also competes in a very different landscape to its predecessor (hence the loss of the old three-door and soft-top, while we’re at it). In fact, within a few years, Suzuki thinks small SUVs will outsell small passenger hatchbacks overall.

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

Rivals such as the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V (another recently reborn nameplate) are selling up a storm — alongside the Holden Trax and countless others — while sales of Corolla and Mazda 3s, while strong, are going backwards.

And why not, asks Suzuki? With an opening price of $21,990 plus on-roads (or $23,990 with a six-speed auto), and standard equipment such as a touchscreen with sat-nav and reverse-view camera, 17-inch alloy wheels and daytime running lights, the Vitara actually out-values many conventional small hatchbacks.

Consider also that Suzuki Australia is subsidising the lion’s share of on-road charges for the RT-S, with drive-away pricing of $22,990 or $24,990 depending on transmission. That’s Corolla money, and undercuts (and out-specs) almost all rivals.

Read: Suzuki Vitara pricing and specifications.

It’s this base front-drive Vitara RT-S variant that appears the sharpest member of the range, given the 4WD RT-X auto costs a less-impressive $31,990. It’s therefore unsurprising that Suzuki expects about 80 per cent of sales to go here.

The cabin of the Vitara immediately stands out from other Suzukis by way of its configurable plastic inserts and a more modern touchscreen than we’ve seen from the brand previously. The fact the RT-S gets the same seven-inch unit with camera and sat-nav as the RT-X , and the fact it also sports stylish 17-inch wheels and DRLs, is commendable on the part of Suzuki Australia.

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

The $31,990 RT-X gets a range of extras for its $8000 cost premium over the RT-S auto’s list price, such as an on-demand four-wheel drive system, a panoramic sunroof, leather/suede seats, front/rear parking sensors, and auto wipers and headlights.

Unless you really need 4WD — and statistics on small SUV sales suggest you don’t — the RT-S is clearly the sharper buy. It’s actually a minor shame that Suzuki isn’t offering a base, 4WD version given its iconic off-road heritage.

A key USP inside the cabin are the funky colourful plastic inserts. For about $300, your dealer can fit new plastic bits across the dash, and on the console and vent surrounds when the mood takes you. You can have bright blue, orange, silver or glossy black.

The other selling point over a small hatchback is the elevated driving position — you get a typically more commanding view of the road given the ride height. Ergonomics are good, with a chunky little steering wheel offering proper reach/rake adjustment.

The seven-inch screen is simple to navigate, with a home screen comprising four quadrants like Ford’s SYNC 2 system. Suzuki is not yet offering Apple CarPlay, though there is Mirror Link for Android devices.

The sat-nav graphics are excellent, the reverse-view camera with guidelines is crisp, the voice control allows for conversational inputs and the Bluetooth phone and audio systems re-paired swiftly every time.

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

Only the cheap-feeling plastic surrounding the screen lets the team down. In fact, while general build quality is typically good, the cabin’s contact points (dash and doors) are covered in cheap-felling and hard plastics all round, reminiscent of the Holden Trax, come to think of it.

Cabin storage up front comprises good door pockets, big cupholders, a two-tiered phone/wallet cubby, a decent glovebox and a sunglasses-holder. There’s no closing centre console, however.

In the rear, the RT-X’s sunroof eats drastically into headroom. Otherwise space is good for the class, in terms of legroom and footroom. The middle seat is next to useless, though, and there are no rear cupholders, no ski port and no air vents. There are, at least, two ISOFIX anchors for child seats and three adjustable headrests.

All this is despite the Vitara’s diminutive dimensions, which its boxy and rather sharp styling helps hide. At 4175mm long, it’s 100mm shorter than the already tiny CX-3 and almost a foot shorter than a Mazda 3. It’s the elevated 1610mm height that sets it apart from a regular hatch.

With the 60:40 rear seats in use, you have a decent 375 litres of cargo space — less than the S-Cross but more than a CX-3 or Mazda 3. There’s a two-layered loading floor and a space-saver spare beneath. Still, the Honda HR-V’s flat-folding ‘Magic Seats’ kill all rivals in terms of practicality.

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

Powering both versions is a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with a rather low 86kW at 6000rpm and 156Nm of torque available at 4400rpm. Working in the Vitara’s favour is its feather-ish kerb weight of just 1075kg in entry front-wheel drive form (feel those ultra-light doors…)

Our first test car was the RT-S, available in FWD guise only, in this case with the base five-speed manual gearbox. As well as lacking a ratio, the self-shifter has a slightly rubbery and vague action, though the light clutch with a predictable take-up point makes it simple enough to doddle about in.

The engine makes the best of things despite its diminutive size, and with such a meagre kerb weight to lug about, it’s perfectly adequate, even sprightly off the mark in urban confines. Loaded up near its 1730kg GVM, it might be a different tale.

The variant we spent the overwhelming amount of time in was the 4WD RT-X. Like the RT-S, it sits on 17-inch wheels and sports the same 1.6 engine, but in our tester this was paired to the six-speed automatic gearbox with paddleshifters that’s a $2000 option on the base car.

Suzuki fans have doubtless spotted that the S-Cross’ CVT has been axed for the Vitara, and that’s a good thing. The torque-converter-sporting auto is preferable in terms of engagement, though it can get busy when climbing hills and holds lower gears longer than you might expect to get the engine into the sweet spot even in urban duties.

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

The little Suzuki is also deceptively nimble, with darty (though feel-free) electric steering that’s good on-centre, and a body/chassis that exhibits a real willingness to turn-in with sharpness not expected from a crossover. The Continental tyres offer plentiful mid-corner traction, though that torsion-beam rear gets undisciplined at nine-tenths. Not a big deal.

Rapid directional changes are handled with little fuss. Furthermore, handling is well-sorted, with not much in the way of bodyroll. Interestingly, the RT-X has a Sport mode (part of its AWD system which we detail a few paragraphs further down) that sharpens up the throttle and gearbox characteristics, and relaxes the ESC parameters for aggressive driving.

You’ll also have the confidence to chuck the Vitara around given the excellent outward visibility. The A-pillars are trim, and the side windows are square and deep. Indeed, it’s a shame the Suzuki doesn’t have a peppier engine, because the chassis could easily handle the extra oomph (cough, Suzuki’s torque-rich European-market diesel engine, cough).

One benefit of having a small engine is fuel use. Almost silent at idle (though it lacks start stop). Suzuki claims you’ll use between 5.8 litres and 6.3 litres per 100km. We averaged 7.3L/100km in our AWD tester, which is more than acceptable, though the harder you work it, the thirstier it gets.

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

Both variants sit on 17-inch rims on low-ish profile rubber, meaning each feels a little brittle over sharp bumps, though more generally ride compliance is adequate. Still, the locally-tuned Tuned Trax does a better job.

At higher speeds, and despite that weight, the Vitara remains composed and stable, but there was a lot of tyre noise emanating into the cabin, increasing NVH levels.

Suzuki’s ALLGRIP 4WD system is operated via a rotary dial. Auto mode operates the car in front-drive mode until slip is detected, at which time it sends torque to the rear axle. Snow mode vectors torque more aggressively and applies extra ESC for slippery surfaces.

This system, plus the 185mm of ground clearance (more than the CX-3 and front-drive-only HR-V) and features such as Hill Descent Control, help boost its soft-roading credentials. We got our tester muddy and found the Vitara perfectly capable of lighter-duty work. Add some more off-road-oriented tyres and you might surprise yourself.

Overall, the new Suzuki Vitara is a rather likeable little crossover SUV, albeit one beset with stiff competition. It isn’t the same type of little SUV its predecessor was, but it’ll steal some sales from prosaic small hatchbacks without a shadow of a doubt, and lure some current Swift owners keen on trading into something bigger.

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
2016 Suzuki Vitara Review

On first impressions could use a few more kW under the bonnet, and the cabin plastics feel cheap. But then again, the Vitara is cheap in feature-packed RT-S guise, and it has the right kind of pseudo-tough styling and standard features to make an impact. A good start.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser and Mike Costello.


  Submit an Owner Car Review

SUZUKI VITARA BREAKDOWN

2016 Suzuki Vitara Review
  • 7.5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8.5
  • 8
  • 7.5
  Submit an Owner Car Review


SHARE THIS ARTICLE




Suzuki Vitara Specs

GL+ : LY : 1.6L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 5 SP MANUAL - UNLEADED PETROL - 4D WAGON
Car Details
Make
SUZUKI
Model
VITARA
Variant
GL+
Series
LY
Year
2015
Body Type
4D WAGON
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$17,050 - $19,380
Dealer Retail
$18,410 - $21,890
Dealer Trade
$13,400 - $15,500
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
1.6L
Cylinders
INLINE 4
Max. Torque
156Nm @  4400rpm
Max. Power
86kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
80W/kg
Bore & Stroke
78x83mm
Compression Ratio
11.0
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
5 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
REAR WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
4.4
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
47Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
5.8L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1075
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1610mm
Length
4175mm
Width
1775mm
Ground Clearance
185mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1200  Unbrake:400
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.4
Front Rim Size
6.5x17
Rear Rim Size
6.5x17
Front Tyres
215/55 R17
Rear Tyres
215/55 R17
Wheel Base
2500
Front Track
1535
Rear Track
1505
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring
Rear Suspension
Torsion beam, Coil Spring
Standard Features
Comfort
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program
Driver
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer
Entertainment
Radio CD with 4 Speakers
Exterior
Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors
Interior
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Exterior
Metallic Paint, Two-tone Paint
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  10,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Centre Eng Bay Scuttle
Country of Origin
Hungary