The reborn European-made Suzuki Vitara will arrive in Australia just after the middle of 2015 priced aggressively from as little as $23,000, and will lure younger buyers with its interesting cabin personalisation and brand-leading technologies such as Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink.
Down the line, it could also be a candidate for the downsized turbo-petrol engines that Suzuki’s engineering team is currently considering for launch — at the behest of global regions such as Australia — inside 12-18 months. Watch this space.
The Vitara — a name synonymous with the small SUV segment it helped pioneer in 1988 — will become the third pillar in a trio of baby Suzuki crossovers alongside the softer S-Cross and rugged and rather ancient Jimny Sierra.
In time, the company plans on owning as much as 10 per cent of the total private sales in the small SUV space, which is morphing into a much more segmented and fragmented market as it matures. Such a target is key to its mission to almost double brand sales to 30,000 cars by 2017.
The Vitara, the production version of the funkier iV-4 concept car, is pitched as the edgier twin to the more demure and family-focused S-Cross with which it shares much of its mechanical make up.
Once it is up and running, Suzuki Australia general manager of automobiles Andrew Moore says — supply pending — it has the potential to sell about 500 Vitaras a month, an ambitious figure that would make it easily the company’s second top-selling car after the Swift.
Just like the S-Cross, the Vitara is also to be made in Europe — Hungary to be precise. Suzuki Australia will no doubt be hoping currency flows go in its favour, lest it have to absorb the cost to keep its starting prices as aggressive as it intends. It will also have to watch its lead- times.
At 4175mm long, 1775mm wide, 1610mm high, sitting on a 2500mm wheelbase and with ground clearance of 185mm, the Vitara is in fact smaller than a Holden Trax. It’s quite practical, though, with 375L of cargo space, or 19L more than the baby Holden.
Australia will get both price-leading front-wheel-drive versions, as well as all-wheel-drive offerings with four-mode AWD systems. But this is no Jimny or Grand Vitara in the off-road stakes, it’s a car-based monocoque model without a dedicated low-range gear shifter.
Expect our versions to feature the modest 88kW/156Nm 1.6-litre engine from the S-Cross, though matched this time a six-speed automatic gearbox rather than a CVT. This factor, plus its sub-1100kg kerb weight (lighter than the S-Cross), means it should be more sprightly.
Expect fuel use to about match the S-Cross’s excellent economy figure of around 6.0L/100km on the combined cycle.
European versions will also get a 88kW/320Nm turbo-diesel which is being evaluated for Australia, according to Moore, though not confirmed. We’d recommend the company bring it. That turbo-petrol possibility being worked on internally is also being eagerly explored by the company.
But what Suzuki appears keen to really sell the car on is its novelty features such as the two-tone colours — white or blue with a black roof, for instance — and the dealer-fit coloured inserts in the cabin that come in a multitude of hues for cheap. The company is understandably keen to put some funk into its range.
The company is also confident that all variants will come with Apple Car Play and MirrorLink smartphone connectivity, making it one of Australia’s earlier adopters. If the company can offer even base models with this multimedia it will deserve kudos.
What do you think of the new Vitara? Would you consider one over, say, a Nissan Juke or Holden Trax come mid-2015?
See a full gallery of the 2015 Suzuki Vitara in the Photos tab.