New models, SUV
More power for Suzuki Vitara

More power has uplifted the Suzuki Vitara and made it into a really desirable SUV says Damien O’Carroll.

When Suzuki launched the all-new Vitara a while back the general consensus was that it was an excellent little SUV with a slightly average engine.

While Suzuki had taken the time to include an excellent six-speed automatic transmission in the Vitara package – as opposed to the grating CVTs in the rest of its cars – the Vitara really did need a bit more power to make the most of it.

And now there is a Vitara with an all-new turbo engine that nicely takes care of all those complaints, and then some.

The Turbo effectively replaces the LTD in the Vitara line-up, with the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre model eventually being phased out. As such, the Turbo comes in a single high-spec version that gets the same levels of equipment as the LTD, apart from that model’s panoramic sunroof, which has been dropped from the Turbo.

This means it comes standard with such equipment as a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and media streaming and Apple CarPlay integration, as well as a leather steering wheel with shift paddles and controls for the audio, phone and cruise control, artificial leather and suede upholstery on the sports seats, red stitching on the steering wheel and seats, red trim highlights around the air vents, clock and gauges, keyless entry, push button start, aluminium accelerator and brake pedals and a reversing camera.

On the outside the Turbo is differentiated from the standard Vitara by a unique five-slot grille, LED headlights with red trim highlights, LED daytime running lights, rear privacy glass, satin silver door mirrors and roof rails and 17-inch gloss black alloy wheels.

Where the naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the standard Vitara packs a slightly underwhelming 86kW of power and 156Nm of torque, the Turbo’s new 1.4-litre “BoosterJet” direct injection turbo four-cylinder petrol unit pumps out a far more satisfying 103kW of power and 220Nm of torque.

Despite boasting more power and needing 95 octane petrol, the new turbo engine is actually slightly more economical than the naturally-aspirated engine, with Suzuki claiming an average combined figure of 5.9L/100km for the 2WD model (6.2L/100km for the AWD) compared to 6L/100km for the 2WD LTD and 6.3 for the AWD.

The new BoosterJet engine is the first in a new range of engines from Suzuki and is “very similar” to the 1.4-litre naturally aspirated engine currently found in the Suzuki Swift, with Suzuki having recently confirmed that the new turbo engine will be going into the Swift as well.

Suzuki New Zealand says that the Vitara has been a vehicle that a lot of its customers are stepping into from a Swift, looking for a boost in size and, given the way the Vitara Turbo behaves on the road, we would suggest that those customers would be very happy indeed.

The Vitara feels – perhaps rather unsurprisingly – like a larger, more compliant Swift on the road, with the new engine in the Turbo taking things to another level again, particularly in terms of performance.

The Vitara Turbo has a lovely big wave of torque that comes in at 1,700rpm that it sits on nicely when out on the open road.

Around town the Vitara Turbo is brilliantly responsive and nimble, being both small enough to easily navigate around tight urban areas and powerful enough to take full advantage of gaps in traffic.

There is, however, one slight chink in the Turbo’s abilities, and that is the otherwise brilliant transmission’s slightly lethargic response off the line combined with a slight amount of turbo lag at the same point.

This means that pulling out from a side intersection can leave you wishing for a bit of a faster response from things, as it doesn’t surge off the ,line like it does when you nail the throttle when it is up and running, but you quickly learn to expect this and adjust your choices accordingly.

As mentioned earlier, the Turbo replaces the LTD in the Vitara range, so is priced similarly.

The range starts with the 2WD version priced at $33,990, while the 4WD version costs $37,990. Both variants can be optioned with a sporty two-tone paint job that adds an additional $1,200.

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