The Suzuki Vitara is no stranger to our shores, but you may only have known it to be offered in the 1.6-litre normally aspirated guise only.
In a segment that is quite possibly the most contested at the moment, the Vitara contends with names, such as Volkswagen T-Cross, Renault Duster/Captur, Hyundai Kona and/or Creta, Kia Seltos and many many more.
BoosterJet engine technology
In order to contest for some market share, Suzuki needed to do something beyond voicing its stellar brand strength and growth in the South African market. Introducing the Vitara GLX with a new 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine was just the thing.
They’ve labelled this new engine technology as BoosterJet, but in a nutshell it’s a lightweight, small-capacity turbo engine with direct-injection and smart technology that incorporates electric waste gate control and an integrated manifold.
It’s the same engine that propels the Suzuki Swift Sport we tested a few weeks ago. In the Vitara, power output is 103kW at 5 500rpm and 220Nm of torque from as low as 1 500rpm and carries strongly up to 4 000rpm.
The Vitara is a sprightly performer. This new engine a completely different experience to the naturally aspirated engine I was used to. With positive in-gear accelerative force, there is more than enough shove for overtaking and while there is turbo-lag, it’s something you can easily counter through the manual transmission.
Refreshingly exciting for small SUV
With 186mm ground clearance and with all this power going to the front wheels, the Vitara’s road manners is as expected for this type of vehicle.
Slight handfuls of torque steer through what is a slightly lacklustre steering aren’t entirely perfect and the lateral body roll in corners is noticeable but respectable. For a small SUV of this nature, the overall driving experience is refreshingly exciting.
I was also happily surprised by its braking performance, with a positive pedal feel and more importantly, what feels like better than usual stopping force. The Vitara’s under 1.2-ton weight could also be one of the reasons for its braking and accelerative performance. The car comes standard with all order of braking assistance tech, such as ABS, EBD and brake assistance.
Host of safety and tech features
Speaking of safety, the Vitara comes standard with a host of additional active safety features, including no less than seven airbags, a part of why it has been awarded a five-star safety rating by the EuroNCAP agency.
In this spec, the Vitara is loaded with features and technical specifications.
Just some of these are Keyless Entry/Start, LED DRL’s, park distance control and reversing camera, climate control, a multi-function steering wheel, and an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality in addition to the more normal Bluetooth connectivity.
My opinion of the touchscreen system currently on offer in Suzuki products being less than perfect remains. User-experience isn’t entirely intuitive and the volume control and home buttons are too small and cumbersome to use if you’re actually using the screen itself.
Apart from that, it’s typically Suzuki in its build quality and overall feel. The cabin is perhaps quite understated, but it remains a solid and comfortable place to be.
The new seats in the Vitara GLX are fantastic, supportive in all the right areas yet soft and comfortable thanks to a suede seat centre finished with a leather-alternative material on each side. The cabin dimensions are adequate for a car in this segment with sufficient legroom and headroom in the rear for comfortable trips no matter the distance.
Spoilt for choice
Perhaps the exterior design of older Vitaras of old could be considered a bit low-key for some, but with a colour palette that includes colours options, such as Bright Red, Atlantic Turquoise and the Prime Solar Yellow (shown here), which could be contrasted with a black roof in a two-tone finish, you could spec one to suit your slightly more eccentric tastes.
The Vitara GLX is a solid, practical and competent small SUV. It does play in a space where there are all sorts of different expressions of this segment, but it holds its place in the pack — now with a much more exciting and efficient engine and spec offering.
With a strong brand appeal and a strong heritage in the Vitara badge, it’s certainly worth a look.
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