The iconic Suzuki Vitara is back in a fresh new body, underpinning new technology and a level of equipment that marks the car out as a compact Sport Utility Vehicle market leader.
Five versions of the new generation cross-over Vitara are launched in New Zealand with the choice of two and four wheel drive, two specification levels and the option of manual or automatic transmissions.
Despite being 130 mm shorter than the Grand Vitara, the new global compact car, which was four years in development, offers the same interior space, is better equipped and more economical. It retains a convenient high body configuration offering easy access, 185 mm ground clearance and generous 18.2 degree approach and 28.2 degree departure angles for easy travel when the going gets rough.
Although based on the platform of the popular Suzuki S-Cross, the five-door Vitara inherits much of the heritage of earlier Suzuki four wheel drive models while the availability of two wheel drive options widens the market appeal.
A strong body design includes a grille that lines up perfectly with the headlights, and the clamshell bonnet, a hallmark of previous Vitaras, is retained. Kicked-up bodyside lines and side bonnet garnishes are first generation Vitara styling cues.
Not only is there generous front and rear leg and headroom, but the large opening hatchback door reveals 375 litres of luggage space, extending to 710 litres when the 60/40 spit folding rear seat is folded down. A false floor in the load area allows valuables to be hidden away for added security and a relatively flat floor when the rear seats are folded forward.
For the first time owners are able to personalise their Vitaras, with contrasting colour roof paint finishes, body colour-matched dashboard finishes and accessory kits. There are a range of exterior body accessories that accentuate the strong lines of the new Vitara and Suzuki is expecting that a large proportion of customers will personalize their vehicle with a range of genuine Suzuki accessories.
Friction reductions combined with weight savings in the engine and related components help the multi-valve M16A 1,586 cm3 four-cylinder engine achieve excellent fuel economy combined with generous output and torque. Running on a compression ratio of 11.1 to 1, the 1.6 litre power unit develops 86 kW at 6,000 rpm and 156 Nm of torque at 4,400 rpm.
The entry-level JLX two wheel drive carries a recommended retail price of $27,990 (on road costs are additional) and has a five-speed manual transmission with gear ratios optimised to make best use of the engine’s characteristics.
In line with market preferences, the other four Vitara models are all equipped with a new six speed automatic transmission which has wide gear ratios aiding quick response at low vehicle speeds, such as pulling away from standstill or driving up an incline. The wide choice of ratios also allows the motor to operate at lower revs when open road cruising.
The auto has an expanded lockup range to boost acceleration and enhance economy, while the manual mode allows the driver to change up and down the transmission using shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
Suzuki’s four-mode ALLGRIP drive system provides safety and versatility for all types of road conditions. In the auto setting ALLGRIP defaults to front wheel drive, distributing power to the rear axle only when it detects wheelspin, thus reducing impact on fuel economy and emissions.
In Sport mode the system makes maximum use of 4WD in accordance with accelerator inputs. At low and mid-range engine speeds, the system alters the accelerator and torque characteristics to optimise engine response and cornering.
Four wheel drive is engaged by default when Snow mode is selected which is ideal for loose gravel, unpaved, slippery and, of course, snowy road conditions. Finally, the simple circular control on the transmission tunnel also allows selection of the lock mode which is ideal for extricating the car from snow, mud or sand, incorporating a limited slip differential to reduce any slipping wheels and transfer torque to the gripping wheels.
Coil spring suspension is used all round, and there are MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam arrangement at the rear. Suzuki has developed new lower suspension arms and strengthened the struts to improve stability while the rigid torsion beam mirrors the setup first introduced on the S-Cross. All Vitaras come with 17-inch diameter, spoked design aluminium alloy wheels, finished in grey on JLX and polished on LTD.
Ventilated front disc brakes are supported by solid rear discs, and newly designed calipers are lighter and have less drag. The braking system incorporates ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and ESP Electronic Stability.
A top rating 5-Star Euro NCAP has been awarded to the new Vitara with its TECT high tensile steel body design, seven airbags and a suite of electronic systems. The comprehensive specification on all Vitaras includes a brake override system that slows the vehicle in a situation where both accelerator and brake pedals are depressed simultaneously.
Vitaras with auto transmission are fitted with a handy hill-hold function, while ALLGRIP JLX and LTD include hill descent mechanisms for extra safe operation in steep or slippery downhill situations.
Both JLX and premium LTD grades are exceptionally well equipped to meet ever increasing consumer demands.
All Vitaras come as standard with electric power assistance for the steering, cruise control and speed limiter, electric windows front and rear, and an intuitive seven-inch touchscreen display with voice actuated audio navigation system, smartphone connectivity, hands-free connectivity and reversing camera. The package also includes electrically adjustable door mirrors and an on-board computer incorporating outside air temperature, digital clock, gear lever indicator, instant and average fuel consumption readout and an ALLGRIP indicator (on 4WD models). Extra cabin lighting in the front footwells, centre lower stowage box and vanity mirrors is also standard equipment.
The retro-like analogue clock at the top centre of the facia is fitted to all Vitaras and there are no fewer than six drink holders. A leather bound, multi-function steering wheel has adjacent controls for the audio system, cruise control, and phone calls. There are 12-volt accessory sockets front and rear, wheel arch and under body protection mouldings and protective skid plates front and rear.
Fog lamps and LED daylight running lights, silver roof rails, and privacy glass on rear side and back windows are standard on both JLX and LTD.
In LTD trim, the Vitara adds an electrically operated panaramic glass sunroof with one of the largest openings in the class, keyless entry with push button start, a six speaker audio system (replacing a four speaker system in JLX), and electrically folding door mirrors with integrated turn signals.
LTD models also feature carbon panel detailing, suede effect seating upholstery, overhead console box, chrome accent grille, parking proximity sensors front and rear and automatic rain sensing wipers.
For added convenience, the LTD has automatic headlight leveling that works in conjunction with the automatic lights. In addition, this top spec model boasts LED projectors for low beam and halogen multi-reflectors for high beam head lighting.
Four body colours are available for JLX, and there are six colour options for LTD, including the choice of Turquoise Blue metallic or Savannah Ivory pearl with Cosmic Black Pearl roof, and Horizon Orange metallic with Superior White roof.
In two wheel drive JLX specification, the manual retails for $27,990, or $29,990 with the automatic option. The four wheel drive JLX AWD ALLGRIP auto is $32,990, and the two wheel drive LTD auto is also $32,990 or $33,790 when specified with the two-colour body finish. Topping the range is the four wheel drive LTD AWD ALLGRIP ($35,990) which can be specified with the contrasting roof colour ($36,790).
“Suzuki is one of the oldest motor vehicle brands in the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) business, and the Vitara name is now 27 years old,” said Gary Collins, General Manager Automobile Marketing for Suzuki New Zealand. “The new fourth generation Vitara moves with the times and is a compelling option for those seeking a practical and well-equipped SUV that is highly satisfying to drive.”
“The market for compact SUVs will continue to blossom after showing the largest growth of any class in New Zealand so far this year. As a small, family friendly high rider, the Vitara is ideally placed to make its mark in this expanding class of car,” he said.
Collins said the six stage auto was very smooth and maximizes the performance levels from the highly fuel efficient powerplant of the Vitara. During the Japanese drive impressions he said the ride comfort was a considerable improvement over competitor vehicles.
Such has been the initial international response to the Vitara; Suzuki has already decided to increase production of the model.
A total of 1.1 million first-generation Vitaras were sold in just under ten years between 1988 and 1998, and prior to the arrival of the latest model earlier this year, cumulative world sales reached 2.87 million units.
In the late ‘80s, the Vitara was the first of a new breed of small, affordable SUVs, and soon became popular with its chic body design and four wheel drive functionality. The word Vitara originates from the English word “vital” and is associated with the owner’s active lifestyle. Entering a new era, Suzuki’s latest model carries on the pioneering spirit of the original while raising both refinement and equipment levels.
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