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Suzuki Vitara revisited: 5 speed
  |  First Published: May 2016



A few issues back I reviewed the excellent Suzuki Vitara wagon in top-shelf AWD specification, complete with sun roof and 6-speed auto shifter. As good as the auto All Grip drive was, I was also quite impressed with the five-speed manual 2WD Vitara. During the test drive it provided quite high comfort levels along with great fuel economy on a mix of city driving and some prolonged country runs. The 2WD Vitara might be a base vehicle within the range but it’s a long way from being a basic motor vehicle.

For the record, it’s fair to say that Suzuki’s Vitara range of wagons offer the highest levels of interior specifications ever offered on a Suzuki in our country. Across the board there are trip computers measuring the distance to empty, current and average fuel consumption, average speed and outside temperature.

There’s a big rear view camera within the 7” four quadrant multi-touch display centre, satellite navigation system with voice input, privacy glass, headlight levelling adjustment, cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio, hands-free phone, shift paddles on auto models, vanity illumination on sun visors, floor lighting on door opening, climate air plus seven air bags. Also on the stylish dash, which admittedly does feature a fair amount of hard plastic, are USB and 12V ports.

On the exterior there’s some smart stying, LED running lights, 17” wheels, halogen headlights and a distinctive Suzuki clam shell style bonnet. Taking these features into one package sees the Vitara outspeccing a lot of potential rivals in the smaller SUV market niche.

A ROOMY UNIT

Sitting within the Vitara you quickly notice that this wagon is quite spacious for its class. With a tilt and telescopically adjustable steering wheel and plenty of seat adjustment, I found it easy to get very comfortable behind the wheel. There’s also ample head room all round with reasonable leg room in the rear. Within the rear seat area with its 60/40 fold down capability were two Isofix points and three tether points.

The rear cargo capacity is a very generous 375L with rear seat up, and 710L with the rear seat folded down. The cargo area has a two tiered loading floor with a space saver spare stashed lowest.

While on the topic of capacities the fuel tank holds 47L. With my consumption figures of 6.8L per 100km, this ensures there’s a decent touring range of about 650-700km.

THE DRIVE

The five speed manual, with its 16-valve, 4-cylinder 1.6L 86kW, 156Nm petrol engine driving the front wheels did an entirely adequate job of punting the 1730kg Vitara through suburban traffic due to a favourable power-to-weight ratio of 80W/kg. The 5-speed manual gear box was very slick, the clutch light yet entirely predictable in its take up, and the gear selector movement was slick.

I did find the manual 5-speed unit brought back memories of the early Vitaras of quite a few years back with their go-anywhere attitude; they were definitely fun to drive. Bush or beach, nothing stopped those little terrier-like Suzukis, but in the newest Vitara – in two wheel guise mode – we have car that’s more refined, more civilized and highly suited to city work, country runs, and formed gravel roads. The déjà vu experience of sweetly changing gears at just the right engine revs was something that was perhaps lacking in the Vitara auto, which was very smooth, very nice, but maybe too civilized if that makes sense.

The new Vitara is a mix of driving experiences. The electric steering is very direct, yet the wagon holds the road very well with just some influence strong cross winds at times. Overall, the driving feeling is one of nimbleness, with any body lean being minimal, and cornering predictable. The main noise intrusion comes from the tyres, which is always always on the cards with big wheels on small cars, and certainly nothing much from the engine. It ticked away happily at idle, and made an entertaining growl when pushed hard between gear changes.

SUMMING UP

There’s lots to like about the 5-speed manual Suzuki Vitara, not the least being the competitive pricing of $21,990 sans on roads. The well styled wagon offers the standard SUV high driving/high seating experience, and sufficient room all round. For families with youngsters it’s a real value for money package given the huge list of standard features, plus the enjoyment of driving the funky-styled vehicle. For anglers like you and I, the unbraked trailer weight of 400kg will see it ahead of plenty of small boats.

Reads: 535

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