Andre de Kock
Used for my daily commute between home and work – mostly in city traffic – the little SUV proved amazingly likeable.
First impressions, clever people say, last forever. They are, of course, wrong. Take sporting victories, for instance. The day after the Springboks’ recent Rugby World Cup victory, one would have though South Africa was a brand new country, where trustworthiness, respect for others, prosperity of the masses and, indeed, all-inclusive love, reigned.
A week later, we realised we are still being governed by criminals, looting political bureaucrats are still above the law and our lame duck president’s job still is to make soothing noises while we watch the ruling party steal our country bankrupt. Sometimes, it can work the other way around. Take Suzuki’s new Vitara Turbo, for instance.
When Suzuki launched their new vehicle range some months ago, they used the Red Star Raceway near Delmas to introduce the Swift Sport and Vitara models. On the day, motoring scribes got to drive Vitaras to the circuit and Swifts on the circuit. Naturally, we all fell deeply in love with the Swift, while being mildly impressed with the Vitara. It works like that – when I was a lot younger, girls who let you explore inside their clothing on a first date rated a lot higher than those who took you to meet their grandmothers.
Three days after driving the new Vitara, I forgot all about it, which was an injustice, as I found when Suzuki supplied me with one for a recent seven-day driving impression. Used for my daily commute between home and work – mostly in city traffic – the little SUV proved amazingly likeable.
The Vitara comes powered by a 1 373cc four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine, which renders 103 kW of power at 5 500 rpm and 220 Nm of torque between 1 500 and 4 000 rpm. The test model was equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, which sends the grunt and twist to the front wheels. It has a gross vehicle weight of 1 730 kg and is 4 175 mm long, 1 775 mm wide and 1 610 mm high.
Suzuki say they have equipped the new Vitara with a trapezoidal lower front intake, a clamshell bonnet with a power bulge, a sloping roofline, thick C-pillars and an accentuated rear hipline. We do not understand complex terminology like that – we thought it looked pretty much like most other smaller SUVs. Best you peruse the photographs and decide for yourself. The whole package sits on 17- inch alloy wheels in 215/55R17 rubber – sadly complemented by our pet hate – a Marie Biscuit steel “space saver” spare wheel. Ah well, nothing is perfect.
Inside, the Vitara boasts steering-mounted controls for the audio and cruise control systems, park distance control all round, automatic climate control, a multi-information full-colour display in the instrument binnacle, plus a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink systems.
Active safety items include disc brakes all round with anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake-assist, electronic stability control and traction control. Should you still crash, there are seven airbags, side and cross body impact zones and seatbelts all round to keep you from whacking things harder than yourself.
The Vitara proved very easy to drive – with such low weight and a healthy power output, it was nippy in traffic. More impressive was the flat torque curve that would see the vehicle start pulling energetically from just more than 1 200 rpm, all the way to 4 000 rpm, and short-shifting was a pleasure with the smooth six-speed gearbox. The steering is direct and inspires confidence – the vehicle just goes exactly where you point it, immediately.
The Vitara – just like the Swift did on a racetrack – makes you feel you are actually driving well – always a good – if dangerous – illusion for old people like myself. Another pleasant surprise was the fuel consumption, at 6.4l/100km over our week. The Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX will set you back R378 900, which includes a five year/200 000 km warranty and a four-year/ 60 000 km service plan.
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