Road test: Suzuki Vitara AllGrip Turbo 2019 review

Front side view of the nose of a blue, two white and a red Suzuki Vitara Series II parked next to each other on a dirt road

Tim Nicholson

Posted September 29, 2019


Tim Nicholson Hill takes the new Suzuki Vitara AllGrip Turbo for a road test.

A few years back, Suzuki decided to go retro and started mining its back catalogue for model names. The Japanese brand resurrected the long-dead Baleno moniker, then re-introduced the tiny Ignis crossover after a 12-year hiatus. But the model that kicked off Suzuki’s retro revival was the Vitara small SUV that returned to the market in late 2015.

The Vitara gained cult-like status from its first iteration in the late 1980s. It had funky styling, real off-road ability and a fabric roof, and it proved a hit for the brand. Fast forward to 2015 and Suzuki tried to harness some of that coolness for its all-new Vitara, with mixed success. The modern Vitara had smart styling and some colour choices that hinted at its forebear.

Suzuki gave the Vitara a mid-life update in February this year, ushering in light visual changes to the front and rear, including new darkened LED tail-lights, as well as new colours, fresh wheel designs and revised interior trim and instrumentation.

Thumbs up

Strong value proposition and functional, spacious cabin combined with a willing engine and fun drive experience.

Thumbs down

Starting to feel dated inside compared with rivals. The ride is overly firm and it has a noisy engine.


 

Among its peers in the mainstream small SUV segment, the Vitara sits in the top 10 but it can’t match the sales of the ageing Mitsubishi ASX, the Mazda CX-3, Honda’s HR-V and the Nissan Qashqai, among others. The Vitara faces even more competition now than when it launched four years ago, with Hyundai’s Kona and the Toyota CH-R also eating into sales.

Pricing for the AllGrip (Suzuki speak for all-wheel drive) Turbo starts at $34,990 plus on-road costs and it is the top-spec variant. Other entry variants kick off from $23,990.

The Vitara represents strong value and the AllGrip Turbo is offered with a good level of standard gear. It lines up pricing wise with other range-topping AWD, small SUV models, like the highly rated Toyota C-HR Koba ($35,290) and Subaru XV 2.0i-S ($35,780) and it undercuts the Hyundai Kona Highlander AWD ($39,000) and Mazda CX-3 Akari AWD ($39,900).

The Vitara sports a boxier look than some of the more sleek, compact SUVs but the design still looks good a few years into its life cycle. Inside, it feels a little dated and cheap, particularly compared with its key rivals. The dash layout and design is pretty generic and there are a lot of hard plastics throughout. It’s on par with some of the newer Chinese entrants in the small SUV category in that regard.

However, despite the drab design, there’s a robustness to the cabin and an overall feeling of quality – you won’t find any panel gaps in here. It’s just a case of function over style. The front seats are super supportive, if a touch narrow in the hip area, and the quilted suede-look material is a classy touch. For some odd reason the passenger side seat does not adjust for height.

It has an excellent driving position and front and rearward visibility is outstanding thanks to narrow pillars all round and lots of glass. The infotainment system also looks dated, but it is a cinch to navigate thanks to its four-quarters layout. It has sat-nav, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto but no digital radio.

There are no rear air vents for occupants in the second row and storage is just OK. Rear legroom is adequate but the panoramic sunroof eats into headroom, meaning your head will just scrape the roofliner if you are six foot or over. Speaking of the sunroof, rather than using a proper blind to shield occupants, the Vitara has a sheer netting that doesn’t quite keep all of the sunlight out. Not great on a stinking hot summer day.

 

The Suzuki Vitara AllGrip Turbo's dash layout, gear stick and steering wheel

 

Boot capacity of 375 litres with all seats in place (710L with the second row stowed) is decent for the segment. It’s on par with the CH-R (377L) and can take a bigger load than the CX-3 (264L), but it’s not as big as the Qashqai (430L) or HR-V (437L). The cargo area has nifty under-floor storage and useful nooks behind the wheel arches.

On the road, the Vitara’s 103kW/220Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine is a willing and responsive unit and it is paired well with the intuitive six-speed automatic transmission. The engine gets a bit rowdy when pushed and the insufficient noise insulation probably doesn’t help. We had to pump the stereo quite loud to hear the music over the engine and road noise when driving on a freeway at 100km/h.

The Vitara is quite nimble, thanks in part to its relatively low kerb weight of 1260kg, but it lacks the dynamism of the CH-R or CX-3. The suspension setup appears to have been tuned for performance because the ride is overly firm and not particularly comfortable. A more comfort-focussed tune would have been a better bet for this car.

Suzuki claims an average combined fuel use figure of 6.2L/100km and our test returned 6.0L/100km over mostly urban and freeway driving. Note though that the AllGrip Turbo takes minimum 95 RON.

The Vitara doesn’t have the market awareness of the ASX or Qashqai but it is a worthy contender in an increasingly crowded segment.

 


The verdict

The Vitara is beginning to show its age but it remains a likeable, zippy and economical offering in the burgeoning small SUV category.

 

Suzuki Vitara AllGrip Turbo

Pricing

List price: $34,990 plus on-road costs

Price as tested: $34,990 plus on-road costs

Model range: $23,990 to $34,990 plus on-road costs

Drivetrain

1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, all-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission.

Power: 103kW@5500rpm

Torque: 220Nm@1500-4000rpm

Wheels: 215/55 R17

Fuel

95 RON petrol

Consumption: 47-litre tank, 6.2L/100km (government test), 6.0L/100km (RACV test)

CO2 emissions: 145g/km

Standard safety

5-star ANCAP rating, autonomous emergency braking, reversing camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

Standard features

Climate control air-conditioning, seven-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satellite navigation, multi-function steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers.

Warranty/servicing

Three year/100,000 kilometre warranty, six month/10,000 kilometre service intervals.


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