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Juliet McGuire

Caira-Lee puts the Suzuki Vitara Turbo through the ultimate test

As motoring journalists, we get to drive a lot of different cars. The only downfall is that we don’t get to drive them for too long. So when we’re offered a car for the holidays, we jump at the opportunity because it means we get to put it through the ultimate test; road trip, family life, holiday vibes and seasonal traffic. My ex-colleague and fellow motoring journalists, Caira-Lee Durand, spent the holidays in the Suzuki Vitara Turbo. This is her report:

WORDS BY CAIRA-LEE

Suzuki South Africa added the new turbocharged 1.4-litre Suzuki Vitara to its local line-up towards the final quarter of 2019. I have fond memories of its introduction when we headed to the Red Star Raceway to witness its launch into the market, which included a drag strip activity for us to sample the Vitara Turbo’s 0 – 100 km’s/hour capabilities. It also launched alongside the much-anticipated Suzuki Swift Sport, which is armed with the same Boosterjet engine that’s responsible for its rocket-like propulsion and hyperactivity during a few hot laps around the track. We also go to do some competitive gymkhana racing – I still can’t stop smiling when I think back to Mr. Performance-with-Page’s utter determination not to let Juliet win when he insisted on another round after she’d beat his time on the gymkhana track.

Back to the Vitara…

After spending four weeks over the festive period with the stylish Suzuki family member, I know two things for sure: 1) people are definitely curious to know more about the Vitara when they see it pull up – especially in its striking bright blue colour option and 2) that extra bit of torque from the turbo engine option makes it a fantastic companion during holiday commutes – for long distance highway driving, as well as for quick and zippy driving that is necessary during times like last-minute Christmas-shopping madness. Needless to say, no matter how much extra turbo a car offers – I will never leave Christmas shopping to the last minute again! Despite the amount of comfort, excellent fuel economy, impressive boot space (375 litres) and fluid-like gear changing that comes from its 6-speed manual gearbox – unless there is a tunnel dedicated to Vitaras only, nothing can combat the torturous experience of holiday traffic getting to and from shopping centres the day before Christmas.

But let’s chat about the Vitara’s (in my opinion) striking exterior styling…

Suzuki has giving its 2019 model a few exterior design enhancements which include LED daytime running lights, silver roof rails, chrome detailing in the front grille and under the fog lamps, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels on the GLX grade. These little tweaks are wonderfully complimented by the bright blue and black dual-tone colour combination option, also available on the range-topping models, but there are seven other colour combinations to choose from, or five solid colours if you prefer. In the case of my test unit (and eventually I’ll stop raving about the bright blue and black colour combo) it does lend a hand to being able to immediately identify your vehicle in crowded parking lots – and you feel rather smug as you walk up to it and people realise that you’re the one controlling the remote locking system.

Life inside the Vitara

The range topping GLX comes with a long list of standard specification, and you’d expect this when you get a look at its price tag. In-cabin luxuries include features like a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with smartphone connectivity (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), a reverse camera, Park Distance Control (front and rear), steering mounted controls including cruise control…the list goes on. What impresses those who join you, (this was significant for some of my family members during a long road trip directly after what sounded like a rather unpleasant flight from KZN), is the amount of space and comfort offered for front and rear passengers. Even with a fully-loaded boot, filled with wedding gifts and enough clothing and goods to last for five days as we headed from Cape Town International airport to the town of Montagu, and with the front passengers quite comfortably stretched out in their seating positions, my family members at the back were thrilled to be lounging about and spending some quality time together while enjoying the smooth, quietness of the Vitara’s cabin.

Daily driving

Safe and smooth. These are the two words that immediately come to mind when people ask me what it’s been like to drive the Vitara for a month. In terms of safety, all of the Vitaras in the range are fitted with the usual safety features (ABS, ESP, EBD etc), and also come with seven airbags and all sorts of advanced technology like Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT). It feels solid on the road and when you’re travelling over long distances during a high-accident period, that’s something that needs to be felt.

The Vitara is smooth. Super smooth, with very little road noise and this was pointed out by various passengers over my time with it. The 1.4-litre engine is a real pleasure to have when you need to overtake those slow-moving vehicles on the open road and because it’s so responsive and timely, it requires very little planning. The Turbocharged Vitaras do come at a steeper price point though, so you’d need to be very set on wanting that extra boost if you’re considering that option.

THE STUFF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW

My holiday-driving-fuel-consumption

Suzuki claims a 5.8 L/100km fuel consumption figure – my not-so-conservative and ‘zippy’ (as my dad refers to it) driving-style averaged around 6.8 L/100km throughout most of the holiday. That included some long-distance driving (+/- 500 km to Montagu and back) as well as trips to the airport and countless outings to the beach and shops in Cape Town’s December holiday traffic – I choose life!

How much more torque, exactly? And what about power?

To put in into perspective, the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engines offers 86 kW of power and 156 Nm of torque. The Boosterjet engine delivers 103 kW of power and 220 Nm of torque. If you’re looking for extra oomph and are willing to spend extra, you’ll get your money’s worth from this engine, but be prepared to spend.

My favourite feature?

In the case of the turbocharged GLX – I’d have to say its responsiveness and extra power that gives a real sense of confidence on the road. Second to that is its trendy good looks.

Most popular comments…

“I LOVE this colour!”

“WOW, this is one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever been a passenger in.”

“I want a Vitara…but the cheaper ones.”

“That’s expensive!!!!”

“This is a good-looking car”

“How much is the entry-level one?” (R289 900)

“I could live in this car.”

Conclusion

With the money – would I buy it?

As much as I do love Suzuki (I’m a proud owner of a Jimny and come from a family of Suzuki fans), the Vitara Turbo just hasn’t stolen my heart the same way the other Suzuki models have. While it has loads of style and I love its effortless drive and eager sense of performance, I just can’t justify its steep price point for a bit of extra torque and style. The naturally aspirated Vitaras in the range, however, have me a lot more excited when it comes to value-for-money and if you’re not too fussed about the absence of a turbocharged engine, then I’d definitely suggest having a look at the 1.6-litre options.

PRICING

The Suzuki Vitara range starts at R289 900 for the 1.6 GL 5-speed Manual (2WD) model and extends to the range-topping (my test unit) 1.4 TURBO GLX 6-speed Automatic which is priced at R399 900.

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