On sale this month is the latest addition to the Suzuki Vitara compact five door SUV range.
The new Vitara range was launched eight months ago when it replaced the larger, durable, tough, well-like and long serving 4×4 Grand Vitara range.
Now there is an additional model in the softer styled SUV Vitara range – the 1.4-litre S turbocharged ‘BoosterJet’ model. It has a direct injection four cylinder petrol engine which produces 140hp. It currently is only available with one higher S level of specification and costs a weighty £20,899 in six-speed manual transmission.
In six-speed automatic gearbox form it costs £22,249. This auto transmission also has a manual mode operated by shift paddles behind the steering wheel. Both variants have Suzuki’s intelligent AllGrip traction system as standard with Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock modes plus Descent Control.
The top level S specification completes the Vitara range of four grades – SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5. The new 1.4-litre direct injection 140hp/220Nm petrol turbocharged engine joins the existing 1.6-litre multipoint 120hp/156Nm petrol and 1.6-litre 120hp/320Nm turbodiesel units in the 2016 range.
Prices for 1.6-litre petrol version start from an attractive £13,999 and 1.6 diesel versions start from £17,499, both of which appear to make the new 1.4-litre engine models look expensive.
But look behind the headline priced versions and a current top spec 1.6-litre petrol automatic with AllGrip traction is priced at £21,649 and that is only £600 less than the more powerful and higher specification 1.4 turbo S BoosterJet auto with AllGrip. A top spec 1.6 diesel manual with AllGrip, no auto option is available yet, costs £450 less than the new 1.4 petrol auto.
So which versions will UK customers’ buy of the new Suzuki Vitara range in 2016? The company anticipates 66% will stay with the lower priced 1.6 petrol, 20% will choose the 1.6 diesel engine and 14% will opt for the higher performance and specification offered by the new 1.4 BoosterJet petrol versions.
Since its launch eight months ago around 6,000 new Vitaras have been sold in the UK, mostly to retail customers. Industry wise, sales of the wide ranging models with 2WD/4WD options in the Crossover/SUV/Dual Purpose/4x4s segment have shown the fastest growth of any new car sales sector in the UK in recent years.
Before reviewing the new Vitara S 1.4 model, to recap I first tried the new range at its launch in May last year and found the newcomer to be generally well put together with a good level of standard equipment and attractively priced.
The 1.6-litre normally aspirated petrol engine with a five-speed manual gearbox was a bit dull but adequate and appealed because of its lower purchase price. The 1.6-litre turbodiesel with its six-speed manual gearbox I preferred because it was livelier with more torque so it made driving that bit more responsive and the fuel economy was better in real-life driving conditions.
I would always opt for the AllGrip system for both engines although it costs an extra £1,800 to ensure whatever the road conditions are I can keep mobile.
Move forward to the new 1.4 S turbocharged petrol version and this offers, 17% more power, 41% more torque and a 4% improvement in fuel economy over the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol unit. It is just a pity that this engine is only offered in a new high S spec level.
Another downside is that this new engine requires servicing every 9,000 miles whilst the 1.6 petrol and diesel models have 12,500 mile service intervals so not only does it cost more to buy it costs more to run.
The 220Nm of torque from 1,500 to 4,000rpm makes this new 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine responsive and injects a good deal more life into performance. It pulls strongly from low rpm right through until 4,000rpm and then the response falls away and the engine becomes noisy.
As for fuel economy the official Combined Cycle figure for the manual is 52.3mpg and the auto is 51.3mpg. On my test driving time covering all types of roads from wind battered motorways to rain sodden country roads and traffic congested post Christmas in-town traffic, my test driving returned 39.6mpg overall with the automatic version.
The all important CO2 emission figures are 127g/km for the manual and 128g/km for the auto so VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate increasing to £110 for Year Two onwards. Company car drivers will pay 20% Benefit-in-Kind tax for both version but 22% from April 2016 when all road taxes change for all new cars.
Mated with the smooth auto gearbox the new engine provided fuss-free stop-start driving response and a good turn of speed on the open road. It is a nice combination but costlier to buy and run compared to its 1.6-litre petrol and diesel alternative Vitara engine options.
The S specification level, apart from a new turbo petrol engine, receives some changes to the suspension in line with its more sporting image. The ride is a shade firmer due to a stiffer suspension setup used for improved body control during cornering at higher speeds.
It is not too harsh to put off would-be buyers as we know ride comfort has become a major consideration for the UK’s new car customers. Even with the 17-inch gloss-black alloy wheels the ride is very acceptable and only on poorer road surfaces such as motorway concrete sections with bitumen expansion joints is the ride comfort interrupted.
At 4,175mm in length the Vitara sits in the compact SUV segment with five doors and seating for four adults, perhaps five passengers if children use the rear seats. The seats are generally comfortable although the front seat squabs are on the small side. The driving position and visibility front and rear was good.
There is a modest 375-litre boot which goes up to 710-litres with the rear seats folded down. For those that need to tow the braked weight capacity is 1,200kg.
Standard equipment for all Vitara models includes seven airbags, alloy wheels, DAB radio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning and front and rear electric windows.
As a visual difference the S variant, in addition to the gloss black wheels, has its own unique design grille, satin silver door mirror covers, LED headlights, rear upper spoiler and black side body mouldings. Inside the sports theme continues with red stitching for the suede seat upholstery, red accents for the air conditioning vents and instruments and there are alloy pedals.
The carry-over spec from the SZ5 and other spec levels includes 60/40 split folding rear seat, navigation system, on-board computer, touchscreen, automatic headlight levelling, front and rear parking sensors, radar brake distance alert and keyless entry with push-button start.
On the demerit side there is no spare wheel – just an inflation kit, which for a SUV is not ideal, and the infotainment and sat-nav system is operated via the touchscreen which is logical to use but slow to respond.
I also found both the dipped and full-beam headlights were set too low by the automatic levelling system so driving in bad weather at night was not a pleasant experience. For those would-be Suzuki Vitara owners that crave more performance the new S 1.4-litre turbo petrol model will appeal especially with manual and auto gearbox options and its standard AllGrip traction system.
But offering this engine with a lower level of specification, so reducing its price, would appeal to even more potential owners.
Suzuki Vitara S 1.4 BoosterJet auto with AllGrip control, compact 5-door SUV £22,249.
Engine/transmission: 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged direct injection petrol 140hp, 220Nm of torque from 1,500rpm, 6-speed auto with AllGrip 4×4 traction.
Performance: 124mph, 0-62mph 10.2-seconds, Combined Cycle 51.3mpg (39.6mpg on test), CO2 128g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £110 onwards, BIK company car tax 20%.
Insurance group: 16E.
Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Service intervals: 9,000-miles (other engines in the range 12,500-miles).
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,175mm, W 1,775mm. H 1,610mm, boot/load space 375 to 710-litres, 5-doors/5-seats, braked towing capacity 1,200kg.
For: Willing new turbo petrol engine, responsive low down torque output, AllGrip 4×4 traction, smooth auto gearbox, high spec level, sports style interior.
Against: New engine only available with top level S spec, servicing intervals are shorter than the other Suzuki 1.6 petrol/diesel engine options, Combined Cycle real-life fuel economy was much lower than the official figure, automatic levelling headlight beams are set too low for main or dipped modes, slow touchscreen operation, no spare wheel.
© David Miles