2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S review | road test

27 May 2016
 by 
, CarsGuide

The palette is eye-catching, the styling is urban warrior and the price is an absolute steal.

After a couple of rather underwhelming cars, Suzuki has nailed it with the new Vitara SUV, in particular the base front-wheel drive RT-S.

Surprisingly good on many fronts and an absolute steal at $21,990 for the five-speed manual, the generously specced, Hungarian-built Vitara RT-S makes a handy urban runabout that can back up easily on a long trip.

Its funky colour palette is sure to attract attention.

Design

Suzuki started with a clean sheet for this Vitara and designed it as an urban warrior rather than a mud plugging off-roader. Yes, this applies to the Allgrip 4WD version too.

It's a slightly bulky looking small wagon on stilts and the result is pleasing to the eye.

It has a handsome front with Range Rover-style clamshell bonnet, LED daytime running lights, well defined side lines and a practical rear. All models score 17-inch alloys and there's a degree of personalisation available in areas such as the grille and front garnishes.

The Vitara is easy to park, cruise around town, whiz along the highway.

In the cabin, the good work is compromised a little by the rock-hard dash pad but the layout is functional with three central dash vents and one each side. Switches and controls are easy to find and use, the multimedia screen is large, the driving position is comfy and you can choose the dash fascia colour.

The rear seats fold easily but not fully flat and the load floor isn't too high.

Around town

For the money, the specification is generous. Driving the RT-S around town is a breeze, especially thanks to the large reversing camera image and high seating position. Access to all five seats is easy through decent size doors but the load space is a touch small. Even with the rear pew folded, a pushbike just squeezes in.

A big surprise in a base model, the RT-S has climate control aircon, satnav and audio controls on the wheel. We like the privacy glass that cuts solar penetration but it took a while to get used to the auto gear selector.

The audio is OK, the high ride is handy around town and the paddle-shifters are a bonus this far down the food chain. There are no advanced driver aids such as autonomous emergency braking.

On the road

Our initial opinion of the new Vitara as a soft-roader was unfounded — it's a good thing for the most part. Suzuki acknowledges the rise of the SUV in this new model and it's evident in the car's driving feel.

The Vitara is easy to park, cruise around town, whiz along the highway, even punch into some turns. Heck, the small SUV is even easy to load … and to wash. You could call it The Little Easy.

The Vitara displays tidy manners on rough roads.

Good looks are set off by striking colours — our two-tone test vehicle, with black roof with turquoise body, drew plenty of comments.

It's a willing drivetrain but the engine likes to rev, a characteristic aided by the six-speed auto flicking between ratios to keep in the sweet spot. The transmission is calibrated to cover any torque deficiency, which can be an issue with just 156Nm available.

Performance is acceptable given the 1.6-litre four with 88kW has to propel 1075kg. The time for 0-100kmh is a touch over 10 seconds but far more heartening was the fuel economy, which hovered around 5.5L-6.0L/100km whether around town or on the highway.

Suzuki makes the most of a fairly basic suspension setup. The Vitara displays tidy manners on rough roads and when cornering.

Noise suppression is adequate but the engine becomes raucous when pushed and at higher revs.

We put a dent in the performance potential when loaded with five adults, not that this would happen often.

One minor irritation was the dash clock that refused to be reset after daylight saving, even though the clock in the touchscreen did. Bluetooth phone functionality was only just acceptable — voice reproduction was at times bad — and the paddle-shifters probably aren't necessary.

Verdict 

The base model has strong appeal for the budget buyer. It's bulletproof in mechanical terms, sips minimal fuel, looks good inside and out and is practical and relatively comfortable. Performance is average but the ride is a good compromise.

What it's got

Satnav, cruise, climate control, 17-inch alloys, LED DRLs, privacy glass, paddle-shifters on auto, wheel-mounted audio controls, reverse camera, 7 airbags

What it hasn't

No advanced driver assist features.

Ownership

Servicing is cheap at an average of about $250 a time and it sips regular unleaded at just 5.8L/100km. Would be easy on consumables too because of light weight.

How does the Vitara RT-S stand up against its compact SUV rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Suzuki Vitara pricing and spec info.

Specifications

  • Price From $21,990
  • Fuel consumption 5.8L/100km (combined), 136g/km CO2 Tank 47L
  • Seats 5
  • Warranty 3 years/100,000km
  • Service Interval 12 months/10,000km
  • Engine 1.586L 4-cyl unleaded, 86kW/156Nm
  • Transmission 5-spd manual, RWD
  • Spare Space Saver
  • Turning circle 10.4m diameter
  • Dimensions 4175mm (L), 1775mm (W), 1610mm (H)

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