Honda HR-V VTi 2015 review
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Honda HR-V VTi with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-X Diesel with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Suzuki's smaller SUV, the Vitara, has been off our radar for almost two decades, and we might generously suggest that it disappeared to give everyone else a chance to catch up. Except that that's not how ruthless car companies work; they'd rather eat each other's young, frankly.
What's nice and shiny about the new Vitara is not just that it's got a new body, but it's now got a proper you-beaut diesel engine to go alongside the turbo petrols found across the range since the car's re-launch in September 2015.
The Vitara range kicks off at a startling $22,990 drive away for the RT-S 1.6-litre manual front-wheel drive. There are a few more options on the way up, including GL+, GLX and S Turbo, in various front and all-wheel drive guises, before hitting this top-of-the-range, twin-clutch diesel at $35,990 plus on-roads.
The RT-X comes standard with cruise control, polished 17-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, climate control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, power windows and mirrors, panorama sunroof with dual opening sections, LED headlights and daytime running lights, auto wipers and headlights, leather trim with suede inserts on seats and doors and its own satnav.
The six-speaker stereo is run on the seven-inch screen and ships with USB, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. It's a bit of a surprise on a Suzuki because, to put it mildly, their other cars have rubbish in-house stereo systems.
The clamshell bonnet instantly evokes the original and its profile is unmistakably Vitara.
The sound is fine and even Suzuki's own software is good, with a snappy interface. The volume control isn't an easy-to-use knob but rather "soft" buttons on the side of the screen, although you can pretend they don't exist and use the controls on the steering wheel instead.
The CarPlay integration is definitely handy, but when you return to the car after a short time away, the USB cable has to be pulled out and reset. There was also some weird screen-changing, but only in Spotify, so we're happy to blame the app rather than Suzuki's implementation.
The sunroof is made of two glass panels, with the forward one opening over the rear, which itself only rolls back about halfway. Frustratingly, the blind is perforated and with rear passengers going without air-con vents, things are going to get a bit steamy back there.
Given it's a fairly tight cabin (this isn't the bigger Grand Vitara), your passengers are going to suffer a bit from first-world deprivation. There are two cupholders in the front in the centre console, the rear seats going without a fold down armrest or cupholders. The front doors feature bottle holders that might squeak in a one-litre bottle while the rears will easily take 1.25-litre sizes, but are too big to act as cupholders.
With the rear seats in place, there's 375 litres on offer in the boot, with 1120 available when they're folded down. Either side of the load area are shallow bins for loose items. You can also remove the boot floor and the sides of these bins for a bit more space and a deeper load area. Leave the false floor to hide briefcases or laptop bags. Quite useful, with the added bonus of the load area being the same level as the bumper when left in place.
The Vitara has been around for almost a year and seems to be catching on, albeit slowly. It's got a lot more competition these days - it now plays in the space occupied by cars like the Mazda CX-3 and Holden Trax (and others, of course). A space the Vitara virtually invented, many moons ago.
It's a handsome if unadventurous design and despite its smaller size, the 17-inch wheels look a little lost in the wheel arches. The clamshell bonnet instantly evokes the original and its profile is unmistakably Vitara. The front end looks good with its daytime running lights but the blue treatment around the LED headlights comes across a bit cheap.
It's a lot better inside than its twin-under-the-skin, the underwhelming S-Cross. There's good space and headroom for all passengers, although the front passenger may feel a bit hemmed in by the vast, almost vertical expanse of plastic in front of them. Cheeringly, the plastic inserts in the dash, on the console and around the clock and air vents can be changed for something a little more colourful/garish for around $300.
Rear passengers have a comfortable bench for those on the window, while the centre occupant will be pinched between them and sits on a less-than-comfortable split in the seats, while also straddling a substantial transmission tunnel. Middle passengers weren't meant to be happy, of course.
Those outboard passengers have good knee and leg room for those exceeding 180cm by a modest margin and there's a huge amount of foot room under the high-set front seats. Entry is a little awkward through the small-ish door aperture, but no worse than the larger Mazda CX-5 (oddly, the CX-3 is better than both of them on this front).
The plastics aren't what you'd call top notch, but the interior's construction seems tight and is well-designed, if fairly conventional. Overall, the whole car is well-built and comes from Suzuki's Hungarian plant. The doors are pretty light, though, and need a bit of a shove to get them to close properly.
The RT-X diesel has Suzuki's new 1.6-litre DDiS turbodiesel under that clamshell bonnet. Delivering an almost-adequate 88kW and a rather more grand 320Nm, the power reaches the ground via part-time all-wheel drive and a six-speed dual-clutch auto transmission.
Despite just 88kW, the Vitara gets along very nicely, surfing along on that slab of torque.
Featuring direct injection and not a lot else, it's a fairly simple motor. It's worth noting the base model petrol has 86kW but a piffling 156Nm of torque (although less weight to lug about). There's no stop-start or energy regeneration
Towing capacity is rated at 400kg for a trailer without brakes and 1200kg for a braked one.
Suzuki claims the DDiS will sip just 4.9L/100km on the combined cycle but our reality was closer to 6.6L/100km, which is not a bad result. Despite the small 47-litre tank, effective range is about 700km around town.
Despite just 88kW, the Vitara gets along very nicely, surfing along on that slab of torque, which has just 1325kg to lug around (the petrol models weigh between 1075kg and 1234kg). Loaded up it's okay, too, with the ease of movement aided once again by that chunky torque figure.
It's a reasonably perky machine, with a very smooth feel once you're under way. There's some kick from the dual clutch on take-off or while creeping, which requires some adjustment from your brake foot. On the run it's unobtrusive, with quick, slick shifts, and the gearbox seems to know when you need it to get a hurry on.
Suzuki isn't afraid to admit the tune is biased towards hatchback-like handling and they're not wrong – it's very secure on the road.
The lifeless steering takes some getting used to; even the dynamically ordinary Holden Trax has a bit of steering feel and both are smacked out of the park by the Mazda CX-3 on this front.
Riding on 17-inch alloys, Suzuki isn't afraid to admit the tune is biased towards hatchback-like handling and they're not wrong – it's very secure on the road. When the rain comes down, that security is enhanced by the all-wheel drive, which kicks in as required, or you can switch it on yourself via a console-mounted dial.
It's a tad noisy on cruddy road surfaces, despite reasonably skinny tyres, and the wind noise readily overtakes the diesel's grumbling thrum once you're rolling. The diesel clatters a bit when cold but gains a bit of composure when warmed up.
What's missing are clever things like autonomous emergency braking, reverse cross traffic alert or blind-spot sensors. These things are not even available as options but you can see in the dashboard warning light cluster that at least AEB is available elsewhere in the world, just not here.
The Vitara comes with Suzuki's three-year/100,000km warranty and five year/100,000km capped-price-servicing regime. The Vitara's services come at six months or 10,000km with prices fixed at $249 per service, with a blip up to $295 for the two-year and four-year services.
The total over five years is $2582, with an average $258.20 per service. There is no complimentary roadside assist but the diesel's servicing costs are no higher than the petrol-engined cars.
You get the distinct impression from the whole package that Suzuki is trying to tempt you away from a "normal" hatchback, or to drag you away from its direct rivals with extra spec.
At this level, though, it's got no chance, because people don't buy $35,000 hatchbacks that aren't from Germany, and at that price they're already well into the world of smartly presented small SUVs, which is where the RT-X has to play.
For the money, you get a lot of equipment, a handsome-enough car that's well-built and will probably do okay on sand, snow and dirt. It also has a good engine and transmission package.
The Suzuki does well to stay with them, while producing something just a little bit different, but you're going to have to want it enough to pay. Or have a real sense of nostalgia for that Vitara badge, back when it was special and unique.
|GL (2WD) (QLD)||1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$13,420 – 17,600||2016 Suzuki Vitara 2016 GL (2WD) (QLD) Pricing and Specs|
|GL+||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$14,190 – 18,700||2016 Suzuki Vitara 2016 GL+ Pricing and Specs|
|GLX (4x4)||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$20,350 – 25,740||2016 Suzuki Vitara 2016 GLX (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|RT-S||1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$15,690 – 21,990||2016 Suzuki Vitara 2016 RT-S Pricing and Specs|