Richard Berry reviews the 2016 Suzuki Vitara S Turbo 2WD with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The emotional scars are still there. Our family car in the early 1990s was a brand-new first-generation Suzuki Vitara with a manual gearbox in Charcoal Grey. The dealer threw in the decal option pack and Mum drove away with non-removable stick-on hot pink cat paw prints walking across the bonnet. She loved it. I didn’t. It was the car I learned to drive in. As if an L-plate on a soft-top Vitara didn’t make you enough of a target.
We were the only family in the street with a little four-wheel drive, everybody else had Commodores and Falcons. We also had a Commodore but it was a V8 and I wasn’t allowed near it. Mum loved the Vitara so much she traded it in a few years later for an even fancier Vitara and it wore my P-plates.
We were ahead of our time and so was the Vitara - it was the first of its kind – a small four-wheel drive that felt like a car to drive, apart from in high winds and the soft-top one was like driving a kite.
The new fourth generation Vitara launched in 2015 and in April 2016 the sporty S Turbo grade was introduced and sits between the top-spec RT-X diesel and above the base RT-S.
The word was the S Turbo was good. But was it good enough to win back fans? And does it come with hot pink cat paw decals?
Price and features
Engine and transmission
Suzuki Vitara 2016: S Turbo (FWD)
Regular Unleaded Petrol
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
Yes it does seem like it’s stolen some of the Range Rover Evoque’s looks but if ever you’ve thrown up out the window of a Vitara when you were 12 on the Pacific Highway you’ll know it hasn’t nicked anything. The fourth-generation’s shelf-like chiselled line that runs under the windows, the clamshell bonnet and the pumped up wheel arches are actually all nice little nods to the first gen.
It looks big, but at 4175mm the Vitara is the shortest of its direct rivals. Want the breakdown? Glad you asked. It’s 202mm shorter than the Qashqai, 120mm shorter than the ASX, 119mm less than the HR-V and 100mm shorter than the CX-3.
It’s a handsome little beast, but on closer inspection there’s an unfinished and budget feel to it – from the rear bumper which doesn’t integrated the exhaust like some rivals to the interior which is stylish but has hard plastics galore.
Practicality has always been a Vitara strong point and the S Turbo stays true to this. Headroom in the back seat is excellent, so too is the legroom – I’m 191cm tall and can fit behind my driving position without my knees touching the seat in front. The doors open wide, the visibility is great around the pillars and the boot has an upper and lower level.
That boot is small for this segment, at 375 litres (VDA) it’s 62 litres smaller than the HR-V’s, 55 litres less than Qashqai’s and 18 litres less than the ASX’s cargo area. Out of the main rivals only the CX-3’s boot is smaller (by 111 litres!) and this is all you need to know – we couldn’t fit our pram in the CX-3 with the back seats up, but it went into the Vitara.
The power delivery is almost instantaneous unlike some other turbocharged cars.
Cabin storage is adequate with two cupholders in the front, and large bottle holders in all the doors.
We don’t do an armrest count normally but, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no centre armrest in the front or back – it’s no biggie but they make long trips more comfortable.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
The two-wheel drive automatic Vitara S Turbo costs $28,990, placing it in the middle of the Vitara line-up that starts at $21,990 for the manual RT-S and tops out at $35,990 for the RT-X Diesel.
The S Turbo’s price puts it on the same shopping list as the $28,990 CX-3 sTouring, the HR-V VTi-S for $27,990 and $31,490 for the ASX XLS.
The Vitara S Turbo standard features list is impressive. Not only do you get sat nav but you also get Apple CarPlay – some car makers are taking one-or-the-other approach here and it’s great to see Suzuki fitting both – that means you’ll still have navigation even if your phone is dead or you if don’t have reception. The touchscreen is brilliant, it has a pinch and zoom function that works well and the reversing camera image is clear even at night.
Leather seats are standard, so is proximity unlocking, climate control, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors and the 17-inch black alloy wheels which I would immediately take off and spray matte black, because I don’t like the glossy finish.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The S Turbo has the most powerful engine in the Vitara line-up. It’s a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which sounds small but you can wipe the smirk off your friends’ faces by throwing them the keys and telling them to drive it. The power delivery is almost instantaneous unlike some other turbocharged cars which have a lag between the accelerator being mashed and anything happening. If you’d like to know why it’s almost instant, it’s because the turbo is bolted directly to the cylinder head.
The S Turbo is a hoot with enough power on tap to overtake confidently.
The S Turbo is only available with a smooth six-speed automatic, and the steering wheel-mounted shifting paddles are fun to flick through.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Suzuki reckons you’ll get an average of 5.9L/100km with a combination of highway, country and urban driving conditions. We were mainly urban commuting with a blast through a forest section and saw an average of 9.7L/100km. That means it’s very fuel-efficient because my driving style often doubles the official fuel serving suggestion.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
On first driving the S Turbo I was disappointed by the ride. Over patchy surfaces at low speed – such as peak hour commuting on Sydney’s roads – the ride is hard and jittery, engineers call this type of ride ‘brittle’. I think it could be a combination of the Vitara’s firm suspension and the hard-sidewalled Continental tyres fitted to our test car. I reckon a softer-walled tyre would add a bit more cushioning.
The suspension is the same across the entire Vitara range – the firm set-up gives the SUV good handing and really feels good at higher speeds in the corners and dips.
The S Turbo is a hoot with enough power on tap to overtake confidently, steering that’s responsive and a balanced feel to the vehicle. This has nothing to do with anything, but I’d bet the Vitara S Turbo would completely out-handle its direct rivals on a track, too.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / 100,000 km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 6/10
The S Turbo has seven airbags and the usual collection of safety systems such as traction and stability control. But this isn’t the ’90s any more and the Vitara should be offered with more advanced safety gear which its rivals are now providing as options. We’re talking AEB, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert – that sort of stuff.
Child seats are catered for with ISOFIX mounts on the outside rear seats and three top tether points across the back row.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
The Vitara S Turbo comes with a three-year 100,000km warranty. Servicing needs to be done every six months and is capped for the first five years. The first three services are capped at $249, the third at $295, then it’s back to $249 for the next three and so on.
This fourth-generation Vitara is gem. Yes, it’s a bit rough in terms of refinement and quality feel and sure the ride is a bit jittery (remember though this could change the day you get new softer tyres), but there is so much going for it – like that great turbo engine, the good handling, the practicality and the huge list of standard features. Oh and it’s a handsome beast, too.
Would your Vitara wear hot pink cat paw prints on the bonnet? Tell us what you think in the comments below.