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Suzuki Vitara 2021 review: Turbo

Can one of the original small SUVs, the Suzuki Vitara, reinvent itself?

The Suzuki Vitara was one of the original SUVs, originally launched when I was a teenager - so quite a while ago! 

This is the 2021 Turbo version, in the middle of the refreshed range of Vitaras. It's lots of fun, but how does it drive as a car for a family of four around the inner suburbs of Sydney? 

Well, there are quite a few pros and only a few cons after my test drive this week.

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What does it look like?

While adding some modern features, the Vitara hasn't moved too far from its previous exterior profile. Maintaining that compact SUV look with a nicely rounded back, mid-sized bonnet, 17-inch alloy wheels, fancy looking LED headlights, and hard black plastic trim.

  • Up front are LED headlights. Up front are LED headlights.
  • The Vitara hasn't moved too far from its previous exterior appearance. The Vitara hasn't moved too far from its previous exterior appearance.
  • The Vitara Turbo wears 17-inch alloy wheels. The Vitara Turbo wears 17-inch alloy wheels.

Inside there are some lovely retro touches as a nod to its history - including an actual clock face in the centre of the dash (although you need an engineering degree, which I don't have, to change the time, as I wanted to at the end of daylight savings). 

Sitting between the two centre air vents is a analog clock face. Sitting between the two centre air vents is a analog clock face.

Analogue rev counter and speedo - which I actually like, with an overall interior that looks more 'fun' than 'luxury.' The seats are a nice soft suede-like fabric called Alcantara, with accents of this on the doors as well. 

The Vitara's interior is a bit retro. The Vitara's interior is a bit retro.

Across the dash is an attractive metal trim, although when the sun catches it on the wrong angle the glare is distracting.

How does it drive?

I found the Vitara fun and simple to drive around the city, with only a short freeway drive over my test week. 

It has light steering, a decent turning circle, and rear camera and sensors to make parking a breeze. 

The engine is nice and quiet and the suspension not bad, not extra smooth, but a little bouncy, which kinda suits this style of car.

The 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produces 103kW/220Nm. The 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produces 103kW/220Nm.

The turbo engine is zippy once you get going and put your foot down on the open road. 

There is also a manual function, allowing you to use the lower gears if you need, with gear changing levers on the steering wheel.

But I only only used these by accident - as rather than the bottom position of the gear shifter being the usual 'D' for drive, there's an 'M' for manual below it.

How spacious is it?

There isn't a load of room in the front for additional storage aside from the usual glove box, two standard cupholders, a couple of small shallow dishes for things like keys, and the place for your phone is also quite small. There are also bottle holders and small pockets in the doors. 

There's a bottle holder in each door. There's a bottle holder in each door.

The comfy seats and high roof make the front more than spacious enough. The back seats are roomy for kids and adults, with leg and head room to suit most bodies. 

Boot space is rated at 375 litres. Boot space is rated at 375 litres.

How easy is it to use every day?

The keyless entry and start function makes getting in and starting the engine simple. 

There are manual seat adjustments, and the drivers seat is positioned really high. I kept trying to make it go lower, but the lowest position is quite tall. 

The 7.0-inch digital screen is pretty basic in terms of on-board functionality, but the radio is okay to tune, and there is a simple sat nav system. 

The 7.0-inch digital screen is pretty basic. The 7.0-inch digital screen is pretty basic.

Better to go with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connected (via a cord), to get the functionality from your phone, like Google maps, and audio streaming apps, up on the media screen.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7.0-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

I had two kids car seats in the back and I couldn't get a third child sitting in the middle. Somehow there are attachments for three car seats, but they would need to be very narrow to squeeze in. 

I use the top tether style of attachments, I think small SUVs are the easiest style of car to install them in, and the Vitara is no different. 

You are a good height off the road to clip the kids in, and those children big enough to get themselves in and out have no problems. Getting into the boot to clip in the metal attachment is also relatively simple.

Back seat passengers miss out on air vents and other creature comforts. Back seat passengers miss out on air vents and other creature comforts.

The back seat is very basic in terms of features. There are no USB chargers, no air vents, no flip-down centre armrest with cupholders... no anything, really!

There are bottle holders in the doors, but these are no good for kids in car seats, they can't really reach them.

How safe is it?

With plenty of safety features the Vitara scores the maximum five stars in the ANCAP safety ratings, last tested in 2015.

Dual frontal, side (chest), side head-protecting (curtain) airbags and a driver's knee airbag are standard.

For kids car seats there are two ISOFIX points in the back seat and three top tether points. As I mentioned above, it would be a squeeze to get three seat across the back, they would need to be very narrow.

What’s the tech like?

The tech on this new model is not bad at all. Features include Auto Emergency Braking (AEB), lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, weaving alert and reverse cross-traffic alert. 

Most of the alert systems can be easily turned on and off with buttons on the dash, no need to dig through the settings on the screen to adjust them. 

This is handy when driving in traffic and many cars alert systems think a crash is imminent when you're just sitting in very slow traffic.

How much does it cost to own?

Priced at $32,490, plus on-road costs and extras, this makes it highly competitive in the small SUV category. This comes with a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty and capped price serving for five years (or 100,000 km).

Suzuki lists service costs in its website out to five years, the average annual cost being $295. 

The official fuel consumption figure is an ambitious 5.9L/100km. For my drive including a regular city commute (so, lots of traffic) and a couple of freeway runs, I landed at 7.8L/100km.


The Wrap

So there is lots of fun packed into this small SUV, with the funky looking exterior, retro-styled dash, and turbo engine, I enjoyed my drive. 

However my kids didn't love the back seat, and I think older kids would like it even less without so much as an air vent to keep them comfortable. For that reason, as a family car, I'm scoring it 7/10, and the kids the same 7/10.

Likes

Retro touches to the dashboard
Fun driving feeling
Simple and easy

Dislikes

Lack of features in the back
Space saver spare tyre
High driver's seat

Scores

Kate:

3.5

The Kids:

3.5

$35,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

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