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Suzuki Vitara


Suzuki Jimny

Summary

Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.

The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.

That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Suzuki Jimny

When Sylvester Stallone started making more Rocky sequels a decade and a half after the shark-jumping Rocky V, nobody was really surprised. I mean, he was yet to match the Police Academy franchise, and it’s hard not to love watching him run up those steps.

But when Suzuki whipped the covers off an all-new Jimny last year, I was shocked and amazed, and stoked.

Somehow, they’d managed to convince the beancounters to allow the development of a ladder chassis and solid axles at both ends combo that’s universally accepted as the perfect formula for a proper off-roader. It represents a double whammy by pairing it with cute-but-tough looks and just the right level of retro touches.

Perhaps it was because they’d save all their pennies during the previous model’s full two-decade lifespan? The other point to remember is that Suzuki was recently crowned the world’s most profitable car manufacturer

Yes, new tiny SUVs are popping up everywhere from all sorts of brands, but most are heavily city focused and don’t even have all-wheel drive, let alone a low-range transfer case, solid axles and off-road clearance that’ll make proper Hummers take notice.

The new Jimny does, which will ultimately limit its appeal among urban baby SUV set, but loyal fans of the past half-century of legendary Suzuki baby off roaders are still rejoicing. The little Zook is back!

Its on-paper charisma is such that it’s the only new car reveal that’s caused the entire CarsGuide editorial team to gather around one monitor to gawk at the initial pics. Forget the mid-engined exotics, Suzuki has trumped them all with a little funbox that you can get for about the price of a new Corolla!

Perhaps it could convert a few CX-3 buyers? The new Jimny finally arrives in Australian showrooms this weekend, but we’ve already put it through its paces in Melbourne to see if it lives up to the hype.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.3L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

Suzuki Vitara6.4/10

It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.

The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.

The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised. 

Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know in the comments below.


Suzuki Jimny8/10

The new Jimny seems to have everything going for it in its intended function as a nimble off roader, and didn’t disappoint me at all.

I look forward to seeing its true colours as an around-town conveyance, but you simply can't expect it to play the role of city hatchback any better than it does. 

The new Jimny has a loveable character that’s rarely seen in new cars these days, and the fact that it looks simply adorable is a pretty cool bonus.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided. 

Will you be queuing up for a new Jimny? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Design

Suzuki Vitara7/10

Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.

The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.

The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.


Suzuki Jimny9/10

Even though it’s an all-new body (hardtop-only for now), the new Jimny somehow manages to look older than the ancient (but still adorable) car it replaces. 

Gone are the subtle curves and flush surfaces, in favour of straight lines and a chiselled overall appearance. The side and rear views are clear nods to the SJ Sierra of the ‘80s and ‘90s, while the nose carries references to all three previous generations. 

All glass bar the windscreen is dead flat, and even the windscreen’s curve is only slight. In 2019!

Unlike every other retro-styled model we can think of (unless you include the ND MX-5), the Jimny manages to retain its diminutive proportions. In fact, it’s 30mm shorter than the model it replaces, but does grow 45mm wider and 20mm taller.

Take note Mini, but the key reason for the Jimny’s discipline is that the 660cc version available in Japan (with shorter bumpers and no wheel arch extensions) is designed to fit within the size-governed Kei class. Thank you Kei class.  For the record, the Australian Jimny’s key dimensions are 3645mm long, 1645mm wide, 1725mm tall, on a wheelbase of just 2250mm.

Unlike every other small SUV in production today, the new Jimny retains a properly rugged ladder chassis with solid axles at either end suspended by coil springs, and a dual range transfer case. It’s the same layout as with the last Jimny, but a new and improved design that’s 1.5 times stronger torsionally than before and exactly what you want for proper off roading, even if it’ll be somewhat compromised around town.

The body has expanded use of zinc coating for rust resistance, and is now mounted to the chassis in eight places. 

The suspension design is still three-link front and rear, but the axle housings have been strengthened.

The front disc brakes retain the classic top-mounted caliper design, but we were surprised to see that drums are the still the order of business at the rear.

Despite this strengthening and swathe of extra features, kerb weight is still just 1075kg for the manual and just 15kg more for the auto. The lightest Mazda CX-3 is a full 118kg heavier, and doesn’t have a second diff, transfer case or ladder chassis. 

Both versions of the Jimny have a GVM of just 1435kg though, so you’ll want to travel light with four passengers aboard. If you all weigh 90kg, you’ll have to be nude with no luggage. 

Other important measures include an extra 10mm of ground clearance to now total 210mm, while other clearance figures are improved to 37 degrees on approach, 28 degrees of ramp-over and a full 49 degrees on departure.

Suzuki doesn’t quote a maximum wading depth, so best stick to the tyre height rule of thumb, which in the standard Jimny’s case is around 200mm.

The interior is just as carefully crafted as the exterior, with little retro details like the gauge font and surround, plus the big Jesus handle for the passenger looking very familiar to anyone who’s lived with an SJ Sierra or Holden Drover (as I have). 

The materials are also scratch and dirt resistant, but still comfortable to the touch and seem like really good quality.

Practicality

Suzuki Vitara7/10

Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.

Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.

Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.

The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.


Suzuki Jimny8/10

Also familiar to anyone who’s driven any of the previous three generations will be the driving position. 

The close proximity of the windscreen base, dash and upright steering wheel is pure Zook, and the latter is unfortunately still not reach adjustable although it does tilt.

Based on a quick askaround at the Jimny’s launch, the dimensions in the front are still comfortable for those over six foot (I’m just 172cm or 5”6) in the front. 

The back seat is still really only for occasional use and limited to two positions, but is more comfortable than ever and it's also pretty easy to access via the sliding front seats and the front doors. As with the previous generation, the rear windows are fixed.

There’s two cupholders in the centre console but no bottle holders like we’re accustomed to seeing in the doors. A single USB and 12V power point pass muster up the front, but there’s also a handy second 12V point in the cargo area.

Ultimately, you can only expect to fit so much into such a tiny car. And that's not much behind the back seats when they’re up, with just 85-litres VDA of boot space on offer and the back seat headrests almost touching the tailgate glass. 

Still, that’s enough for a couple of small backpacks, and the 50:50 split-fold expands this to 377-litres VDA (53 litres more than before) to the base of the windows, or a full 830-litres VDA when loaded to the roof. That should be heaps of room for camping gear for the two remaining passengers, but I’d strongly recommend fitting a cargo barrier if you plan to use all the space.

Returning after being absent from the previous generation (which used roof rails) is the full perimeter roof gutter, which is ideal for fitting a roof rack.

One baby Suzuki 4x4 trademark that’s as useful as ever is the full-size spare wheel mounted to the tailgate. It’s always accessible regardless of how much of a load you’re carrying and will allow you to continue on your way at full speed and capability. In the new Jimny’s case, it looks like the designers have been careful to allow a much larger tyre to fit back there if you choose to upgrade to chunkier all-terrain tyres.

Price and features

Suzuki Vitara7/10

Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.

That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.

Perhaps the only complaint about the price is that similar competition from Hyundai and Mazda come fitted with a few more safety features.

That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.


Suzuki Jimny9/10

The surprises continue with the specs and pricing, with arguably every modern must-have you wouldn’t expect it to have on the list. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Check. Auto emergency braking? Check. It’s even got climate control air conditioning, GPS navigation system, a reversing camera and ISOFIX child seat mounts so your babies can be mounted securely during adventures.

There’s only one trim level for the Australian Jimny range, and other highlights include a multimedia screen that measures a useful seven inches, leather steering wheel, LED headlights with auto high beams, tinted windows,15-inch alloy wheels and the requisite keyless entry, Bluetooth, cruise control and power front side windows and mirrors. It’s worth noting that the sound system only has two speakers though.

Suzuki has kept Australian pricing under wraps until just now, and we’re pleased to tell you the manual version arrives with an RRP of $23,990 (before on-road costs), and the automatic version rounds off the price list for the usual $2000 more at $25,990.

Yes, these are $3000 more than the previous model when it bowed out last year, but the new one is a two-decade newer design and packs so many comforts and conveniences it missed out on before. 

One less than ideal surprise though is the $500 surcharge for any colour other than white. This is despite all Jimny colours aside from the blue and beige being non-metallic, but not that hard to justify if you’re after the Kinetic Yellow hero colour. Other options include Brisk Blue Metallic, Chiffon Ivory Metallic (beige), Jungle Green, and Medium Grey.
 
The yellow, blue and beige are also available with the roof coated in Bluish Black Pearl for a net option price of $1250.

If you’re teetering on giving in to temptation, Suzuki tells us Australian Jimny allocation will be limited to just 1100 units in 2019, 320 of which were already pre-ordered before launch. Suzuki Australia boss Michael Pochota warns that he can imagine a waiting list of up to a year in the near future, similar to what’s already the case in several overseas markets.

Engine & trans

Suzuki Vitara5/10

The 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.

I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.

As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.

The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.


Suzuki Jimny8/10

The new Jimny’s drivetrain specifications may seem a bit ‘meh’ at first sight, with no turbo or more than five ratios in the manual and four in the auto

But when you’re delicately teetering between rock ledges, simple controls are best. 

The K15B 1.5-litre petrol engine is a new design with twin cams and variable valve timing, and is effectively a 1.5-litre non-turbo version of the 1.4 motor we currently see in the S-Cross and Swift Sport

Engine specs and size are a step up from the 1.3-litre M13A engine from the model prior, and outputs are improved by 12.5kW (yep) and 20Nm to now total 75kW and 130Nm. The former is reached at 6000rpm, while the latter is at a reasonable for a non-turbo 4000rpm.

The five-speed manual gearbox is a rare sight these days, but when the going gets rough, it’s really convenient to simply find reverse on the diagonally opposite gate tio first, without having to lift or push the stick like you do with most six-speeders. We didn’t get to try the Jimny at highway speeds though, so it may not be perfect for all circumstances. 

Likewise with the torque converter four-speed automatic transmission, which is even rarer than a five-speed manual in 2019. It could prove a compromise on the highway. 

The new Jimny retains selectable 4x4, but the new system has been branded ALLGRIP PRO. You can now shift between 2H (4x2), 4H (4x4) and 4L (4x4 low range) with just the transfer case lever, eliminating the dash buttons used to engage the front differential in the past. 

ALLGRIP PRO includes a brake-based traction control system which can direct power to each corner as needed.

Fuel consumption

Suzuki Vitara6/10

The non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.

My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.


Suzuki Jimny8/10

Official combined fuel consumption figures are a reasonable 6.4L/100km for the manual and 6.9L/100km for the auto (15.63 or 14.49km/L), but bear in mind this is based on using cheaper Regular 91RON unleaded petrol. These official figures tend to be more realistic with non-turbocharged engines also.

The fuel tank capacity may only be 40 litres, but the above figures suggest a theoretical range of around 579-625km depending on transmission. 

Driving

Suzuki Vitara6/10

As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.

For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.

It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.

It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.

The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.

The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.


Suzuki Jimny8/10

If you're looking at the Jimny and you don't have any plan to take it off-road, you’re missing the point. 

Aside from its skinny and relatively smooth 195-section highway-terrain standard tyres (rather than off-road tyres), this car has been optimised for slow-speed obstacle climbing, with no concessions for comfort or highway dynamics. 

So don’t expect it to handle or ride like a Swift. And it doesn’t, with even our very brief road drive reminding me of the fore/aft pitch that’s inherent with such a tall body and short wheelbase. 

The same applies with bodyroll, as the suspension tune is clearly tailored for off-road articulation rather than high-speed stability. 

It is clear that the new model is so much more refined than the Jimny it replaces, but as you’d expect with a solid front axle, the steering does lack feel. 

We didn’t expect the 75kW engine to feel spritely, but it certainly offers enough performance to keep up with traffic, and is probably a useful demerit point protection measure.

We’ll wait for a longer road drive to judge the new Jimny properly, but make sure you also do before committing to buy. You might find the drive experience characterful rather than compromised, and I have a feeling I could put up with it. Particularly given it only makes its strengths stronger.

Enough of the everyday driver warning message. All of Suzuki’s prescribed drive route at the launch was off road at the Melbourne 4×4 Training and Proving Ground. 

This facility has everything you need to put a vehicle through its paces, but I don’t feel the chosen activities truly demonstrated the Jimny’s nimbleness and outright rock-hopping capability.

It’s clear the fundamentals are in place though, and it’s a lot of fun tossing around such a little machine off road.

The suspension has impressive compliance for such a light vehicle, and the gearing seems to match the engine very well during low range driving.

The thick steering wheel is wrapped in grippy soft leather, which makes it nice to hang onto through the rough stuff. 

But probably most surprisingly for such a light, cheap car, the body didn’t creak or rattle all day long. This little jigger is very well screwed together.

Safety

Suzuki Vitara6/10

On board are seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls. And that's it. If you want advanced safety, step up to the Vitara Turbo.

The Vitara scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in July 2016.


Suzuki Jimny7/10

Don’t get too carried away with the new Jimny’s surprise inclusion of AEB, lane departure warning, weaving alert, ISOFIX child seat mounts or its suite of six airbags that include curtain airbags that extend to cover the back seats. 

Both EuroNCAP and ANCAP (based on 2018 criteria) have both landed the new Jimny with a three star safety rating, with the two stars being lost mainly due to a lack of occupant protection in a collision, rather than any lack of features. 

Like the new Wrangler, it's pretty hard to build a car that's properly rugged and ultra safe at the same time, particularly when you’re trying to protect normal sized humans within a tiny body like the Jimny’s. You do need to consider this fact before signing on the dotted line. 

Ownership

Suzuki Vitara7/10

Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal. 

Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.


Suzuki Jimny7/10

Like all Suzukis, the new Jimny is covered by a five-year, 140,000km warranty, which pretty much aligns with the new standard for mainstream automotive brands. Suzuki's five year term is conditional upon following the service shedule with authorised Suzuki dealers though, with a three year, 100,000km plan applying otherwise. 

Service intervals are still a brief six months or 10,000km also, but capped price servicing is offered for the duration of the warranty

This totals a reasonable service cost of $2452 over the first 10 services or 100,000km, which is $298 cheaper than the model it replaces. 

Those six month intervals are half the industry norm, but this potential inconvenience and cost is offset by the fact that Suzuki’s warranty now includes roadside servicing for the full five years - up from three.

Like all Suzukis, we wouldn't expect much in the way of reliability issues or common faults, but if anything does crop up in the long term, you'll likely find it on our problems page