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Suzuki Vitara 2021 review: Turbo long-term

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Daily driver score

3.6/5

Urban score

3.6/5

Tell you what's unexpectedly popular - videos about the Suzuki Vitara. In the space of two months in 2019, Nedahl and I reviewed Suzuki's updated reboot of the SUV that defined a genre almost thirty years ago, and both videos blasted past 100,000 views.

I was mildly shocked because I'd misjudged how popular the Vitara is, not just in Australia, but around the world.

So popular is the Vitara that it became clear one of us in the CarsGuide office should spend a lengthy amount of time in one to find out what it's like to have around for longer than a week. 

You might also be interested in the Toyota C-HR

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Part 1 - September 2020

I'm not going to lie, I was very pleased the team picked me as the custodian of the long-term Vitara. I was extra-pleased when it turned out I'd be getting what I consider to be the best of the three-tier range, the Turbo.

The all-wheel drive one is only useful if you need that off-road capability and this front-wheel drive is fine on gravel. The all-wheel drive one is only useful if you need that off-road capability and this front-wheel drive is fine on gravel.

I reckon it's the best because the all-wheel drive one is only useful if you need that off-road capability. The front-wheel drive is fine on gravel.

The Vitara Turbo 2WD lands on your driveway at $31,990 drive-away (the usual price is $30,490), a solid $5500 more than the 1.6-litre base model. The extra $5500 is worth it alone for Suzuki swapping the gasping naturally aspirated four for a smaller capacity turbocharged four-cylinder with the charmingly '80s tag 'BoosterJet'.

Power may only be 103kW and torque a respectable 220Nm, but it weighs just 1100kg, give or take. Power may only be 103kW and torque a respectable 220Nm, but it weighs just 1100kg, give or take.

Power may only be 103kW and torque a respectable 220Nm, but it weighs just 1100kg, give or take.

Worth noting Matt Campbell and I disagree on the merits of that base engine (and I don't mind that he's wrong), and Richard Berry agrees that it's not that bad, unless you've driven the two engines back-to-back.

Inside there's plenty of Alcantara and fake-leather trim. Inside there's plenty of Alcantara and fake-leather trim.

Standard are 17-inch alloys shod with excellent Continental tyres, Alcantara and fake-leather trim, six-speaker stereo, auto wipers and headlights, climate control, adaptive cruise, heated and folding rear vision mirrors, LED headlights, keyless entry and start, hill-descent control, sat nav and a space-saver spare.

The modest 7.0-inch screen runs the system you'll find across most Suzukis and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 2019 model year brought a stronger safety package, with forward AEB, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise, blind-spot monitoring, weaving alert and reverse cross-traffic alert, bringing it up to speed on that front.

Over the next few months we'll be looking at how the Vitara performs. Over the next few months we'll be looking at how the Vitara performs.

Over the next few months we'll be looking, as much as we can in this COVID-restricted world, at how the Vitara performs. It has a never-ending stream of competitors throwing the kitchen sink at this price point so a few months in the Alcantara-trimmed saddle, where the Vitara will meet many of its rivals, should prove its mettle.

Acquired: August 2020

Distance travelled this month: 220km

Odometer: 398km

Average fuel consumption for [month]: 8.3L/100 (measured at the pump)

Part 2 - October 2020

I love sizing up a long-term loan car. Quite often it will be my first experience of a particular model, but the Vitara was already like an old friend. I've driven one every year since its debut in this current bodyshape and liked it more every time as Suzuki continues sharpening the saw.

Despite its status as a compact SUV, the Suzi is remarkably spacious. My wife - who is on a mission to alter every single surface in our house, which this month included painting the external brick walls of the house as well as the expansive deck I was trapped into financing as part of other works carried out way back in 2019.

Despite its status as a compact SUV, the Suzi is remarkably spacious. (image: Peter Anderson) Despite its status as a compact SUV, the Suzi is remarkably spacious. (image: Peter Anderson)

This activity, as you might expect, required a large amount of paint. I was expecting more than on trip to the supplier but every single litre of paint required fit in the 375-litre boot of the Vitara with the seats up.

Naturally, after painting the deck, a large rug was required to cover the freshly-painted deck because, obviously. It fit very nicely in the Vitara, once again proving its versatility. It also fits our six-foot-four son in the back without any grizzling (well, apart from being dragged somewhere with us), as the bench, while sparsely equipped, is very comfortable.

Naturally, after painting the deck, a large rug was required to cover the freshly-painted deck because, obviously. It fit very nicely in the Vitara, once again proving its versatility. (image: Peter Anderson) Naturally, after painting the deck, a large rug was required to cover the freshly-painted deck because, obviously. It fit very nicely in the Vitara, once again proving its versatility. (image: Peter Anderson)

This month's 8.2L/100km fuel figure  matches up pretty much exactly when I've had the car for a week. It's not doing too badly as a combination of clipped wings has resulted in an inordinate number of short trips (including to a thankfully negative COVID test) and sitting outside school waiting for said tall offspring to emerge from an HSC exam. The official combined cycle figure of 5.9L/100km is pretty tricky replicate, I imagine, but the turbo engine is at least consistent.

Acquired: September 2020

Distance travelled this month: 278km

Odometer: 676km

Average fuel consumption for October: 8.2L/100 (measured at the pump)

Part 3 - November 2020

Almost as soon as it began, the relationship with my long-term Suzuki Vitara is over. Thankfully, however, three months is a good amount of time to get used to a car and discover its strengths and weaknesses and understand what it's all about.

Regular readers will know that I'm no stranger to the Vitara, having had the opportunity to spend time in one regularly since its rebirth, getting the hang of the changes to the range while also pondering the styling choices.

I've even recommended the Vitara to few folks over the years so it was only fair that I spend a good amount of time with it to find out what the longer-term ownership proposition was like.

First, the not so good. I never really got used to how high the driving position is. Now, I've had some people chip at me about that - "it's an SUV" - but I'm talking about the relationship of my bum to the car's floor and my head to the roof.

The seat is set quite high in the chassis, so you never really feel like you're in the car. That is probably exacerbated by the fact I'm in and out of different cars, but I always noticed it. It's not bad and I reckon most owners won't notice after a week, but I reflexively tried to jack the seat down.

The shortcomings of the media system were apparent from day one. Yes, you can plug your phone in and that was what I always did, but it's looking and feeling really old. It did look easy to replace, however...

And the back seat. It's a bit grim back there, with no air vents, armrest or cupholders, just a bottle holder in each door. The seat is comfortable enough, though, with plenty of room for adults to sit in the outboard positions.

The things I didn't like were piffling, really. Because there is a lot to like about the Vitara. The 1.4-litre turbo is a belter of an engine, hooked up to a six-speed transmission. Fitted with a set of very good Continental tyres, it's lovely to steer, and is even fun to drive in the right conditions.

Whoever set up the suspension knew what they were doing, with well-controlled body roll and steering that is just right for what people will really use this front-drive version of the car for - bombing around town with the occasional longer trip, and not much rough stuff.

Without ever getting on to loose surfaces, I can't see a good reason for the all-wheel drive. If you live on a dirt road, maybe you need to spend the extra but again, this Vitara is fine on a maintained gravel road.

The Turbo is also really well specified, with LED headlights, climate control, a sensible safety suite, excellent front seats and it's all well built.

No, the plastics aren't super-flash but the interior feels very hardy. The interior design is hardly avant-garde but that's not really a Suzuki thing.

And then, after three months of ownership, it turns out it's reasonably cheap to run. Using not much more than the 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine of the base model, the Vitara returned an average of 8.2L/100km at the pump after 1200km, most of them in the suburbs.

Our mileage was curtailed due to the pandemic - obviously - and it's a shame I couldn't get the Vitara out on the open road for a long run more often than I did. The long runs we did manage were comfortable and quiet.

Acquired: September 2020

Distance travelled this month: 598km

Odometer: 1274km

Average fuel consumption for November: 8.2L/100 (measured at the pump)

It was a short, but sweet three months with the Vitara. It cemented in my mind that the mid-spec Turbo is definitely the one to have unless you need regular, semi-serious off-road capability. It packs a lot of space into a fairly small footprint, doesn't weigh much and is very spritely with the combination of the 1.4-litre turbo and the well-tuned automatic transmission. Suzuki has also spent money on the suspension, and it shows - it rides and handles well and is genuinely fun to drive. Not all the cars in this segment are like the Vitara and more than a few of them could afford to flatter Suzuki with some imitation.

$27,990 - $40,785

Based on 97 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.6/5

Urban score

3.6/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.