What is it?

Suzuki’s evergreen Vitara is one for the ages. Currently available with predominantly petrol powerplants and one diesel, it’s also available only in five-door configuration. There’s seven colours which aren’t available with every version. There’s the Vitara RT-S with manual and auto, S Turbo 2WD and All-Grip with auto only, and RT-X diesel. The car reviewed was a November 2016 build S Turbo All-Grip.

A squarish, almost boxy, shape packages a 1.4-litre BoosterJet petrol engine with turbo which is good for 103kW and 220Nm of twist. The torque is available across a broad 1500 to 4000 rev range. The transmission is a simple six-speed auto. It’s slick enough in its changes, and can be manually operated via steering column paddle shifts.

Economy is superb with a rated 6.2L/100km from a 47-litre tank full of 95RON. That’s a combined cycle figure and one easily matched in day to day driving. What’s better is how much extra range can be gained with a light right foot, shown on a centre dash screen.

What’s it cost?

The car tested is a drive-away $33,990. For the money you get seven airbags including driver’s kneebag, Hill Descent and Hill Start Control, and usual unseen safety features such as stability control. Being a 2016 built vehicle it doesn’t get Autonomous Emergency Braking, radar controlled cruise control, or anything like Blind Spot Monitoring. In 2018 that remains unchanged.

Although the Vitara is just under 4200mm long it still packs in a 2500mm wheelbase. This provides adequate front legroom but rear legroom is best left for kids. There’s a 375-litre cargo space and that’s a split level setup. One shelf can be lifted to reveal another that holds a spacesaver spare.

It’s a nice interior with red ringed air vents and dials complementing splashes of alloy-look plastic on the steering wheel and gear selector. The seats are manually operated and supportive. The tiller has a comfortable feel as does the selector thanks to leather wrap. Audio is basic AM/FM and Bluetooth. There’s no CD or DAB, but Apple CarPlay is standard. Satnav and rear parking sensors are also standard.

The car rolls on 17-inch black painted alloys clad in high end 215/55 Continentals, a somewhat curious choice for a car offering a degree of off road capability.

The Vitara has a switchable drive system operated via a dial and button in the centre console, with settings for Sand/Snow and Sport. This will shift drive to the rear wheels on demand. However, the tyres aren’t really suitable for anything other than shallow mud or sand — so for anything heavier a buyer must shell out for more dedicated rubber.

Outside it’s a simple three box design and one that’s both easy on the eye and familiar to any owner of a Vitara from the noughties. Bottom front corner LED driving lights are fitted as are globe-lit driving lights. Normally the LEDs provide the illumination, but choose Parking or Low Beam and twist a dial on the indicator stalk and the LEDs are disengaged, bringing in the globes. That’s a bit odd, as is the plastic hexagonal grille with no actual openings for inhaling air.

What’s it go like?

Pretty damned well. It’s a free spinning unit. With maximum torque on tap with a caress of the go pedal it’ll launch well off the line, overtake without stress, and makes cruising . . .  well, cruisy. Because it weighs in at 1275kg plus fuel and passengers, there’s not a lot of mass to move, nor to haul down.

The brakes exude confidence over and over without fading. A low centre of gravity and that lack of weight mean it’s nimble on the road and quick to respond to steering.

The suspension is supple enough initially, before quickly tightening up. This means overall highway riding is almost without issue, save for a couple of bumps and crashes on more unsettled surfaces. Being a not far off squarish footprint means handling is neutral and easily controlled by the right foot in turns up and down hill.

What we like?

  • Gutsy little petrol engine with frugal drinking habits
  • Idiot-friendly road holding
  • Reasonable level of standard kit

What we don’t like?

  • Small cargo space unavoidable due to size
  • Spacesaver spare
  • Mixed usage message

The bottom line?

It’s been a winner for over two decades and continues to score points for its fun factor and economy. It’s a nice enough office space to be in and having a good ride quality helps in longer drives. Although lacking in what’s seen as essential safety the basics bring it back to being a driver’s car. Even though it’s a slightly unwieldy name, it’s a fun package and an enjoyable drive.

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Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).