If you visit here often, you'll have seen the post preceding this one that if I quickly sum it up, pretty much says that I MUST have a Suzuki Swift Sport because it's the coolest thing since, well, anything. It's a hot hatch for the masses, half the size and half the price of anything else yet it still delivers enough performance to upset Metro and keep you in a good mood on every drive. I also mentioned that it's probably the only new car on the market that I'd fork over my hard-earned cash for. I lied. It's not my fault though, Suzuki let me review these cars back to back, and while the SSS sets a high bar for me personally, I didn't think the new BooterJet-equipped Vitara would give me the same dirty thoughts. It did. I think the want for one of these matches the want for the Swift Sport. As with the Swift Sport, I covered most of the techy bits and facts and figures in the launch post that you can click through to right about here. So while those initial drive impressions still ring true, things have changed up a bit in my mind about which I'd have. Here's why...
Suzuki has managed to make what would normally have been a mundane people-carrier into something that's an absolute riot to drive. When this shape launched back in 2015, I was already a fan, it was a fresh take on a medium-sized SUV with a decent spec list and a price tag that couldn't be beat. It was great to drive because Suzuki managed to give the Vitara a ride that feels like small hatchback thanks to it's low weight, direct steering and firm-ish ride. Since then the Vitara has had a refresher in the looks department, and it's still available with the normally aspirated 1.6-litre 4-pot that drives the front wheels, or all four if you shell out for the AllGrip model. This 1600cc setup is listed at 86kW and 156Nm and employs either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed auto - model dependant. Performance is better than you'd imagine, especially at altitude for a normally aspirated setup - magic was worked in the ECU tune and the gear ratios. In the latest incarnation, improvements can be seen in the aesthetics, the interior trim and features list, just like the Swift Sport. But what makes the levels of want for this thing rise is the new engine setup, because this new Vitara has the Swift Sport's 1.4 Turbo BoosterJet lump, and it's also mated to a 6-speed manual transmission albeit with slightly altered ratios (there's an auto option for millennials, but it does have cool flappy paddles for manual shifting). This means the Vitara is now just as fun as the Swift Sport, well almost, but it's damn close. 103kW and 230Nm will do that for you, especially at this kerb weight.
Firstly these things looks really good, the dimensions, lines and colours make me happy, as does having the option of a two-tone look. The review car was in Prime Solar Yellow with the black roof, but it can also be had with a white roof. The white looks ok, but I reckon the black looks a bit more aggressive and I like that it also gives that floating roof impression. I also prefer the black because it matches the exterior trim better. There's eight colours to choose from, and if I had to choose, I'd take the Bright Red with black roof. That would be for when I bore of the wrap I'd like to give it, I'll explain later. The wheels are 17-inch in size and they really do suit the Vitara, but as with the Swift Sport, I'd relegate these hoops to the garage, or avail them to a Swift Sport driver who wants to ditch the OEM 16s assuming the PCD and offset work of course - again, more on this later. The new headlights and foglight surrounds add to the list of changes, and they look good, but I'd make them a wee bit better (for my taste). In my test week I had a few people asking if it's a baby Land Rover, and one liked the colour of my new Tiguan. Comments like that are great, it shows there's still a need for motoring journos in the wild, and that Suzuki is punching above it weight.
The cabin has seen the same upgrades as the Swift Sport, the infotainment system is headed up by the same intuitive touch screen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included for around R9000 less than what you'd pay in a new Audi A1. Or for free if you wanna get technical. The seats have a new look to them, they're a little sturdier, the materials are brilliant and they're properly comfortable on a long journey. Having tilt and rake on the steering and being able to raise and lower the driver's seat means the perfect driving position is easily sorted out. Even little chaps like me can be comfortable in just a few seconds. I'm not sure if it's old age getting to my ears, but I'm almost positive the sound plays louder in here than the SSS. The instrument cluster is pretty close to the SSS too, and the animations seen in the centre screen are almost identical, there's just the boost level screen missing.
Driving this new Suzuki Vitara is just too much fun. Even though the engine and drivetrain is in a bigger people-carrier, the Suzuki techs have once again employed new lightweight materials and so the thing tips the scales at just 1095kg. Oddly, the gear ratios feel a little more urgent to me than in the SSS, but it's probably just the butt dyno doing it's thing. The handling is great, more hatchback-like than SUV-like, there's not even a lot of body roll considering the ride height. Braking feels the same - sharp. If you climb out of a pre-2005 car and get straight into this, you WILL headbutt the steering when you first attempt to stop. During the drive, the Vitara feels so light and nimble that if you put someone in the car and they just looked at the dash and felt the drive, they'd be hard-pressed to tell you if they're in a Vitara or a Swift Sport. It's things like this that really gets one thinking though...
I'd rock one as a daily, heck, it would be my daily for the Monday to Friday errand stuff but on weekends it could even be my track toy, after a few tweaks of course. Purely because have an aftermarket background and it's expected of me to talk about modifying things, that's what I'll do. Earlier I mentioned I'd have a red one, and that would be the base colour because it's my favourite of the options. I'd give the Vitara a vinyl wrap to metallic blue though, and yeah, I know you can buy a Vitara with blue paint, but Atlantis Turquoise is just not as intense as the Speedy Blue Metallic that's available for the Swift Sport. Again, the red base would be for when I'm bored of the blue wrap and want the permanent colour to show, which would probably take at least 18 months from the day of wrapping. So now my boosted Vitara would be the same blue as the Swift Sport. Then, as with the SSS, the black parts on the exterior would be made gloss black, along with the foglight surrounds and the grille, but I'd leave the Suzuki badge in silver.
The next thing would be a bit of a fiddle with the suspension to firm things up a little and bring the chassis closer to terra firma, likely with BC coilovers. Again, as mentioned before, the wheels would be replaced, and I'd go for a classic JDM-style wheel, probably along the lines of a Volk TE37 or similar. These would be finished in gloss black, or maybe even white. The next change I'd make would be ambitious to say the least, it would either cost an arm and a leg or require a new SSS that met it's demise in a side or rear impact. I'd love to retrofit a Swift Sport steering wheel, a Swift Sport shift knob and then lastly the Swift Sport front seats. Yeah yeah, I know, BIG work costing plenty, but when your wants turn to needs, plans will get made. The last things to change would be under the hood, the usual tweaks to further improve responsiveness, power and most importantly, the soundtrack with a custom exhaust from the likes of TMSS. The result would be a Suzuki Vitara Sport of my own creation. You do get an S trim overseas that's fitted with an all-wheel drive system too, but SA ain't on the cards for that one so n Engelsman maak n plan yo!
So yeah, yet another Suzuki that makes me happy and that I can live with daily. It doesn't need the changes I'd do of course, it's a brilliant buy that will keep the masses very, very happy. It's pretty much on par with the Swift Sport for me, and I'd probably fork out for one of these purely based on space, my camera equipment fills the Swift boot but will barely touch sides in the Vitara, and I can hang out the boot hatch to get rolling shots when shooting. Ideally though, I'd have a Vitara (Sport) for the daily grind, a Swift Sport for weekend track stuff and a Jimny for kicking it on overland holidays.
You get a few options to choose from if you're keen on a Suzuki Vitara, and all of them are worth your consideration if you're looking to buy in this segment. The range kicks off with the 1.6GL 5MT 2WD at R293 900, then the 1.6GL+ 5MT 2WD at R332 900, the 1.6GL+ 6AT 2WD at R352 900, the 1.6GLX 6AT at R381 900 and then 1.6GLX 5MT AllGrip at R390 900 to finish off the normally aspirated 1600cc options. The 1.4 Turbo GLX 6MT can be had for R386 900 and the flappy paddle 1.4 Turbo GLX 6AT lists at R405 900. They all have a 5-year/100 000km warranty and a 4-year/60 000km service plan. Of course most of that will fall away if you get one and have the same ambitions that I do. Click on through to the Suzuki SA site to directly compare the various trim options.
I do hope there's a few people out there who think like I do, because a modified Vitara is an awesome thought. If anyone ever sees one, you have to let me know!