With the launch of the new Vitara in New Zealand, Suzuki is expecting big things.
Although the Swift has been a long-standing big seller, the company expects the Vitara to quickly become thesecond-biggest seller in its local line-up and is targeting 100 to 150 sales a month for the small SUV.
The Vitara launches in New Zealand with a single engine and a choice of two spec levels — the JLX and the LTD.
The engine is Suzuki’s 86kW/156Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol unit and comes hooked up to either a five-speed manual transmission or a new six-speed automatic transmission in JLX 2WD form. The JLX AWD and all LTD models are auto only.
The Vitara is based on the same platform as the S-Cross and has 185mm of ground clearance, with approach and departure angles of 18.2 and 28.2 degrees respectively.
The JLX 2WD kicks off the range at $27,990 for the manual and $29,990 for the auto. The JLX AWD and LTD 2WD both land at $32,990, and the LTD AWD costs $35,990. Both LTD models can be had with a white or black roof for an extra $800. A range of personalisation options are available for the Vitara, including body-coloured dash inserts and accessory kits, along with the previously mentioned contrasting roof option.
On the road, the Vitara feels much like the S-Cross, as should be expected. Sure-footed and surprisingly nimble — even in 2WD form and in heavy rain — the Vitara also proved to be comfortable and relaxed, despite the expectations the small engine may have set up.
The four-cylinder unit is willing and happy to rev, but not overly powerful; however, its eager nature tends to overcome this easily enough, and the six-speed automatic transmission is a nice, smooth, unobtrusive unit.
The interior is well laid out and pleasantly airy and comfortable, albeit traditionally Suzuki in its liberal use of hard plastics. On the outside, the Vitara is noticeably more masculine and SUV-like than the S-Cross and is a handsome, traditionally styled small SUV.
Well-specced and well-priced, the Vitara will make a strong contender at the lower end of the baby SUV segment, trading on Suzuki’s respected name in the SUV and small car segments.
Being something of a specialist in both segments, the only real surprise about the Vitara is that it has taken this long for Suzuki to build it.