The same, but different: 2019 Suzuki Vitara first impressions
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It used to be that every Suzuki SUV would more or less sing from the same songbook of off-road performance and rugged charm.
But these days, the Japanese carmaker's assortment of terra-firma tacklers reads less like a unified group and more like some kind of motoring 'boy band' — all fundamentally the same, but simultaneously cornering different niches.
There's the Jimny of course; the heart of the band who's most loyal to its roots. There's the Ignis and S-Cross; the weird new members lacking in lore. There's the Grand Vitara; a band manager that's 15 years older than everyone else but desperately trying to stay hip. And then there's the Vitara; the lead singer.
It might not be the most exciting singer on the charts, but the Vitara is nonetheless an SUV sales hero for Suzuki. And they've just released a face-lifted model for 2019, which we drove alongside the new Jimny at the manufacturer's recent national launch.
There are two models in the revised Vitara range; the entry level JLX and the Turbo. In their front-wheel drive guises, the pair starts at $27,990 and $33,990 respectively, while those prices increase to $33,990 and $37,990 for the cheapest four-wheel drive variants.
Those figures are the same as those from the old model, which is a good thing given this new model offers a selection of new features.
Visually, the dial hasn't been turned too far. The Vitara isn't exactly a natural beauty, but it does look distinctive and different. The most significant change is that the JLX drops its scalloped-bar grill to adopt the same vertically divided grill as the Turbo (although the Turbo's gains a lick of chrome). The front bumper's lighting shrouds look more aggressive, and the rear diffuser has been restyled.
The main difference between the two are the engines. The JLX comes with a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre M16A unit making 86kW/156Nm while the Turbo is fitted with the 'Booster Jet' turbocharged 1.4-litre K14C making 103kW/220Nm.
In essence, they're the engines from the previous-gen and current-gen Swift Sport — with the former struggling to keep up with the latter over our fang through Waiuku's twisty backroads.
Although it wasn't necessarily the power that impressed most on those aforementioned roads. The Vitara has always been a sound corner carver, and the new one is no different. In many ways, it attacks corners like an enlarged Swift — holding the road with surprising levels of confidence and dealing with lift-off oversteer with ease.
So, what's changed?
There's a handful of interior tweaks. There's a new 4.2-inch LCD cluster screen across the board, more soft-touch surfaces, and more contrast-colour accenting. The Turbo meanwhile gets new suede/faux leather seating.
There's more safety tech, too. The Turbo gets a camera and laser-based forward-detection system, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, blind sport monitoring, and lane-departure warning. This supports standard electronic brake distribution and brake override.
According to Suzuki New Zealand, these changes make the new Vitara the most advanced Suzuki ever made. Keep an eye out for a full road test in a future edition of Driven.