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Suzuki has increased its Vitara short wheelbase line-up by introducing 2.0 litre three door soft top and hard top models. Described as a short wheelbase Vitara with attitude, it has a more aggressive sporty appearance than its four door counterparts and features a number of upgrades based on customer and dealer feedback.
The small four wheel drive market has the potential to become a very competitive arena with the introduction of the Kia Sportage and the possibility of a number of European and Asian players in the near future. Strong competition exists between Toyota and Suzuki to gain and maintain top slot in this field.
The 2.0 litre series is available in four variants; three door soft top in manual or automatic and three door hard top in manual or automatic. Price for the soft top and hard top manual is $24,990, whereas the automatic versions are $26,490.
The most notable feature of the new Vitara is the all aluminium two litre in-line DOHC engine which is based on the 1839 cc engine used in the GTX Baleno range. Whilst the cylinder bore size has been retained, the stroke has been increased to achieve its 2.0 litre capacity, with concentration on achieving good torque at mid engine revs for improved driveability? something which is lacking with the V6 engine.
A five speed manual or four speed automatic transmission is coupled to a central transfer case transmitting drive through to the front and rear axles. A part-time four wheel drive system incorporating a selector lever and automatic free wheeling hubs, is used.
Widening the chassis by 60 mm to accommodate the new engine has also enabled an increase in track width by 65 mm. This along with the adaptation of the V6's suspension and steering has made it possible to attain a similar supple ride and handling package to that experienced with the V6 Vitara.
Whilst the 2.0 litre series body relies heavily on the 1.6 three door for its basic design, it takes on the styling of the V6 Estate model using much of the same hardware, nose treatment, skirts and flares.
Generous head and leg room is provided In both front and rear positions for a vehicle of this size. However, poorly positioned lumber supports in the front seats spoil what is otherwise a well proportioned seat. The front and rear seats fold flat to form an emergency sleeping facility (if you're really desperate) and the rear seat is adjustable fore and aft and split 60/40 giving much needed additional luggage space.
The driveability of the Vitara was somewhat shrouded by the clutch cable buzz when changing gear, the high level stoplight blocking rear vision and the absence of a left footrest. Under the bonnet, the Vitara is very service friendly with excellent access to all items.
Handling has improved thanks to the wider track and 'Estate' suspension, and the front disc and rear drum brake system provides adequate braking for all conditions.
On paper, the power and torque of the 2.0 like in-line engine is marginally below that of the 2.0 like V6 model. However, on the road its performance is equal to, if not slightly better than, the V6 engine and its torque is more usable, peaking 1000 rpm lower.
Better than average approach and departure angles plus larger diameter wheels and short wheelbase, assist in off-road conditions. However, low ground clearance, short wheel travel, highway tyres and high gearing preclude the Vitara from the really serious tracks. Additional stone shielding provides protection to essential underbody areas when driving in the rough.
The introduction of the in-line two like engine gives the short wheelbase series a boost to bring it in line with the 2.0 like Estate wagon.
The contemporary looks, versatility and the more sporty appearance of the 2.0 litre series represents a good strong backhand from Suzuki, putting the ball clearly back into Toyota's court.
A strong contender for those looking at buying a small 4WD that is more than a toy.
Test vehicle supplied by Ateco Automotive.
|Price of vehicle tested||Manual (soft and hard top): $24,990|
Head & leg room in front & rear
Luggage and storage space
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||3 years, 60,000km|
Manual (soft and hard top)
Manual (soft and hard top): $24,990
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||1.9 L|
|Induction||Electronic multi-point injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||97 kW @ 6300 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||166 Nm @ 3000 rpm|
|Wheel size||16 "|
|Turning circle (measured)||10.3 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1695 mm|
|Fuel capacity||51 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||450 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||23|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||6.9 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||9.5 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||8.5 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||13.6 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||9.3 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||11.2 L/100km|
|Average on test||9.9 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||38 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||67 dB(A)|