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Suzuki has hit back at increasing competition in the small-to-medium 4WD segment with a new Vitara flagship called the V6 Estate Wagon.
As its name suggests, the newcomer is powered by a V6 engine (of just 2.0 litres capacity) and it comes in the longer wheelbase four-door body style, with seating for five people.
Externally, the V6 Estate can be distinguished from its four-cylinder stablemates by its colour co-ordinated plastic door splash panels and lower skirts that blend in with wheel arch flares and new bumpers. These contrast with the main body colour in similar fashion to Mitsubishi Pajero models. There's also a new bonnet, and a new grille with chrome surround. Wheel size has gone from 15 inch to 16 inch.
The V6 Estate comes in just one equipment level, with the choice of automatic or manual transmission. At the time of writing, prices were $34,950 (m) and $36,950 (auto). These are $5,500 more than the JLX four-cylinder Estates, but as well as the V6 engine, you also get air conditioning and automatic free wheel hubs as standard. Alloy road wheels (fitted to the test vehicle) cost an extra $750.
Items common to the V6 Estate and JLX four-cylinder Vitaras include power steering, power mirrors, electric windows, central locking, a four-speaker AM/FM sound system and interior map lights. These all qualify the V6 Estate as a well equipped package, so it's surprising to note the absence of even one vanity mirror in the interior sunvisors.
Accommodation is essentially the same as for the four-cylinder Estates, which means good leg and head room for front occupants, and seats that are generally supportive and comfortable.
There's not a huge amount of rear leg room, but adults can fit if you have the front seats forward a notch or two. The rear seat isn't really wide enough for three adults to be comfortable, it's better suited to two adults or three children. The rear seat is rather flat and doesn't offer much support.
Load space is a lot better than the two-door Vitaras, both with the seat up and down. The backrest is divided 60/40 and can either be laid down over the cushion or the whole seat can be folded forward for greater floor length.
On the road, the V6 Estate is noticeably smoother and quieter than the four-cylinder models, and generally rides and handles better.
However, the 24 valve quad cam V6 engine is really too high-tech for its application in a 4WD. Despite its smoothness and its willingness to rev, it lacks strong low end performance. This means it often has to be worked hard (like a sports car) to get the desired result and that's not what you really want in a 4WD.
The V6 cruises nicely, but lacks good acceleration from rest. Highway hills soon mean a change down from fifth to fourth, or third, to maintain good progress, and safe overtaking demands selection of the right gear.
The V6's wider tracks, re-tuned suspension and bigger wheel and tyre combination have improved stability and general handling, though there are still compromises compared to a passenger car. I found the steering too light and the vehicle tended to skip around at the rear over bumps or corrugations.
The Vitara's relatively short-travel suspension is a hindrance in off-road conditions, as the vehicle will easily lift a back wheel. The lack of a limited slip rear differential also limits the Vitara's off-road ability. Ground clearance is reasonable as long as you don't get too adventurous.
Buyers expecting the power and performance usually associated with six cylinder 4WDs may be disappointed that the Vitara V6 Estate's engine doesn't deliver the same sort of punch. However, this newcomer does introduce many improvements over the four-cylinder versions, such as quieter and smoother operation, better handling and ride comfort, and more standard equipment.
Overall, the Vitara V6 Estate Wagon is pleasant and easy to drive, and is well suited to the smaller family who want a recreational four-wheel-drive without the bulk (or cost) of a big heavy-duty wagon.
Test vehicle supplied by Suzuki.
By NRMA Motoring, May 1995.
A versatile recreational vehicle without the bulk of larger 4WDs
V6 engine lacks low down power
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||Three years, 60,000 km|
V6 Estate (manual): $34,950
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||1.998 L|
|Induction||Sequential multi-point injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||100 kW @ 6500 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||172 Nm @ 4000 rpm|
|Wheel type||Steel (alloy optional)|
|Wheel size||16 "|
|Turning circle (measured)||11.4 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1695 mm|
|Fuel capacity||70 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||680 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||16|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||7.3 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||9.8 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||8.6 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||14.2 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||9.8 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||11.4 L/100km|
|Average on test||11.0 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||38.6 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||66 dB(A)|