Local Suzuki fans have been clamouring for the introduction of the brand’s turbocharged BoosterJet engine and their wishes have now been granted – the new Vitara 1.4T GLX is powered by the same engine as the latest Swift Sport. Does the updated and turbocharged Vitara still represent a compelling purchasing proposition? Let’s find out…
We Like: Great performance and fuel economy, sound ride and handling, infotainment, practical cabin
We Don't Like: Pricey
- Price: R378 900 (Accurate as of October 2019)
- Engine: 1.4-litre turbopetrol
- Power/Torque: 103 kW/220 Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Fuel consumption: 5.8 L/100 km (claimed)
- Load capacity: 375-1 120 litres
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Where does it fit in?
The Vitara has always been a sensible choice in the compact family car segment.
The new Vitara 1.4T (Turbo) sits at the pinnacle of the range and is only offered in high-spec GLX guise with a choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic transmission. Suzuki's compact family-car range was updated earlier this year with a few exterior styling tweaks, new interior trim and upholstery and the inclusion of an improved infotainment system, among other comfort and convenience items.
The Vitara has always been a sensible, no-frills offering in its segment and it’s worth noting that it has won the Compact Family Car category in the 2016/17 and 2017/2018 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank (in 1.6 GL+ and 1.6 GLX auto guises respectively). Moreover, the Vitara 1.4T GLX automatic derivative has been selected as a semi-finalist in the 2019/20 iteration of the #CarsAwards.
The introduction of a new turbocharged engine and more standard spec is welcome, but the GLX's asking price has increased accordingly... The 1.4T version is now on the high-end of the price spectrum in its segment. Let’s see if it can make a strong enough case for itself in this iteration.
How it performs in terms of…
Performance and efficiency
The new turbocharged 1.4-litre engine offers punchy performance, while also returning good fuel consumption figures.
The turbocharged 1.4-litre BoosterJet engine in the Vitara is a cracker! It has transformed the performance of Suzuki's family car to such as extent that you may be forgiven for calling it the "Vitara Sport"! Whereas the tried and tested naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine in the pre-facelift GLX delivered average performance (and good economy), this turbopetrol engine is far more responsive and delivers commendable driver engagement.
With peak outputs of 103 kW and 220 Nm, the 1.4T GLX pulls eagerly – and delivers excellent in-gear acceleration. As a result, overtaking manoeuvres can be executed quickly and effortlessly. In fact, we were surprised by how quick the Suzuki felt off the mark (the firm claims a 0-100 kph time of 9.5 sec). It's not often that our in-house race ace, Ashley Oldfield, claims to have had fun behind the wheel of a compact family car…
The 6-speed transmission has a positive action and that extra top gear bodes well for highway cruising and keeping fuel consumption down. Suzuki claims a fuel consumption figure of 5.8 L/100 km and the turbocharged Vitara consistently indicated a return of 7.0 L/100km, which is admirable.
Ride and handling
The Vitara's comfortable and forgiving ride remains to be one of its most endearing traits.
The Vitara’s balance between comfortable ride quality and sure-footed handling has always been a highlight of its package. Its suspension rides forgivingly over various surface conditions – it’s not even particularly crashy over harsher bumps and ruts. Meanwhile, Suzuki's top-spec derivative (apart from its automatic sibling) has a solid and planted feel on the road and its steering offers positive feedback with good responses to inputs.
The car's interior does feel a bit more upmarket than before, but even if it stops short of being "luxurious", the cabin's build quality is admirable and the intrusion of wind- and road noise minimal. In terms of refinement, then, the 1.4T GLX is a pleasure to drive 'round town and on longer journeys.
Interior execution and features
In GLX guise, the Vitara comes well-equipped and the infotainment system is bang-up-to-date in terms of connectivity.
Post-facelift, the Suzuki's upper dashboard panel features a soft-touch finish, while the door panels and trim elements feature hard-wearing plastic combined with suede trim. We really like the new suede and leather combination upholstery, which makes the cabin feel warm and welcoming.
Suzuki has also fitted a smart-looking 4.2-inch colour multi-information display in the instrument cluster and the 7-inch infotainment touchscreen offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as MirrorLink integration. The system also relays the feed from the reverse-view camera and includes features such as Bluetooth connectivity/streaming and voice-command recognition. An SD card slot and USB port are also included.
Other key features fitted to the 1.4T GLX include a panoramic sunroof, a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control (with speed limiter), automatic climate control, front and rear park distance control, electrically-adjustable mirrors, power windows (all round) and rain-sensing wipers.
What's more, the safety specification is good. It includes 7 airbags as standard, ABS with EBD, brake assist and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
The load bay offers a good amount of space – the Vitara's practicality is a key highlight of the product.
Not all compact family cars are particularly spacious, but the Vitara's cabin remains up to the standards of the segment. Rear passengers will find leg-, head- and shoulder room to be adequate and the luggage capacity is generous. The load bay offers 375 litres of space, which expands to a sizable 1 120 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats are folded down (longer and bulkier items are easily accommodated thanks to the flat floor). It’s also nice to know there are ample storage spaces for odds and ends, as well as sufficient cupholders and bottle holders in the door mouldings.
Price and warranty
The Suzuki Vitara 1.4T GLX is priced from R378 900 and is sold with a 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 4-year/60 000 km service plan.
The Vitara 1.4T GLX is an impressive product but its pricing may very well drive buyers to consider more affordable options in the market.
Suzuki’s 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is a real peach, so much so that it makes the (near range-topping) 6-speed GLX derivative positively shine in terms of on-road performance. More than that, the Vitara’s ride/handling balance remains a highlight and, combined with a tastefully updated and modernised cabin that is more than practical enough, the 1.4T GLX is a stronger offering than ever before. The concern, however, is at what cost?
The reality is that the new engine, combined with the higher specification of features, has resulted in a rather lofty price point for this derivative. In fact, the 1.4T GLX is now positioned at the upper end of the price spectrum in this segment... Its spec is admittedly comprehensive, but the Suzuki is now pricier than all its main rivals, including the Ford Ecosport, Renault Duster, Opel Crossland X (apart from the Cosmo) and Volkswagen T-Cross.
As a product, this Vitara is difficult to fault, but from a pricing perspective, it’s likely to be a push too far for some buyers, who may find it difficult to justify that level of outlay when there are viable alternatives available for less money. On the upside, the naturally-aspirated Vitara range still represents excellent value. If you can live without turbocharging, the Vitara is still very much a force to be reckoned with in this segment, especially considering that Suzuki has won the Brand of the Year title of the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank twice... and counting.