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Driven: Suzuki plans Vitara assault

Rebirth: Suzuki has high hopes for its Vitara SUV, with local boss Andrew Moore predicting monthly sales of 500 units once it sources adequate stock form the factory.

Reborn Suzuki Vitara arrives from $21,990 plus ORCs and is spoiling for a fight

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Suzuki logo12 Sep 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

SUZUKI’S “game-changing” Vitara has arrived in Australian showrooms to take on the top sellers in the booming segment, with the smash hit Honda HR-V and booming Mazda CX-3 crossovers square in its sights.

Speaking with media at the local media launch, Suzuki Australia general manager Andrew Moore talked up the Vitara’s potential volume in the busy compact-SUV segment.

“We want to once again be a leader in a category we invented,” he said.

“We know this car will be a game changer, not just for Suzuki but for compact motoring in the Australian automobile industry.

“In the early months, high global demand for Vitara will limit our supply with volumes around 300 a month. However, I am confident that with a focus on private sales we will be able to build beyond 500 a month to seriously challenge the bigger players in this segment.” While 500 sales per month is a strong number for the brand, it would still place it behind the HR-V and CX-3, which have already soared to 7297 and 7130 sales respectively so far this year to be two of the top sellers.

The numbers Suzuki is hoping to achieve would put it in direct competition with Volkswagen’s ageing Tiguan and the Subaru XV.

Suzuki already has an entrant in the small SUV segment – the S-Cross that shares a platform with the Vitara – but Mr Moore said there is room in dealerships for both models as they appeal to different buyers.

“S-Cross is more a crossover hatch, we see this (Vitara) as more of an SUV,” he said. “Younger customers like the adventurous design and go for Vitara, but some older customers may be more conservative and may choose the S-Cross style.” Mr Moore said the company was “excited” about the new customers Vitara will bring to the brand, and added that rather than losing S-Cross sales, Suzuki will increase its overall sales, thanks to the new model.

“There are maybe some customers who, 12 months ago, may have chosen an S-Cross that would now choose a Vitara however, we think we will have so many more customers in the Suzuki showroom that we will be able to maintain our S-Cross sales and add significant volume with Vitara,” he said.

“In essence, we will be growing our share of the SUV segment with two vehicles. And I think we will be growing it significantly with this car making a big splash in the marketplace.” Kicking off from $21,990 plus on-road costs, the Vitara undercuts the entry level HR-V from $24,990, as well as the similarly equipped mid-range CX-3 that is priced at $22,390.

Just two variants will be offered from launch – the two-wheel drive RT-S and four-wheel drive (AllGrip in Suzuki speak) RT-X. Mr Moore said he expects the 2WD variant to make up 75 per cent of sales.

The $21,990 entry variant is matched with a five-speed manual gearbox, while substituting a six-speed automatic transmission adds $2000 for a $23,990 price tag.

Suzuki is offering the RT-S with a driveaway price of $22,990 for the manual and $24,990 for the auto. Mr Moore said there was no specific end date for the driveaway pricing deal.

Topping the range is the 4x4 RT-X in automatic guise only, priced from $31,990 plus on-roads.

A 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol unit producing 88kW at 6000rpm and 156Nm at 4400rpm powers both variants. Suzuki Australia has not provided 0-100km/h figures.

In 2WD manual guise, the Vitara consumes 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres, rising to 6.0L when matched with the auto, while the 4x4 RT-X sips 6.3L/100km.

The manual figure edges out the Mazda CX-3 2WD manual Maxx, which consumes 6.3L/100km, as well as small hatches including the 1.8-litre Toyota Corolla Ascent manual hatch that consumes 7.0L/100km.

Suzuki Australia is “considering” a diesel engine that is on offer in Europe, according to Mr Moore, but given the low fuel consumption figures of the petrol engine, it is unclear if it will be introduced here.

The Vitara weighs in at 1075kg for the RT-S and 1185kg for the RT-X, and at 4175mm long 1775mm wide is 285mm shorter and 20mm narrower than a Mazda3 hatch.

Cargo space is 375 litres, well above the 264 litres offered by the Mazda CX-3, but off the pace of the cavernous 437 litres of the HR-V.

In terms of standard gear, the RT-S offers a multimedia system with sat-nav and reversing camera via a 7.0-inch touchscreen, seven airbags, cruise control, digital climate control, Bluetooth, i-Pod and USB connectivity, steering wheel audio controls, power windows, daytime running lights and 17-inch alloy-wheels.

Opting for the RT-X adds the AllGrip four-wheel drive system, Hill Descent Control, keyless entry and start, a panoramic sunroof, polished 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, auto-leveling automatic headlights, automatic wipers, electric folding mirrors, leather seats with suede inserts, and a sunglasses holder.

The all-paw system uses a feedback function to detect slippage or wheelspin and send more torque to the rear wheels, and users can select between four modes – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock – depending on the conditions.

Sport is best for “twisty roads”, according to Suzuki, with the system altering accelerator and torque characteristics at low and mid-range engine speeds for better engine response and cornering, while Snow uses 4x4 by default to ensure maximum traction and stability.

The suspension comprises MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, and the Vitara has a 185mm ground clearance, an 18.2-degree approach angle and a 28.2-degree departure angle.

Six body colours are available on the Vitara, including three hues that are offered with a contrasting black roof for $995 – Atlantis Turquoise Pearl, Horizon Orange and Savannah Ivory.

Suzuki is offering individualisation options for Vitara, including white or black front grille and fender garnishes and chrome body flourishes, while instrument panel and louvre rings that match the body colour are also available.

2015 Suzuki Vitara pricing*
RT-S $21,990
RT-S (a) $23,990
RT-X (a) $31,990
*Excluding on-road costs

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