2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S review long term
The Suzuki Vitara is a small SUV with a big history. Follow our weekly updates as we test our 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S over the next three months.
Week 13: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 300
- Light weight
- Strong build
- Maneuverability and handling
- Lack of power
- Try-hard infotainment unit
- Space saver spare
Week 12: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 190
EARLIER IN THE TEST we said we’d see how the Vitara works as an offroad vehicle. That’s now been done, with video, and you can read about it here.
In the meantime, isn’t it handy to have a small car which can do this?
As a comparison, the same sized tyres and wheels also fitted into the back of our long-term test i30:
The i30 is the bigger vehicle, 4300mm long to the Vitara’s 4175, and the widths are 1780 and 1775. Both handy load-carriers, but the Vitara is slightly higher which generally makes loading a touch easier. We’ll compare an SUV against a roadcar shortly.
Week 11: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 220
THIS WEEK let’s talk about specifications. Like most cars, the Suzuki Vitara has plenty of them. Here are the ones you need to know about:
- Power and torque – not as useful as you may think, but nevertheless gives an indication of how fast the car will accelerate and how hard the engine has to work. Must always be looked at with the number of gears and vehicle weights. We have more on why power and torque is not all that important. Our Vitara RT-S has 86kW @ 6000 rpm and 156Nm of torque @ 4400 rpm. The turbo 1.3L version has 103kW / 5500rpm and 220Nm @ 4000 rpm, so more power and torque at a lower RPM. This would imply better acceleration and driveability.
- Weight – the less the better, and in the case of the Vitara, there’s commendably little off it, a mere 1075 to 1235kg depending on trim, engine and drive train. The heaviest car is of course the turbo AWD in the highest trim level.
- 5 speed manual, 6 speed auto – the more the gears, the better able the engine is to stay in its best power or torque bands, and the more fuel efficient it is and the quicker the acceleration.
- Two wheel drive, all wheel drive – whether the front or all wheels are driven. Two wheel drive is cheaper, lighter and more fuel efficient, but all wheel drive is a better drive and offers more offroad/dirt road capability.
- Fuel tank capacity – the bigger the tank, the longer you go without refills. The tank size is 47L.
- Fuel consumption – lower the better. The combined cycle (freeway and suburban) is quoted, and you can add 20% to that for real-world figures. The RT-S’s figure is 6.0L / 100km, and the others in the range vary from 5.9 to 6.2
- Front and rear disc brakes – disc brakes are important because they are more effective than the older drum brakes, less likely to fill with mud and look better.
- Torsion beam rear suspension – this is a cheap but effective rear suspension that uses a single beam between both rear wheels, not as good as fully independent. However…as with most suspension systems the proof is in the driving, and the Vitara handles very nicely indeed.
- Towing capacity – 1200kg – how much the car can tow if the trailer has brakes. If there’s no brakes it’s 400kg.
- Traction control and stability control – fully explained here.
- Steering column adjustment – tilt and telescopic. This means it can be adjusted up and down, and in and out. Some cars are up and down only.
- Keyless entry (RT-X and above) – once you’ve tried keyless it’s hard to go back!
- Speakers x 4, tweeters x 2 – a tweeter is a small speaker designed for the higher notes. You probably wouldn’t be able to hear much of a difference, but it’s nice to have it. The higher end models have the two tweeters.
Here are some of the specs that are supplied but are of no use at all to new car buyers. If you don’t already know what they are then don’t bother find out.
- Valves, bore and stroke, compression ratio, gear ratios, rack and pinion steering
Week 10: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 180
THIS WEEK attention is front and centre, where the driver will be spending most of their time.
What we have here is a nicely balanced, functional interior that won’t win any beauty awards, but on the other hand there aren’t any major mistakes like design brainfades or horribly mismatched colours.
There’s two clocks, one in the dash, and the central analogue one between the airvents. The infotainment unit has been covered below, and below it is, happily, the simple controls for the heating and cooling. There’s a USB port for smartphones, and a 12v socket. A small cubby hole is provided for your phone or other small items, and there’s a couple of drinks holders plus door pockets. There are a few controls on the steering wheel, but the phone buttons look like an afterthought. Everything falls easily to hand, as it should in a smaller vehicle.
Overall, practicality is not bad, somewhere just about average, but could be a touch better. The storage areas and drinks holders could be slightly larger, the volume control is touchscreen not a dial, and to operate the dash display on two stalks is a bit old-school. Still, it’s certainly a liveable interior.
And you can spice it up too. The dash panel trim and vent/clock surrounds are easily replaceable:
Suzuki dealers can do this for you, or any panel shop could easily change the colours of your existing trim including that bit around the gearshift. It’s a nice personalisation touch, and there’s a few more like it for Vitara owners so you can keep your car’s look fresh.
Week 9: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 270
IN AUSTRALIA, even a front-wheel-drive SUV is likely to tackle dirt roads at some point in its life. I don’t know the history of our long-term Vitara, but that point has certainly been reached during our test.
As you might expect from reading prior updates, the Suzuki is pretty decent on dirt roads. The suspension handles potholes well, and keeps the car pointing where the driver intends. The Vitara is no rally car, but it’s a competent enough dirt-road machine.
This photo clearly shows the back end rolling more than the front. That’s by design, and it helps combat understeer. You see the same thing in hot hatches.
Here we have the vehicle cornering left, and see how the suspension compresses:
The two photos above show a relatively soft suspension which is what you want for dirt roads, yet body roll is not excessive due to the light weight construction, so kind of best of both worlds. Yes, the lightness has been mentioned before, but the thing is, lightness pays off in so many ways – fuel consumption, handling, braking and more – that it tends to be a recurring theme.
The stability control is not intrusive, but will kick in if you really push. Basically, it only does what it needs to, and the car is inherently composed so it doesn’t need to do much.
The main criticism on dirt roads is shown below:
A corrgutated climb. Here the Suzuki struggles to put even its rather mediocre power to the ground, although that’s a problem with many vehicles, particuarly those that are two-wheel-drive, and even more so those that are front-wheel-drive. You can find the same scrabbling for traction if you power hard out of looser tight corners, but that’s easily compensated for by the driver.
Overall, no concerns with the Vitara on rough roads – it’s stable, easy to drive and comfortable – but it’s not a rocketship or chuck-it-around-for-fun rallycar.
Week 8: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 150
THIS WEEK we’re doing something you should hopefully never need worry about, and that would be changing a wheel. Modern tyres are far more puncture-resistant than those of yesteryear, and it’s not hard to find a young driver who has never had a puncture. But tyres are fallible, and remain the single most likely component on a car that would fail and leave you stranded. This is particularly true of the Vitara which, as a Suzuki SUV, is more likely to be used in remote areas and on dirt roads.
Unfortunately, the Vitara only comes with a space-saver spare. Here’s photos so you can see just how inadequate the things really are.
The overall diameter is appreciably smaller, the construction is weaker, the speed and load ratings are smaller. These really are just for light duties around town, hence the 80km/h speed limit, and the warning the vehicle will “handle differently”, which is another way of saying “worse” or “with reduced safety”.
The fix is to simply throw the space saver spare as far away as possible, and replace it with a full sized spare. Unfortunately, most cars don’t have the space for a full-sized spare due to its greater width and diameter. And at first glance, that would appear to be true of the Vitara, which can handle the diameter of the tyre but not its width.
The solution is simple, and there was a hint last week. The Vitara has a clever two-level floor system, and all you have to do is put in the topmost false floor, under which the spare has plenty of space. But there are a couple of disadvantages. One is that you lose access to the tie-down points, something that could be fixed easily enough by a handyman. The other is this:
That’s the lock-in screw which holds the wheel firmly in place. It isn’t long enough for the full-sized wheel, so you’ll need to get another one…check your local hardware shop for options.
While it is not good that the Vitara has a space saver, it can at least take a proper, full-sized spare without too much fuss. But if all you’re doing is around town trips it probably isn’t worth the hassle and the slight loss of storage space. If however you plan on anything resembling longer trips out of town, then even in 2016 a full-sized spare is what you want.
Week 7: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 200
WE PREVIOUSLY looked at our little Suzuki’s boot space – now onto the rear-most seats. These are a fairly simple 40/60 split with the ability to fold the base flat. This is what it looks like:
The fact both seats flick forwards is good, and bonus marks for the 40/60 split. However, there’s no clever tumble-forwards system or innovative use of space like we found in another small vehicle, the Honda Jazz.
While on the subject of the interior, here’s what the doors look like:
The front door has a single door pocket with a split section for a drinks bottle, and there’s a small area above the handle to store small items like carpark cards. The rear door just has a drinks bottle holder, and the same sort of small area.
Overall though, considering the boot layout (covered 2 weeks back), when we consider the size and cost of the vehicle, the Vitara is a bit above average for use of interior space, and usefully so too. It’s certainly not a car that oozes style, but there’s a certain attraction in its no-frills practicality.
Last week we said we’d go offroading. Well, we did, at the Werribe 4X4 Grounds, where we drove the Vitara pretty much everywhere. That’s where the title image is from, and there will be more later on the subject including video. Suffice to say this writer was much impressed with a two-wheel drive car that doesn’t have low range…
Week 6: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 450
THE VITARA has been on a longer trip this week, acting as a packhorse to take us to a field day for 4WD novices. Getting there involved a long country drive so we can report on the Vitara’s capability as a cruiser.
The lack of power mentioned earlier is even more apparent out in rural areas, and overtakes have to be very carefully considered, even if the engine works as hard as it can and the gearbox does its best to help. We timed a 0-100km/h run which was 11.5 seconds with just one person in the car, so not exactly modern-car fast.
The cruise control is easy to use and you get a display on the dash to tell when you it is activated, but no target-speed display. Freeway work is averagely quiet, but one persistent issue is the slightly too light steering which is too easily disturbed by bumps. On the positive side there is the nicely balanced handling, the light weight and good suspension design mean grip is never wanting in the corners so progress can be made in the twisty sections. This time the Vitara had a bootful and rear seatful of cargo, plus two occupants yet it displayed the same responsiveness that Suzuki are known for.
We also have a fuel consumption report. With mostly one person, sometimes two or three, around the ‘burbs and a bit of freeway the car returns an average 6.9L/100km (once 6.8 and once 7.0, same km run), as measured manually. The on-board fuel computer is in this case pretty accurate. That’s very good fuel consumption for a car of this size, particularly an SUV, and yet again Suzuki deserves plaudits for keeping the car lightweight which would have a lot to do with its efficiency.
There’s also an update on a previous observation. We said the car had a momentary hesitation when pulling away, and we think we’ve figured out why that is. Like many new cars, the Vitara has a hill hold assist function which applies the brakes on inclines. You need to apply a little throttle to move the car off. What’s happening is that even on extremely slight inclines the hill assist function is kicking in, and that’s what appears to hold the car back. On dead flat ground it’s fine. Hill hold systems shouldn’t operate on such slight inclines, but it seems to be a logical explanation for what we observed.
Now back to our drive. On the return journey home we diverted via some forest tracks. Now this is always a bit risky in a small SUV, and especially so in a two-wheel-drive version, but I knew the tracks and had the gear so off we went.
The Vitara is not a real offroader, but it certainly is comfortable enough on dirt tracks, and has more clearance than a roadcar so drainage ditches like this can be negotiated slowly.
There were a couple of sections steeper than you’d find on normal roads and the Suzuki handled them without complaint. However, this stopped us:
A treefall, with a bypass track that looked passable enough but had hidden holes in the grass too deep for the Vitara’s limited clearances. I didn’t have a chainsaw to cut the tree away as should have been done instead of making a new track.
So we edged in to the bypass, but the nose touched so we backed away and took another route out. Incidentally, we could have done that track the opposite way which would have seen a steep descent then we’d have found the tree…and then our path would have been blocked, with the only exit back up the hill or building the bypass track to make it passable. As it was, our route in was flat and every step of the way I was looking at the track making sure we didn’t drive anywhere that we couldn’t get out of if we turned around, including if the weather turned wet and made the track slippery.
This is what you have to do when you venture off the beaten path, and while the Vitara isn’t designed for really rough terrain it’s certainly a much better choice for country driving than the equivalent-sized small car.
Next week we plan to do a bit more offroading…
Week 5: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 190
THIS WEEK we’re going to look at the back of the car, as vehicles like this need to be able to carry useful loads.
Here’s the basics:
That’s a nice flat floor of 760mm deep and 1030mm wide, not bad for a car of this size. There’s also three child tethers in the correct place, which is halfway up the back of the second row seats. This means they are easy to access, and don’t get in the way of the driver’s view like roof-mounted versions, and don’t get in the way of cargo in the back either. The Vitara also has two ISOFIX child restraint points.
The centre seatbelt is roof-mounted, but in a small car that isn’t a 7-seater this is no problem. A removeable parcel shelf is also pretty standard.
There are a couple of good design features which start to set the Vitara apart. That floor lacks tie-down points, but it’s actually possible to lift it up:
There’s even a slot to keep it this angle. Now we have a nice little storage bay some 130mm deep, so you’ve got the flexibility of removing it for one big storage area, or keeping little-used items underneath. Or things you just want hidden from view if the parcel shelf is also removed. And there we have four strong tie-down hooks which are nicely positioned in the corners of the boot.
The boot materials are covered with the usual automotive carpet which is reasonably easy to clean, but will never be as simple as a plainer, plastic or rubber material. A few other points in the captions below:
Overall, the Vitara is above average in the back. Spacious for its size, with well thought out options.
Next week we’re going on a longer run!
Week 4: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 167
A BRIEF update this week as we’ve covered the Vitara’s Mirrorlink infotainment system in detail here. The first impressions from last week are reinforced – nippy but lacking power, well built but basic. One feature we like in this house, as our other cars are either lowered sportscars or lifted 4WDs, is the Vitara’s blend of both. There’s never any need to worry about scraping kerbs or driveways as in the 4WD, but we’ve got the manouverability of the sportscar. It’s easier to park than either too, with a reversing camera.
Our use this week has been very short trips for local errands. We even like the Vitara for shopping. It’s less than 4.2m long, is a bit higher than normal so you see out better than a roadcar, and the boot is raised a bit higher too. As we said last week, cars like this make you wonder why the anyone buys the equivalent sized roadcar.
Week 3: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 541
SO FAR we’ve had an overview of the Vitara history, a story of the drive from Adelaide to Melbourne and now it’s time for my first impressions.
Our Vitara doesn’t look much different to the rest of the small SUVs, but its blockier styling is a little more distinctive than the average. The two-tone versions (see end of this post) look much better in our view.
Step inside, and it’s the usual Suzuki basic-but-functional fare. The doors are lightweight and feel it, but as this is a Suzuki that doesn’t mean the car isn’t well built or robust – many people judge car quality by the doors, which is fundamentally wrong. Carmakers know this by the way and spend time on the door-clunk design. Anyway, back to the Vitara. The infotainment unit is one of the newer ones that connect to your smartphone, and we’ll have more on that in a future update but for the moment we’ll say it is pretty useful, once you get to know it and above average for a budget car. One tip – if you’re running Android you’ll need special apps – two we use are RockScout which works for Spotify, and Glympse which is a user-location tracking service. More apps here -> http://www.mirrorlink.com/apps.
The Vitara is also a good onroad drive, once you get it rolling. The handling is sharp for the class, as you expect from Suzuki even though they don’t go on and on about it like other manufacturers. The car is whisper-quiet at very low speeds, and not much noisier once in cruise. But getting to cruise speed is a weak spot, because the engine is good for only 86kW and 150Nm. Even moderate acceleration in the ‘burbs will have the revs up past the 4000 mark, and that’s not the fault of the six-speed auto which is smooth and intelligent, it’s just too few spices in the engine’s curry. There is a turbo Vitara on the way and that should fix the problem, giving the Vitara the power it so richly deserves. The power problem is made worse once four people are in the car – the handling is still great, but the engine sweats. There’s also a minor criticism when pulling away from a stop – a momentary lag just for a brief split second rather than instant responsiveness.
That said, the Vitara is quite usable, fun even around town. A big factor in the handling is the light weight, a mere 1100kg or so. Compare this to the much smaller Mazda MX-5 which is only a two-seater and weighs 1057kg for the 2-litre automatic, something Mazda are endlessly proud of, and you can see just how well Suzuki have kept the weight down. Yet the Vitara is far from unusably small and doesn’t feel it, with decent interior room and a spacious cargo area for its size. At this price point, you wonder why the likes of mid-sized cars such as the Corolla are sold, as this one handles better, sips fuel and doesn’t get upset by dirt roads. Sadly, there’s only a space-saver spare, of which more later.
The light weight and small engine also means that the fuel consumption meter is pretty good for this sort of small SUV. The odometer is reading 2116 km, the car has travelled 541 km since it’s last fill so that’s 7L/100km and according to the trip computer there’s another 130 km to go, so we should see well over 600km out of each fill – and that’s with mixed suburban trips that involved very little freeway work.
So far, so good. More next week.
Week 2: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 800
First impressions; I pulled the auto shifter back to what I thought was Drive, took off and wondered why it was stuck in first gear. The Vitara has selectable gears, but via paddles only, and I’d pulled the shifter all the way back to M (Manual control) instead of Drive. There’s no additional gated area for manual control via the shifter. A small thing, but muscle memory had me pulling the shifter back all the way on a few more starts before I remembered it wasn’t setup like most other automatic shifters I’ve used and Drive is not at the bottom!
After setting the sat nav for Melbourne, fiddling with the seat, mirrors, temperature and Bluetooth off I was without much fuss. The drive to Melbourne took a good ten hours including stops, so the Vitara and I had time to get to know each other without anyone else for company. Did it make a good first impression? Mostly yes. Apple Carplay recognised my iPhone 6s immediately and just worked without any fiddly setup, but wasn’t flawless in its operation, cutting out Spotify after a phone call, then randomly disconnecting Carplay while using Spotify if I went into an area of bad reception. The Bluetooth setup was easy but the real star of the infotainment unit was the sat nav with the voice giving clear warnings well in advance of the next turn and repeating at appropriate intervals. Good clear voice directions are wonderful in an unfamiliar setting where the last thing you want to be doing is taking your eyes off the road to visually confirm what it is asking you to do.
The driver’s seat was comfortable for the long trip, and the car delivered a nice cold stream of aircon which got a decent workout in the 37’C heat. The front seats also recline back nicely flat which made a powernap quite comfortable (read more on powernap technique here). There’s also little storage spaces scattered throughout the centre console which turned into a chips, gravy container and bottle of water holder. Can’t be too picky about what’s available for lunch on a drive like that!
So onto how it drove. A little underpowered and quite revvy to get moving, but at low speeds and at idle – eerily quiet, almost electric vehicle quiet, it caught me questioning whether I was tired or whether I had actually started the car! Once up to speed the lack of power isn’t too much of a concern, but under cruise control when increasing speed I was met with quite abrupt and harsh downshifts from the automatic transmission. We’ll report back later whether that’s just the brand new transmission running in, or whether it’s the way it behaves normally.
The car had three-quarters of a tank of fuel and I did fill it (total a tiny 47L when full) but probably could have made it back on fumes with just the three-quarters of a tank. There was one-quarter of a tank left when I got home. Impressive!
All up an uneventful drive, as it should always be, and proof the Suzuki can cruise.
Week 1: OUR CAR 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S PRICE $23,990+ORC KM since last update 800
SUVS ARE NOW ONE of the most popular types of vehicle on the Australian market, with just about every manufacturer offering at least one model. Suzuki is no exception, but unusual because they are no latecomers to the market. As we recount in our detailed history of Suzuki, the company started making 4WDs way back in 1970 with the LJ10. That model is still going today as the Jimny Sierra, which we comprehensively road tested in 2015. Here’s what it looks like:
The Jimny was always going to be a tiny, off-road-focused vehicle so to Suzuki’s eternal credit they didn’t morph the car into something different, but created a new vehicle in 1998, the larger Vitara. And here’s an original Vitara:
The Vitara was also known in other markets as the Sidekick and Escudo. A variant of the Vitara was and is the slightly larger (400mm longer) Grand Vitara.
Here’s the current Vitara range rundown and brief specifications:
PRICING (plus onroads)
|Grade||5-speed Manual||6-speed Automatic|
- Engine – 4 cylinder 1.6L 86kW @ 6000rpm / 156Nm @ 4400rpm
- Transmisson – 6 speed auto (5 speed manual optional on RT-S 2WD)
- Seats – 5
- Weight – 1075-1185kg
- Gross Vehicle Mass – 1730kg
- Fuel consumption combined cycle – 5.8L/100km (2WD man), 6.0 (2WD auto), 6.3 (AWD), all on 91 RON
- Fuel tank capacity – 47L
- Turning circle – 10.4
- Ground clearance – 185mm
- Wheels: all alloy, space-saver spare
- Towing – not rated
- ANCAP safety – not yet rated, 5 star in Euro NCAP
- Bluetooth and smartphone integration including satnav. We’ll have more on this soon as we figure it out.
- Cruise control
- ISOFIX child seats (x 2)
- Reversing camera
RT-X specific features
- Keyless entry
- Front and rear parking sensors
- LED headlights
- Rain sensing wipers
- All wheel drive
Our test car
Today we begin our long-term test of the car in the title image, which is a 2016 Suzuki Vitara RT-S six-speed automatic, the least expensive of the Vitaras excepting the 5-speed manual version. It is brand new, with only 700km on the clock when we picked it up in Adelaide… and then drove it straight to Melbourne. That’s going to be next week’s story, but in the meantime:
So now we have one, what do we intend to do with it? We’ll drive it everywhere we can, get lots of opinions from different potential owners, but it’s only a 2WD so we won’t go offroad in it. Hah, only kidding, of course we need to see how far a 2WD SUV can go, so that’ll be on the cards too. Check back every week to see how it’s going, and feel free to ask questions in the comments. Every so often I’ll also pick something from the spec sheet and explain what it means, as we did for the Hyundai i30 long-term test.