THE 2016 SUZUKI VITARA RT-X DIESEL ARRIVES AS THE FINAL PIECE IN SUZUKI'S COMPACT SUV RANGE.
Joining the petrol and turbo petrol Vitara variants, the RT-X diesel has an answer for buyers who do longer cross-country kilometres and even the occasional outback adventure (where diesel works best).
Smaller than it appears in photos, but every bit as robust as any in Suzuki’s back-catalogue of fun-size SUVs, the RT-X diesel could be the missing link in the compact SUV class.
Vehicle Style: Compact SUV
Price: $35,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 88kW/320Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo diesel | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.9 l/100km | Tested: 5.1 l/100km
Of course, the Vitara isn’t unique in offering a diesel engine in the compact SUV class, but it is somewhat rare, with only a limited number of so-called city SUVs providing a diesel alternative.
In Suzuki’s case the diesel engine comes loaded into the top-spec RT-X variant, meaning it comes standard with an automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive, as well as a few extra upscale touches to the interior.
It also comes with a not inconsiderable price-jump. A petrol RT-X is $4000 cheaper, and the recently added turbo petrol model is $3000 less in all-wheel-drive guise.
- Standard equipment: Leather and suede seat trim, single-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, dusk-sensing LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, reversing camera, cruise control, power-folding door mirrors, rear privacy glass, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen, AM/FM/USB, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, six-speaker audio
- Cargo volume: 375 litres minimum, 710 litres maximum, dual-level boot floor
Compared to the stylish flourishes of cars like the Citroen C4 Cactus and Mazda CX-3, the Vitara can feel a little plain on the inside.
The interior itself makes use of a lot of hard plastics topping the dash and doors, but they do at least have a look of robustness to them.
Suzuki has also cleverly installed a decor panel across the dash that can be easily removed and customised to an owner’s taste, with a range of coloured inserts available.
The infotainment system isn’t lacking for features either, with a 7.0-inch touchscreen taking care of smartphone connectivity including Apple CarPlay, as well as satellite navigation, set up in a four-zone that looks a lot like Ford’s Sync system.
Seats are covered in leather and suede-look cloth, and the standard features list is healthy enough to incorporate keyless start, climate control, and a panoramic sunroof, although the blind for the roof doesn’t do much to keep the sun at bay on scorching days.
While the design is simple, the execution is top-notch, there’s a quality look and feel to all the interior parts, roomy front seats and a back seat that is nowhere near as compact as you might think given the Vitara’s small footprint.
The boot is also fairly useful in the compact SUV class. At 375 litres it’s somewhere in the middle of its class, with a dual-layer floor to keep things out of sight and small-item pockets at each side.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 88kW/320Nm 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
- Transmission: Six-speed twin-clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion-beam rear
- Brakes: Ventilated disc front, solid disc rear
- Steering: Electric power steering, turning circle 10.4m
- Towing capacity: 1200kg braked, 400kg unbraked
Suzuki has answered the call of regional Australians and long-distance drivers with the Vitara diesel.
Not everyone needs or wants a diesel SUV, particularly one this compact, but for those who want to make the best of the low-down torque and frugal highway fuel consumption, the Vitara diesel hits that particular nail on the head.
From 1.6 litres the Vitara generates 88kW and 320Nm, or, for comparison sake, the power output is similar to the 1.6 litre petrol Suzuki, yet the torque output is a handy 100Nm more than the petrol engine of the Vitara Turbo.
That translates to strong, hardworking, yet effortless torque. Load the car up with a full compliment of passengers and the diesel Vitara hardly breaks a sweat.
While the engine itself is hardly a road-rocket, there’s little complaint about the Vitara Diesel’s pace from standstill. It’s competent enough and easily swift enough to keep out of trouble in the grind of urban traffic.
Truly though, this little diesel engine is at home on the open road. Highway cruising sees the Vitara Diesel using scant amounts of fuel, and our mixed driving fuel figure of 5.1 l/100km is refreshingly close to Suzuki’s 4.9 l/100km claim.
The only drivetrain available to go with the diesel engine sees it backed by a six-speed twin-clutch automatic and coupled to all-wheel-drive.
The auto itself is a fine unit, although from time to time it can lunge and stumble slightly at very low speeds, like parking, or three-point turns. Other than that it’s smooth, sensibly programmed, and mostly unobtrusive.
Thanks to all-wheel-drive, the little Vitara can also venture a little way off road - no, it isn’t a rough and ready fire-trail scrambler, but for crossing sodden, muddy paddocks, the hard working all-wheel-drive system is entirely at home.
In conditions where the Vitara, by rights, should’ve run out of ability, it plugged through in our hands, and with a set of more aggressive tyres could be a surprisingly competent little adventure wagon.
Its also a fairly light car compared with some of its competitors, that’s part of the reason why, back on sealed roads, the Vitara feels pert from behind the wheel.
Feeling more like a road-ready hatch on tarmac and through the bends, the Vitara is a refreshing reminder that Suzuki, despite being a relatively small company, can still put some of the industry’s behemoths to shame when it comes to driver engagement.
Even refinement doesn’t suffer. At highway speeds, wind and road noise are decently low, and it's only under load that the diesel engine’s rattle seeps into the cabin.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - The Vitara range scored 35.79 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2016
Safety features: Seven airbags (dual front, dual side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee) front height adjustable seatbelts with load limiting pretensioners, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, hill hold (auto only), hill descent control, and a reversing camera.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
If you must have a compact diesel SUV then there’s a few cars that should be on your list: like Mazda CX-3 with brings a stylish edge to the small SUV class, but lack practicality on a few areas. The Mitsubishi ASX ticks the practicality box, but it’s getting to be a fairly old vehicle now, and the dynamics and interior reflect that.
Skoda offers the boxy Yeti Outdoor, with a diesel engine, all-wheel-drive, and a hugely roomy feel, while Peugeot also uses the Outdoor name on its 2008 (although with a manual transmission only it won’t suit all tastes).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Suzuki Vitara RT-X Diesel is a very appealing package - adept both on the road and a short way off it, it is comfortable, frugal, and simple to operate.
There is one issue with it however, and why it doesn't make the grade as a four-star buy.
With a $35,990 (plus on-roads) list price, the Vitara Diesel is one of the most expensive mainstream small SUVs on the market, meaning its success will be limited where it really deserves to thrive.
Not only that, but some high-end safety features, things like autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring aren’t offered (the Vitara nonetheless holds a 5-Star ANCAP rating, so it’s not an unsafe choice).
That said, while still a stellar little SUV, unless you really need that diesel grunt, the petrol powered Vitara Turbo might be a better (and certainly more cost effective) choice.
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