Funky little family wagon: Suzuki Vitara 2015-18
A REFRESHED Suzuki Vitara rolled into showrooms in January, meaning enthusiasts of the small SUV have been trading in used examples as they tick over three years old.
Should you consider a preloved one? They're stylish, have impressive standard kit, are fun to drive and quite economical. Drop more dollars on an on-demand four-wheel drive example and it opens up basic muddy or sandy track adventures.
The last generation of Vitara - not to be confused with the baby SUVs of the late 80s and 90s - launched in 2015 as a smaller, cheaper alternative to the Grand Vitara.
The 2015-18 Vitaras have proved reliable, most still have some warranty remaining and owners, in general, are a satisfied bunch. You get five-star safety and there is enough rear seat and boot space for a small family.
These Vitaras hold their value so do the math first. A brand new example with classier cabin, better infotainment and safety, plus new five-year warranty (if serviced at Suzuki dealers) can be had from $23,990 drive-away. You'll be lucky to find any preloved jobs under $16,000, so see what your funds allow.
There's a great range among used listings, with choice of equipment grades, petrol and diesel engines, manual or auto transmissions and 2WD or 4WD.
Worth noting are grade names. The Queensland Suzuki distributor varies from the rest of the country, so the entry-level is the GL+ in the Sunshine State and the RT-S elsewhere.
In September 2015 the Vitara launched in RT-S and RT-X (GLX in Queensland) grades. Standard were satnav, rear camera, LED daytime running lights, 17-inch alloys, climate control aircon, cruise control, USB connectivity and Bluetooth. Impressive, all right.
The base model had the choice of manual or auto gearbox, while auto-only upper spec included Suzuki's AllGrip 4WD, suede/leather interior, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors and auto LED headlights. The latter was a chunky $10,000 more than the base model.
Both used a rather gutless 86kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder that returned an excellent 5.8L/100km with 2WD.
Funky colour options included turquoise, orange and ivory - these were standouts, especially with contrasting black roof.
In April 2016, the 103kW S Turbo (or GLX Turbo) arrived with more playful 1.4-litre turbo engine, auto and 2WD/4WD options. Major inclusions were Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto though), satnav, 17-inch black alloys, LED lights and leather/suede seats with red accented interior. The Turbo got a unique bright red body colour.
Completing the range in May 2016, the
RT-X Diesel (aka GL-X Diesel) 4WD arrived with incredible 4.9L/100km economy from its Fiat-built engine. It added a dual-clutch auto gearbox and desirable Apple CarPlay but its price - $35,990 - meant few were sold.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Reliability issues appear rare but it would be prudent to aim for Vitaras with impeccable service histories.
Initially, owners got a three-year/100,000km warranty and on later models this was extended to five-years/140,000km if serviced every six months/10,000km at a Suzuki dealer. With such a short time between services, some owners may have let this slip, potentially voiding that five-year warranty. Contact Suzuki with the VIN or registration number to check the warranty status. Each service costs about $250.
The Vitara is unquestionably good value but cabin plastics feel like budget jobs. Road testers and owners also note the need to give the doors and boot a good shove to close them properly.
The basic petrol engine lacks meaningful shove and owners say going up hills, especially with a few people on board, is a chore. Floor the throttle and the auto gearbox and engine take time to respond, noisily.
The turbo petrol is a more pleasing engine but be aware it requires costlier 95 RON fuel. Diesels are near impossible to find in the classifieds.
There have been isolated reports of rough automatic gearbox changes - on test, if there are strange noises, clunky shifts or long hesitations, it's best to walk away.
Some owners say infotainment screens have frozen or been problematic so test this item thoroughly. Favour cars with their built-in satnav recently updated through Garmin (there is a charge for this).
Vitaras have reasonable 185mm ground clearance and the AllGrip 4WD, where fitted, is very competent. However, these Vitaras were not made for serious off-roading.
Favour those that have had a sheltered city life. Dents underneath, fine scratches on the body or mud and sand throughout the cabin suggest a busy off-road existence.
Vitaras were recalled in February 2016 for rear axle bolts that could loosen or break and diesels went in November 2016 for a temperature sensor.
Great fun and good value, it's a small SUV with style and driving personality in spades. Entry-level Vitaras are still really well equipped but you need a Turbo to avoid gutless engine performance. Insist on a full service record and bargain hard. Used prices are holding strong so a new Vitara may make more sense.
BELINDA ECCLES: I bought my 2016 Turbo after owning a V6 previously. I wanted similar performance but with better fuel economy, and the Suzuki is excellent for that. I cart work stuff around and there's ample space with the rear seats folded. It's smooth and quiet to drive and I can zip around town and park easily. I've had no reliability issues, although servicing every six months is a pain when I'm without it for a day.
THE EXPERTS SAY
Suzuki's sales tally for this series Vitara was 16,400, of which less than 3 per cent were diesels. About one in eight was all-wheel drive and manuals accounted for about one in 12.
More than half the Vitaras are Turbo S grade and nearly 30 per cent are RT-S versions.
The RT-X is scarcest of all. For 2015, the RT-S manual ($21,990 new) is still worth $16,900. The slow-selling RT-X ($31,990 new) has held its value well and still fetches up to $25,350.
For 2018, the RT-S is worth $19,850 and the RT-X ($35,990 new) is valued at $32,750.
Small SUV rivals include the Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and Honda HR-V. Of those only the CX-3 retains better resale value than the Vitara, although the HR-V is very close for 2015 models. For 2018, the resale values of both the Mazda and the Honda are superior to the Vitara's. The Vitara depreciates at a slower rate than the ASX and Qashqai.
SUZUKI VITARA 2015-18
PRICE NEW $21,990-$35,990
SAFETY 5 stars
ENGINES 1.6-litre 4-cyl, 86kW/156Nm; 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo, 103kW/220Nm; 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 88kW/320Nm