ROAD TEST: Suzuki's tech-laden second gen Vitara GLX
LIFE used to be grand for the Vitara.
Before the SUV craze took hold, Suzuki was among the first to offer compact off-roaders that were actually able to tackle the tough stuff.
The Grand Vitara was a true performer and has long been a favourite for surfers chasing waves at isolated beaches.
Times have changed, and Suzuki has been forced to move with them. While this new grandless Vitara can handle getting off the bitumen, it's more akin to life's luxuries - which is more likely find favour with modern buyer expectations.
Updated Series II variants arrived earlier this year bolstered by a host of new safety equipment. Priced from less than $30,000 drive-away, the little Suzuki appeals with its optional two-tone colour scheme and a strong history of reliability.
The GLX variants are the range-toppers, and current deals start from $29,990 drive-away with a $1000 Coles/Myer gift card.
Those who don't have off-roading intentions (which is the majority of most drivers) can save about $4000 by choosing the front-wheel drive option.
Equipment levels of all GLXs remain the same, inclusive of 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lamps, seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, push-button start, driver's multi-information colour display and suede trimmed seats.
Two-tone paintwork amplifies the Vitara's personality and is worth the extra $1430 investment. There are options of going for a of basic white, silver or black, but the combination of a black roof with red, turquoise, ivory, grey or yellow areis particularly striking.
Warranty coverage is just three years or 100,000km, but it can be extended to five years or 140,000km by maintaining dealer capped- price servicing. Those service intervals are short by modern standards at six months or 10,000km, with the total price $2660 for 10 visits.
Here's where the key benefits of the Series II are delivered, with the likes of adaptive cruise control which can keep the Vitara a safe distance from vehicles in front while travelling on the highway, autonomous emergency braking that can apply the brakes if the driver doesn't react quick enough, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist, along with parking sensors front and back.
The Vitara maintains its five-star ANCAP rating awarded back in 2015 - whether it would maintain that now under much tougher criteria is uncertain, but the new additions certainly bring it up to speed with the competition.
Suede-trimmed seats, featuring white stitching and embossed with geometric patterns, along with a silver finish across the dash, improve the ambience.
All Suzukis (apart from the square-edge Jimny reincarnation) have adopted a similar curvy feel across the dash. Predominately black, the surfaces are easy to keep in good condition with plenty of after-sales sprays keeping them like new.
There are ample storage nooks and spots for keys, phones and other gear in an otherwise uncluttered environment.
Two knobs provide quick access to aircon controls, while the smartphone mirroring apps take the infotainment functionality to the next level.
While officially classed as a small SUV, the Vitara offers impressive family comfort and borders on the medium segment.
Boot space of 375 litres is only good for only a couple of bags, but the rear seats drop flat providing 710 litres of space for awkward-sized parcels or sports equipment.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is a zesty unit that is sprightly under power.
Whereas the base model has been criticised for being gutless, these Boosterjet engines are far more responsive.
The red "turbo” badging on the boot shouts its abilities, but don't expect your head to be thrust into the suede pews every time the right foot heads for the firewall. Power delivery is linear rather than abrupt.
Light steering helps ensure the Vitara is an easy drive with competent all-round performance.
Fuel consumption was close to forecasts from Suzuki, at 6.2 litres per every 100km using 95 octane premium unleaded.
Going off road sounds appealing but my chances of tackling the beaten track are slim. I'll save some coin and go with the front-wheel drive.
The two-tone option looks the goods, and depending on colour schemes it looks like a mini Range Rover Evoque without the price-tag.
HYUNDAI KONA STYLE $30,990 D/A
Funky little SUV with a current deal offering more than $3000 of accessories, this 2WD is motivated by a 2.0-litre 110kW/180Nm four-cylinder petrol. Another solid all-round performer, slightly smaller boot than the Vitara.
MAZDA CX-3 S-TOURING $29,885 D/A
One of the segment's biggest sellers, with good looks and solid specification list with power coming from a 2.0-litre 110kW/195Nm four-cylinder petrol. Extremely small boot at 264 litres, and not as roomy as the Suzuki.
AT A GLANCE
SUZUKI VITARA GLX 2WD
PRICE $29,990 drive-away (not bad)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/ 140,000km (good); $1540 for 3 years (pricey)
ENGINE 1.4-litre turbo 4cyl 103kW/220Nm (strong)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot warning, radar cruise (good)
THIRST 5.9L/100km (great)
SPARE Space-saver (not ideal)
BOOT 375L, 710L rear seats down (modest)