Suzuki was well ahead of the pack when it launched the original Vitara in 1988, being one of the first offerings in the compact-SUV segment.

The current-generation model was again one of the first models to compete in the now burgeoning segment, though it quickly gained a host of rivals as the market moved towards the high-riding hatchbacks.

Fast-forward to 2019, and the Japanese brand has given its top-selling crossover a mid-life refresh, complete with design changes and an array of active safety tech that previously wasn’t available in Australia, to keep it competitive in the strongly contested segment.

Here on test we have the flagship Vitara Turbo AllGrip.

Unique to the AllGrip is all-wheel drive, hill-descent control, a panoramic sunroof, and a sunglasses holder mounted in the ceiling up front. That’s on top of features included on the front-wheel-drive Turbo, which includes leather/suede seats with tyre-tread-like inserts, front and rear parking sensors, heated exterior mirrors, automatic LED headlights with blue lenses and high-beam assist, 17-inch alloy wheels with polished finish, rain-sensing wipers, and electric-folding side mirrors.

Rounding out the highlights are a 7.0-inch touchscreen with native satellite navigation along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear-view camera, climate-control air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, and LED daytime-running lights.

SAFETY

The Turbo models also gain autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control as part of the 2019 upgrade, which previously weren’t available at all.

Rounding out the safety suite are seven airbags (including driver’s knee), two ISOFIX child seat mounts on the outboard rear seats, and three top tether points.

The Vitara wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating with a 2015 date stamp based on local testing of the pre-facelift model. It’s worth noting the 2015 regime didn’t require active safety systems for a five-star rating.

Our tester’s Cool White pearl exterior paint is the only standard finish, with single-colour metallic finishes asking for another $500, while two-tone options (colour plus black roof) command $1250 extra.

INTERIOR

Inside it’s more of the same, with the familiar dashboard layout featuring a 7.0-inch central touchscreen positioned above the LCD climate-control display. The biggest difference you’ll notice is the soft-touch dash top, and the new leather/suede trim that features tyre-tread-like elements stitched into the seat inserts – it’s pretty funky.

The infotainment interface is fairly simple to navigate, with clear menus and a quadrant-style main menu that makes accessing basic functions rather simple.

The leather steering wheel feels good in the hand, and the analogue dials are nice and clear. However, there’s still no digital speedometer readout despite the colour TFT driver’s display. At least it displays the cruise-control speed, though.

Behind the second row is a 375L luggage area that expands to 1120L with the rear seats folded. It’s no standout in the booty arena, but it’s par for the class. A space-saver spare wheel lives under the boot floor.

ENGINE

Power in the Vitara Turbo models comes from a carryover 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 103kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm between 1500 and 4000rpm. In the case of our tester, it’s sent to an on-demand all-wheel-drive system with switchable modes through a six-speed torque converter automatic.

Being one of the growing number of turbocharged offerings in the class, the Vitara Turbo feels pretty punchy. Its outputs look fairly meek on paper, though acceleration off the line is quite enthusiastic – it also helps that the Suzuki weighs just 1235kg.

The responsive engine is coupled to a relatively smart transmission that shifts quickly and intuitively, and is also snappy to kick down when you need to make a quick dash.

FUEL EFFICIENCY

As for fuel consumption, we returned an indicated 7.5L/100km over 277km of mixed driving. Officially, Suzuki claims 6.2L/100km on the combined cycle. Using our trip computer reading as a guide, you can achieve a theoretical range of over 600km per fill of its 47L tank.

From an ownership perspective, the Vitara range is covered by a five-year, 140,000km factory warranty, provided the vehicle is serviced every six months/10,000km through the company’s five-year capped-price servicing program.

Want to know more? Call us on (02) 8545 8888.

Sourced CarAdvice.