A Wheel Thing welcomes Suzuki to the garage, with the first of five in a row being the entry level Suzuki Vitara RT-S. It’s a 1.6L engine and five speed manual transmission combo driving the front wheels and with prices starting at just $23990, it’s a great way for a new driver to get out on the road. Here’s why.Suzuki’s Vitara range is part of a stable of cars that come from the niche Japanese automotive manufacturer. This particular vehicle, the RT-S, is, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, one of the most ideal cars that a recently licensed driver can get into to hone their driving skills.
Up front is a frugal four potter, with Suzuki claiming consumption of just 5.8L per 100 kilometres. A Wheel Thing backs that up, with 5.6L/100 km from 560 kilometres worth of most urban driving, from a 47 litre tank.No, it’s not a firecracker, with Suzuki reserving the fuse lighting for the 1.4 Turbo engine (which will be reviewed in August 2016). There’s 86 kilowatts at 6000 revs and a reasonable 156 torques at a highish 4400 revs, but not unexpected for this size engine. It’s partly why the manual transmission is “only” a five speed, not six, as the fifth gear ratio of 0.725:1 sees around 2800 rpm on the tacho at 110 kilometres per hour. That’s reaching the bottom limits of effectiveness for torque to twist a sixth ratio. Another positive which aids consumption is the light weight for the size of the car; just 1075 kilos kerb weight for the manual.
As such, it’s a free revving unit, if somewhat buzzy at high revs and from the line does need a bit of rowing through the gears. Happily, that’s not a chore as both the gear mechanism and clutch are smooth, well weighted and the pickup point becomes instinctive very quickly, again ideal for new drivers. Under way and around town, fifth is mostly fine, but some may find fourth a better choice. The dash screen does indicate what gear you’re in, unusual for a manual transmission. Finding some hills to climb such as the Great Western Highway or the zig zag for the Old Bathurst Road at the base of the Blue Mountains will see a need to drop back through the gears, down to first at one point on the zig zag whilst the highway climb should only need a drop to third.
The gear lever, as mentioned, is smooth in the move, with just enough notchiness in the swap between gates to give feel and feedback. Occasionally, however, it didn’t wish to find third from second, but this was moreso on a hurried change than a measured movement. In the H pattern it’s fitted with, Reverse is at bottom right, directly below fifth, and it took a few “wait a second” moments to remind the brain not to go for sixth where a six speed ‘box would normally have the hand move.The Vitara RT-S has a welcoming interior and a couple of unexpected equipment surprises as well, being an entry level vehicle. Design wise, it’s a clean look, with airvents being the user friendly twist and turn design, there’s some piano black plastic surrounding the seven inch touchscreen (complete with satnav and apps such as Apple CarPlay) sitting above the simple to follow aircon controls. The dash plastic has the familiar rippled look (with perhaps too much reflection into the windscreen), the cloth covered seats have manual adjustment only, power windows all round but only the driver’s window is Auto up/down.Speaking of the dash, the centre screen between the speedo and tacho is monochrome only and doesn’t show the speed as an option, whereas you will get instant and average fuel consumption, distance covered, external temperature and trip meter.You’ll also get a reverse camera, tilt and telescope adjustable steering wheel column, 2 ISOFIX child seat mounting points, and a headlight switch that is Off/parkers/on (no auto headlights, they’re found higher up the range) and just at driver’s right knee height is the switch for the additional halogen driving lights. Safety for the new driver is also assured, with seat side, curtain, front and driver’s knee airbags, traction and stability control, reverse camera and pre-tensioning seatbelts.Outside it’s recognisable as a Vitara, even with design hints from a decade’s ago model. Rectangular style headlights, halogen driving lights set deep in the front bumper, a “three box” profile, a compact body but with plenty of interior room and a cargo space just big enough for a week’s shopping. Sadly, you only get a space saver spare in the rear, rather than a full sizer.Sixe wise, what you get is 4175 mm of Vitara in length, spread across 1775 and 1610 mm for width and height, wrapping a 2500 mm wheelbase, with that providing a turning circle of just over five metres. That’s helped by a wider front track than the rear, at 1535 vs 1505 mm. What you also get is a slightly compromised cargo area, with only 375 litres available, increasing to 710 with the seats folded. BUT, it’s just big enough for a reasonable weekly shop for a family and just big enough for a weekend away. An added bonus is the lower than expected tail gate entry.Underneath the Vitara is the tried and true mix of McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension. It’s skittish and unsettled on some surfaces, with the rear moving left or right suddenly. It’s surfaces like road joins, some ripples etc and it’s easily controlled however. Another niggle is the rating of the dampers; they seem to be more tuned for hard absorption on short travel and soft for long travel, allowing the front and rear to feel as if they’re crashing down onto the bump stops.
Out on a straight and level road, it tracks well enough, with the Continental rubber, 215/55, wrapping gunmetal painted five spoke 17 inch alloys, doing a great job of holding on and helping the front end turn in nicely. Undulations are noticeable for a few moments before being damped out and there’s considerable road noise on coarser chip surfaces as well.
At The End Of The Drive.
As suggested at the beginning, the Vitara RT-S will make an ideal first car for a newly licensed driver. Safety features, room enough for four comfortably, a user friendly interior, an economical non turbo engine and a fluid manual transmission make the Suzuki Vitara RT-S a more than reasonable argument and at just under $24K the dollar factor has a solid case for as well.
For more details on the range: 2016 Suzuki Vitara range and contact your Suzuki dealership for details on warranty and servicing costs.