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30 Year celebrations for the Suzuki Vitara

The newly facelifted Suzuki Vitara compact SUV arrives in New Zealand just months after the model celebrated three decades of success.

Now in its fourth generation guise, the Vitara is not only the second most popular Suzuki model sold locally but also one of the most enduring crossover style Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) cars on our roads.

Cumulative international Vitara sales have reached 3.8 million and the model is sold in 191 countries. Launched in New Zealand in 1988, the model was a trend-setter for what would become a burgeoning SUV market sector. Building on the earlier and smaller Suzuki Jimny 4WD, the Vitara came with a separate ladder-frame chassis, simple suspension and genuine off-road ability.

Thirty years ago the Vitara virtually had the compact, affordable SUV class to itself. With its true dual-purpose ability, motorists soon appreciated the vehicle’s chic body design and functionality. In 1998 Suzuki updated the Vitara to a larger body Grand Vitara offering its newly developed Drive Select 4WD transfer case which allowed drivers to respond to changing road conditions quickly by switching between two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive on the move.

Today the 2.4-litre 16-valve VVT engined Grand Vitara is still available in 3- and 5-door forms and in 2015 was joined by the 130 mm shorter, more road-oriented, monocoque platform 5-door Vitara, which has been a consistently strong seller.

Like its biggest brother, the Vitara has a convenient high body configuration, good ground clearance and generous 18.2 degree approach and 28.2 degree departure angles for easy travel when the going gets rough. The word Vitara originates from the English word “vital” and the nomenclature is highly appropriate given the Suzuki’s versatility and appeal to motorists with an active lifestyle.

Right from the initial development stage Vitara was designed with personalisation in mind. Diverse exterior colours and a range of design details enable owners to specify their Vitara to their individual tastes. Owners can choose colours for instrument panel trim, ventilation louvre rings, gearshift surround, fender garnish, and select a black roof paint option.

The 2019 model retains a traditional Vitara styling feature - the clamshell bonnet - and there are other hallmarks like the trapezoid-motif front bumper, kicked-up body side shape and roof line that slopes smoothly down towards the rear. To widen the car’s appeal in 2015, the Vitara was offered in both two- and four-wheel-drive forms, and a further boost came in mid-2016 with the debut of the additional turbocharged model boasting a substantial increase in engine power and torque.

“It is not surprising the Vitara is a highly successful model for Suzuki,” said Gary Collins, General Manager of Automobile Marketing for Suzuki New Zealand. “The model responds to hugely increased demands in terms of technology, economy and environmental performance so it satisfies a wide range of consumer tastes.”

“Suzuki has a long history of building hard-wearing, affordable compact four-wheel-drives and Vitara has built on this reputation and further broadened its consumer appeal,” he said. “Right from launch the accomplished Vitara earned acclaim for being a stylish design with compact, easy to manage dimensions, comfortable on-road performance as well as having competent off-road capability.”

Part of the Vitara’s admirable efficiency is its modest weight. The 1.6 litre JLX manual weighs a trim 1,075 kg while the more powerful four-wheel-drive Turbo is still a modest 1,235 kg. In spite of this, the model’s “total effective control” technology embodies computer-aided engineering and extensive use of high-tensile steel to achieve a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. The high power to weight ratio for the model also contributes to excellent driveability and fuel-efficiency.

Since introduction the Vitara has been a significant factor in Suzuki becoming the eighth largest car brand in the world, with total model annual sales of more than three million vehicles.