Just why is the Suzuki Vitara so popular in New Zealand? Mark Daniel found out as he test drove the new 2019 2WD turbo.
That might be a worry because he's a downtown-Auckland apartment dweller, and I'm a rural lifestyler from the heart of Waikato cow country. But he was right!
I smiled when I picked the car up; it was the self-same vehicle that caused the fuss on television -- Messrs Burling and Tuke sending a lackey on a mission at the boat ramp, which wasn't safe – ho hum.
In the flesh, this wagon – so-called 'estate' in the northern hemisphere – met expectations and a whole lot more, especially on a day trip of 700km from Hamilton to Hawera and back in weather ranging from abysmal to horrible, with heavy rain and high winds and the constantly changing SH3.
The 4-cylinder, 1968cc common rail diesel pushes out 140kW and 400Nm torque, despite the first impression that it isn't too lively, until you look at the speedo and see you're quickly into demerit point territory. So setting the cruise control at a safe 103km/h we ate up the kms to Te Kuiti and beyond with little fuss and a comfortable ride.
Then came the fun part: the Awakino Gorge, a great driver's road with short straights and fast-tightening bends. The ride of the Alltrack might be a little firm for some, but it epitomised the German brand for this writer. The seats are firm yet comfortable and supportive and the extendable seat squabs are great for the taller driver.
Pushed hard into the bends, the 4-motion, four wheel drive system kicked in, keeping the vehicle on track, while the body showed little roll and gave no cause for alarm. A quick stop for coffee at Mokau then it was over Mount Messenger, once again enjoying the twists and turns of the descent on the western side.
In Taranaki a few farm visits were followed by a trip out to Kapuni to see where they make diesel exhaust fluid; that magic liquid used in SCR systems in modern diesels was interesting as the Alltrack runs the same technology, and you need fill it only twice a year.
The standout for this driver, besides the stunning habanero orange paint, was the driver aids, typically logical from a German manufacturer and working well together to enhance the driving experience. 4Motion keeps things on course, electronic stability control allows you to push on in less-than-ideal conditions, while traction control, electronic diff lock and engine drag torque control keep things moving when you go off-road.
The 6-speed dual clutch transmission provided seamless changes, and a neat touch is found in the auto hold function of the electronic park brake. Once selected, and after bringing the wagon to a stop, the driver can take his foot off the brake pedal and the vehicle will hold firm, even on an incline; then application of the throttle gets things moving again – simple but effective.
The seats were leather and the multimedia system did all you would expect, though I should have listened when the dealer sales rep showed me the steering wheel controls; the electric tailgate was handy, especially once you'd worked out that pressing the VW roundel on the tailgate activated it.
In summary, and although the market seems to be clamouring for SUVs, the Alltrack must be worth a closer look for those who don't need to be in a seven seat shuttle but just need a vehicle with some room, off road capability, towing ability of 2200kg and fuel consumption averaging 5.5L/100km.