The Suzuki Vitara has a new engine that shakes things up; it is zippy on expressways and surefooted around bends
Vitalised Vitara The new design of the Vitara’s grille has six short vertical slates that look like they are radiating from the Suzuki logo and the instrument cluster gets a new full-colour LCD display between the speedometer and tachometer. ST PHOTOS: TOH YONG CHUAN

The gorgeous girl with an amazing personality whom you want to go to the prom with is unavailable. What would you do?

Well, you could ask another who may be less attractive, but still has the same dazzling character.
This is perhaps the dilemma that Suzuki fans are facing now. The most desirable car in Suzuki's line-up is arguably the Swift Sport.
But the car, which was launched overseas more than two years ago, is not available here through Champion Motors, the official Suzuki agent.
Champion, however, has the Vitara, an SUV (sport utility vehicle) which looks nothing like the Swift Sport, but has the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic gearbox. Up till now, the fourth-generation Vitara was rather dull with a humdrum 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine. It took 13 seconds to reach 100kmh - longer than a Toyota Corolla Altis.
The new engine shakes things up.
SPECS / SUZUKI VITARA
Price: From $98,900 with COE
Engine: 1,373cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with paddle shift
Power: 138bhp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 220Nm at 1,500-4,400rpm
0-100kmh: 9.5 seconds
Top speed: 200kmh
Fuel consumption: 5.9 litres/ 100km
Agent: Champion Motors
Power goes up to 138bhp (from 118bhp) and torque rises to 220Nm (from 156Nm), allowing the car to reach 100kmh from standstill in a more respectable 9.5 seconds. Top speed has also risen to 200kmh, from 180kmh.
Its other changes are cosmetic. The grille gets a new design, with six short vertical slates that look like they are radiating from the Suzuki logo instead of the previous two long, horizontal slates.
The front bumper has been redesigned. So have the headlamps and tail-lamps, which are now equipped with LEDs.
Inside, the instrument cluster gets a new iPhone 5-sized full-colour LCD display between the speedometer and tachometer.
ADVERTISING
The sole variant is front-wheel driven. This is not a deal breaker as most buyers of crossovers are unlikely to venture off paved roads.
And it is on the tarmac that the Vitara excels. Peak torque is accessible from a low engine speed and extends to the mid-range, which means the car remains punchy at all times. Over a one-day test-drive, I found myself hitting unpublishable speeds in a flash.
The six-speed gearbox is quick-shifting, with steering-mounted paddles boosting the level of involvement for enthusiastic drivers.
On expressways, the Vitara is zippy - it slips effortlessly into gaps in the traffic and keeps pace easily with faster-moving vehicles.
And it is surefooted around the bends in Mount Faber Road and Neo Tiew Road, with car-like damping.
The driving position is spot on, with high all-round visibility. The panoramic sunroof makes the cabin more expansive.
The squarish, nearly flat boot with rear seats folded down is appealing to both families and active singles.
Over a 130km drive with about 75 per cent on expressways, the car consumed 6.6 litres of petrol per 100km - close to the official figure of 5.9 litres/100km.
But what is less appealing is the locally fitted Clarion infotainment unit, which has a jet-black frame that disrupts the cohesiveness of the cockpit.
The Vitara belongs to a competitive crossover segment. Its immediate rivals are the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota CH-R.
The Vitara is more expensive than the HR-V, about the same price as the 2-litre CX-3, but cheaper than the Qashqai and CH-R.
Performance-wise, it matches the CX-3 and is quicker on the sprint than the rest.
Overall, the Vitara is a cheaper and faster car than its rivals. This makes it rather attractive for those looking for a compact crossover.
But the biggest draw for me is that the Vitara reminds me of the Swift Sport. It is like a more practical version of the hot hatch, which makes it not too shoddy an alternative to the unavailable pocket rocket.
Well, you could ask another who may be less attractive, but still has the same dazzling character.

This is perhaps the dilemma that Suzuki fans are facing now. The most desirable car in Suzuki's line-up is arguably the Swift Sport.

But the car, which was launched overseas more than two years ago, is not available here through Champion Motors, the official Suzuki agent.

Champion, however, has the Vitara, an SUV (sport utility vehicle) which looks nothing like the Swift Sport, but has the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic gearbox. Up till now, the fourth-generation Vitara was rather dull with a humdrum 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine. It took 13 seconds to reach 100kmh - longer than a Toyota Corolla Altis.

The new engine shakes things up.

Power goes up to 138bhp (from 118bhp) and torque rises to 220Nm (from 156Nm), allowing the car to reach 100kmh from standstill in a more respectable 9.5 seconds. Top speed has also risen to 200kmh, from 180kmh.

Its other changes are cosmetic. The grille gets a new design, with six short vertical slates that look like they are radiating from the Suzuki logo instead of the previous two long, horizontal slates.

The front bumper has been redesigned. So have the headlamps and tail-lamps, which are now equipped with LEDs.

Inside, the instrument cluster gets a new iPhone 5-sized full-colour LCD display between the speedometer and tachometer.

The sole variant is front-wheel driven. This is not a deal breaker as most buyers of crossovers are unlikely to venture off paved roads.

And it is on the tarmac that the Vitara excels. Peak torque is accessible from a low engine speed and extends to the mid-range, which means the car remains punchy at all times. Over a one-day test-drive, I found myself hitting unpublishable speeds in a flash.

The six-speed gearbox is quick-shifting, with steering-mounted paddles boosting the level of involvement for enthusiastic drivers.

On expressways, the Vitara is zippy - it slips effortlessly into gaps in the traffic and keeps pace easily with faster-moving vehicles.

And it is surefooted around the bends in Mount Faber Road and Neo Tiew Road, with car-like damping.

The driving position is spot on, with high all-round visibility. The panoramic sunroof makes the cabin more expansive.

The squarish, nearly flat boot with rear seats folded down is appealing to both families and active singles.

Over a 130km drive with about 75 per cent on expressways, the car consumed 6.6 litres of petrol per 100km - close to the official figure of 5.9 litres/100km.

But what is less appealing is the locally fitted Clarion infotainment unit, which has a jet-black frame that disrupts the cohesiveness of the cockpit.

The Vitara belongs to a competitive crossover segment. Its immediate rivals are the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and Toyota CH-R.

The Vitara is more expensive than the HR-V, about the same price as the 2-litre CX-3, but cheaper than the Qashqai and CH-R.

Performance-wise, it matches the CX-3 and is quicker on the sprint than the rest.

Overall, the Vitara is a cheaper and faster car than its rivals. This makes it rather attractive for those looking for a compact crossover.

But the biggest draw for me is that the Vitara reminds me of the Swift Sport. It is like a more practical version of the hot hatch, which makes it not too shoddy an alternative to the unavailable pocket rocket.