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Suzuki Vitara has distinctive frontal styling treatment. Headlights are LED. Clamshell hood)is a Vitara styling signature. (Suzuki) 

What we're driving: Suzuki Vitara 1.4 turbo SZ5 Allgrip

For North American readers of this column, its title could be, in the case of Suzuki’s latest turbocharged and all-wheel-drive (AWD) Vitara compact SUV, “What you are missing.”

It’s been six years since Suzuki stopped importing cars to the U.S. as sales dropped to an unsustainable level, its model range then simply not fitting the States’ needs. Times change, however, and Suzuki’s range now is greatly improved, led by the latest gasoline-engine Vitara SZ5 Allgrip, which we drove in Europe. 

Unlike some worthy but dull SUVs, the Vitara Allgrip is more young filly than workhorse, with a smooth and highly-responsive, free-revving 103-kW (138-hp) 1.4-L gasoline 4-cylinder that indicates Suzuki cars’ links to the company’s highly successful motorcycle business. The engine’s IHI-supplied turbocharger is attached directly to the cylinder head and the exhaust manifold is incorporated into the cylinder head casting. 

Curb weight including all options (there is a front-wheel-drive version) is a modest 1265 kg (2789 lb), which contributes to the Vitara’s 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 10.2 seconds and top speed is 200 km/h (124 mph). The car feels plenty lively, the sensation complemented by its optional 6-speed Aisin automatic transmission and 162 lb·ft) (220N·m) torque spread from 1500 rpm through 4000 rpm.  

Auto, sport and snow  

The Vitara Allgrip’s AWD has auto, sport and snow settings, differential lock and hill hold and descent controls. Ride quality is good and handling fits the car’s exuberant performance, although steering is somewhat light for European tastes.

As a compact SUV, the Vitara has an overall length of 4175 mm (164.4 in) on a 2500-mm (98.4-in) wheelbase. Luggage space is 375 liters (13.2 sq.ft).

Standard equipment on the top-model Allgrip includes GPS navigation, adaptive cruise control, a panoramic glass sunroof, lane-departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and a thoroughly irritating “vehicle sway warning” which gets over-excited when the car is driven hard on winding roads—attracting the attention of passengers who may question the driver’s ability. What matters, though, is that the Vitara gets high marks as a total package. 

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