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RoadTrip: The good life and the land of the long white cloud in a Suzuki Vitara Turbo

2019-12-24 04:30

Waldo van der Waal

Suzuki Vitara turbo

Image: Waldo van der Waal

We decided to head to the far side of the world to experience the "good way of life" in the land of the Silver Fern, the All Blacks, and the backyard of Peter Jackson.

Vitara. It means the "good way of life" or just sommer "the good life". Waldo van der Waal took the latest turbocharged Suzuki Vitara to experience the good life in The Land of the Long White Cloud.

Suzuki as a brand can be viewed as the creator of compact 'Kei cars', and it is this very "Japanese-ness" that sets it apart. The company specialises in designing and building compact cars and this fits with the Japanese values of frugality and essence, rather than excess.

READ | Suzuki upgrades the 2019 Vitara SUV with new looks and loads more creature comforts

Also, since the founding of the company in 1909, 110 years ago, Michio Suzuki and his successors have managed to weave something of the Japanese way of life into their cars; yet they managed to produce vehicles that have proven popular in 192 countries.

One of those countries is South Africa, where Suzuki has seen significant growth in recent times. As a matter of fact, Suzuki Auto South Africa is setting new sales records virtually every month It can largely be ascribed to the product line-up of the manufacturer which is arguably the best it has ever been.

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While the Suzuki Swift is clearly a gem in the line-up, most models have recently been revamped, and with these latest refinements, the Vitara might be the pick of the bunch. It is one of those near-perfect cars at a near-perfect price point.

Suzuki Vitara

                                                                       Image: Waldo van der Waal

So, we decided to take a closer look at this latest version of Suzuki’s go-almost-anywhere compact SUV by taking it to somewhere out of the ordinary where the destination is not nearly as important as the journey. 

We decided to head to the far side of the world, in order to experience the "good way of life" in the land of the Silver Fern, the All Blacks and the back yard of Peter Jackson. Why? Well, what could possibly be better than exploring the South Island of New Zealand through some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet?

Circling the South Island

So, we made our way from Joburg to Christchurch with an overnight stop in Sydney to pick up our baby-blue steed. We had set up a circular route for our road trip; heading Southward from Christchurch to a spot called – believe it or not – Kaka Point, via Dunedin.

From there we would continue South through the Catlins Forest Park to Invercargill and the Bluff before turning Northwards towards Queenstown and the Southern Alps. Next would be a visit to Haast, on the West-coast of the Island, followed by a trek to Hokitika, passing the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers along the way.

Suzuki Vitara

                                                                           Image: Waldo van der Waal

Then it was one more push from Hoki, as the locals call it, back to Christchurch via the spectacular Arthur’s Pass – a circular route of 2 500km through some of the most amazing places on the planet.

The first day saw us cover nearly 500km, our longest single drive during the entire trip (if you exclude the long flights, that is). Christchurch itself was decidedly underwhelming, and the damage from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes was still very much in evidence.

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So we decided to make an early start and trade the drab city for some green hills dotted with sheep – and we were not disappointed. With 39-million sheep in New Zealand, they dotted every hill from Christchurch to the Bluff and back …We also had no complaints about the car.

We travelled three up and were not shy when it came to luggage but the little-large car simply accommodated it all and competently set about the task of ferrying us around the South Island.

Suzuki Vitara

                                                                            Image: Waldo van der Waal

Equipped with the new Suzuki 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 103kW of power and 220Nm of torque, it propelled the five-seater forward in comfort, if not quite with gusto. 

Thanks to direct fuel injection, we managed real-world consumption of 7l/100km, which was nearly as spectacular as the landscape, considering the number of people and mountain of luggage we decided to haul around the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Our Vitara was well equipped, with everything we needed and more, though the air conditioner turned out to be the most contentious piece of kit during our trip.

Suzuki Vitara

                                                                          Image: Waldo van der Waal

With daytime temperatures ranging between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius (our trip was at the end of the Kiwi Winter), the AC was unnecessary.

But one of our travel companions suffering from a broken internal thermostat, insisting on freezing air to be blasted into the cabin at all times. At least we can report the system works well – too well, really.

The Vitara was a pleasure to drive, comfortably covering mile after effortless mile, leaving us with plenty of time and energy to enjoy what New Zealand had to offer. At Kaka Point the hotel had no reception; our room keys were left in the door with our names written on a chalkboard outside. Crime clearly not an issue.

Suzuki Vitara

                                                                         Image: Waldo van der Waal

The Catlins Forest Park stole our hearts – while there was something magical about standing at the Southern tip of the South Island at the Bluff. Nestled on the shores of Wakatipu with the snow-capped Southern Alps as a backdrop, Queenstown was simply spectacular.

Then things became very pretty … From the stunning desolation of Haast – where the lady at our lodgings claimed they get six metres of rain per year (metres!) – to the chilling faces of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, all the way to the quaint town of Hokitika (where the local restauranteur asked me if I was famous, because "you have that look") I loved the picturesque environment.

Lessons learnt

What did we learn during our five-day drive on the South Island? Well, firstly, we can see why many Saffas want to move to New Zealand – the bits we saw were truly astounding. Christchurch is an exception, and if people tell you they are emigrating there, feel free to offer your condolences.

Suzuki Vitara turbo

                                                                          Image: Waldo van der Waal

We also learned that New Zealand has no crime problem, it has plenty of sheep, and that it is worth a visit for sure. Most importantly we again realised the Vitara is an amazingly competent car, offering great levels of comfort and space, and an attractive price – under R400 000 for the flagship in South Africa.

Oh, and we also decided that our own country is more than pretty enough to enjoy one of the best products that Suzuki has in its line-up. So, no real need to visit the Land of the Long White Cloud. But if you do decide to go there, we guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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