Road test: Suzuki Vitara
The Vitara is keenly priced and packed with kit.
What is it?
The Suzuki Vitara is a small crossover to rival the likes of the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. Buyers can choose from front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions.
How safe is it?
Very. There’s impressive protection in a crash, and surprising levels of high-tech safety kit on top-spec models including autonomous emergency braking (which Suzuki calls Radar Brake Support).
Who should buy one?
Anyone looking for a good-looking crossover that’s well equipped and competitively priced. And as there are 4×4 models, it’s a good choice for rural drivers.
Road test by David Motton published 20 February 2016
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
The Suzuki is a pleasant car to drive, especially the new S model with its lively petrol engine and revised suspension.
This new range-topping Vitara has a 1.4-litre direct injection turbo engine which Suzuki rather dramatically calls ‘Boosterjet’. Despite the silly name, it’s a very good engine, with plenty of mid-range pull and a maximum output of 138bhp. We’re not talking hot-hatch levels of performance, but it’s eager enough to make the S more fun than the rest of the range. All S models have Suzuki’s Allgrip 4×4 system, so power reaches the road without any fuss even in bad weather.
As well as the new engine, the S also has tweaked suspension settings for a slightly firmer ride and better control. Suzuki’s engineers have done a fine job of making the S more sporty without spoiling the comfort that’s one of the Vitara’s strong points.
Until the S model arrived buyers had a straight choice between two 1.6-litre engines, one a petrol and one a diesel.
As you’d expect, the diesel has much more pulling power, with a maximum of 236lb ft. That’s as much as some 2.0-litre engines in much larger, heavier cars, and gives plenty of overtaking punch in car as light as the Vitara. The downside is that the engine can sound clattery and strained.
The 1.6-litre petrol is much quieter, but it’s nothing like as punchy as either the 1.4 turbo or the diesel. It’s fine if you’re not in a hurry, though.
With any of the three engines, there’s a lot of road noise at speed, but otherwise the soft ride and supportive seats make the Suzuki a capable car on long journeys.
On twistier roads all models except the S would benefit from slightly firmer control, and the steering is very light. You’ll have more fun driving a Mazda CX-3, for example. But the Mazda doesn’t smooth bumps in the road anything like as well.
So, if comfort is a priority the Vitara should suit you well.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Those in the front of the Vitara have plenty of space. Even high-spec models with a panoramic sunroof have enough headroom for tall drivers.
There’s a wide range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel, and we found the high seating position very comfortable; after two back-to-back 300-mile journeys we had no aches or pains to speak of.
All the dials are clear and the major controls are easy to use, but there are some hard and shiny plastics on show so the dashboard doesn’t look very upmarket.
Children will be comfortable enough in the back of the Vitara, although adults will find space more limited, especially when sitting three abreast.
The boot floor is high, but there is some hidden storage underneath. The luggage capacity of 375 litres is much as you’d expect for a car of this size, and should cope with a weekly shop for a family of four. The back seats split and fold if more room is needed.
The Suzuki does more than many small crossovers to help avoid an accident, and to keep you safe should the worst happen. Good all-round visibility helps the driver do their job, and there’s autonomous emergency braking on high-spec SZ5 and S models which can apply the brakes automatically if the driver isn’t paying attention. Seven airbags are fitted to all models, and Euro NCAP has awarded the car a five-star rating.
You get a lot of gadgetry for your money with the Vitara. Even the most affordable SZ4 models have climate control, a digital radio and 16-inch alloy wheels. SZ-T upgrades include 17-inch alloys, satellite navigation and a rear parking camera. SZ5 cars have front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, suede seat upholstery and a panoramic sunroof. S models lose the big sunroof but gain some styling upgrades inside and out.
The range starts from a very competitive £13,999. That’s almost £300 less than the cheapest Renault Captur. For infrequent fuel stops, go for the two-wheel-drive diesel with an official combined figure of 70.6mpg on the combined cycle. Insurance groupings are competitive, starting from group 11 for the two-wheel-drive petrol. However, it’s a shame that the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine is only available with the top-spec S trim, costing at least £20,899.
The Vitara is keenly priced and packed with kit.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds
Economy: 53.3mpg combined
Insurance: Group 11
Tax: Band D (£0 first year)
Figures for the 1.6 petrol SZ5