The Suzuki Vitara is the latest addition to the funky small crossover market. Testers have been impressed by its class leading interior space and its excellent safety ratings – both of which mean it would be the perfect family car for many.
Given it’s practical and sensible credentials, how does it compare to our favourite family car of the moment, the Nissan Qashqai? We’ve compared the two side-by-side to find out.
Based on a quick walk around each car, it’s obvious the early points have to go to the Qashqai. While it isn’t outlandish, the sharp details lend it a contemporary look without being divisive or boring.
In comparison, the Vitara looks just a little bit plain. It’s a chunky off road-themed design, which makes plenty of sense – it’s taking on the quirky-looking Nissan Juke and the curvy Renault Captur, so heading in a different design direction from either might attract buyers. The appearance can be lifted by one of the livelier colour options, and the contrasting roof finishes really liven things up.
The Vitara is pitched in the class below the Qashqai, it takes up less space on the road. Overall, it’s 4,175mm long – almost 20cm shorter than the Qashqai – so, if parking is tight in your area, then the Suzuki is the one to have.
As with the exterior styling, the Qashqai has the more attractive cabin and we feel the Vitara’s dash is likely to date quickly. The materials used in the Qashqai just seem a step up from those in the Vitara, while the dashboard design has a more pleasing, almost Germanic look to it. The silvery plastic trim in the Vitara, by comparison, looks cheap.
The Vitara is smaller overall so there isn’t quite as much space as you’ll find in the Nissan. It’ll be more than acceptable for young families but, for bigger ones, the Qashqai features class-leading head and legroom, and four six-footers will easily manage to get comfy.
The Vitara’s boot space is one of its strong points – with 375 litres on offer – it’s one of the most spacious in its class. The bigger Nissan just edges it, however, offering 430 litres.
If there’s one thing testers unanimously agree on, it’s that the Nissan Qashqai is a very comfortable car. Ride quality was the priority for Nissan engineers, and they have succeeded – a Chassis Control system adjusts the firmness of the suspension to cope with whatever is being thrown at it. Handling wasn’t a priority, but it’s still more than up to the task for most, and the light controls make it easy to drive.
Suzuki says it wanted to replicate the fun handling of its Swift supermini for the Vitara, and it seems it’s done a fine job. The suspension is well controlled over bumps without being too firm, and body roll is kept under control fairly well, too. The Vitara is very easy to see out of which, combined with light, accurate steering makes it a pleasant companion for city driving.
Suzuki has kept the engine lineup for the Vitara as straightforward as possible. Buyers are offered a choice between one petrol and one diesel model. They’re both 1.6-litre units, offering identical performance figures (0-62mph takes 11.5 seconds in each). However, both units display very different characters. The diesel is fairly smooth, and offers flexible in-gear acceleration. The petrol, on the other hand, has a much more sporty character and enjoys being revved to extract the best out of it.
If you’re tempted to take the Vitara off-road at some point – something it’s pretty adept at doing – then you’ll want to tick the option for a four-wheel drive model. It adds £1,800 to the asking price, and hampers economy and performance, so only buy it if you really need it.
Like the Vitara, the Qashqai offers an all-wheel drive option, but only on the range-topping 1.6-litre 130hp diesel. The same unit is also available in front-wheel drive, and it’s impressively refined, and returns a claimed 64.2mpg. There’s a 1.5-litre diesel too, which is less powerful but even more economical.
Value for money
Considering they’re marketed in different classes, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to discover the Vitara is cheaper than the Qashqai. However, when you realise just how big that gulf is, your decision might start to swing closer to the Suzuki.
Priced from just £13,999 for the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol – it’s more than £4,000 less than the cheapest petrol Qashqai. Even a top of the range, 1.6-litre diesel costs less than any diesel variant of the Nissan. When even the base model is equipped with air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control, it becomes apparent just how much of a bargain the Vitara really is.
In many ways, the Nissan Qashqai is the superior car. It’s more spacious, more comfortable, more refined, and – to our eyes at least – more stylish too.
However, aside from being perhaps a little bit dull, the Vitara doesn’t have any serious weaknesses of its own. Both the Qashqai and the Vitara score very well in several key areas: both cars are very frugal and cheap to run, while offering reassuring safety ratings.
The deciding factor is the price. If you’ve budgeted for around £20,000 for your next family car, then you’ll be able to get plenty out of the Qashqai range. However, You’ll be able to buy an awful lot of Vitara for considerably less, so you’ll have to ask yourself how important the Qashqai’s numerous plus points really are to you and your wallet.
If you’re taken by its rugged charm, pop the Suzuki Vitara in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. If you’re after one of the finest family cars out there, put the Nissan Qashqai in our car configurator to see what discounts are on offer. For more options, check out our deals page.