Suzuki Vitara (2015-2018) review
The Suzuki Vitara is a rugged-looking family SUV that drives well and has plenty of storage space, but it’s let down by a cheap-feeling interior
What's not so good
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If you’re looking for an affordable car with a high driving position that’s good fun to drive, the Suzuki Vitara is a great choice. Its bold looks mean you won’t lose it in a car park and there’s loads of space for carrying passengers, too.
Unlike the Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008, the Suzuki Vitara doesn’t look like a pumped-up family hatchback on stilts. Instead, it looks more like a boxy old-school off-roader – especially from the side – and comes with plenty of chunky plastic trims designed to protect its bodywork from bumps and scrapes.
Things get a little sportier at the front, where some red trims inject a little colour into the Suzuki’s angular headlights and a pair of upturned fog light surrounds make it look like it’s wearing a comedy moustache disguise.
These fun little details continue inside, too. There are splashes of red on the air vents and steering wheel, alongside a few slabs of shiny metal effect plastic on the dashboard and doors. Sadly, while it might look cool, the Suzuki’s numerous hard plastics and brittle trims feel more like they belong propping up an Ikea bookshelf than taking pride of place in a funky SUV’s cabin.
It’s a similar story with the Suzuki Vitara’s infotainment system, which looks more Fisher-Price than iPhone but at least that means it’s a doddle to use. It gets all the smartphone mirroring features you’ll need to use a bunch of apps safely while you’re driving, too.
It’s equally easy to pack the Vitara with plenty of passengers – and their luggage. There’s more space in the back than you get in a Peugeot 2008 and Honda HR-V and the boot’s plenty big enough for a huge weekly shop or a family’s luggage for a week or so away.
Don’t think Suzuki’s forgotten about front-seat space, though. Every Vitara comes with height-adjustment so you can tower over traffic even if you’re rather short. Its big windows give you a great view out, too.
The Suzuki Vitara is a great little SUV, especially if you fancy something high-riding and practical, but don’t want to be bored every time you drive it…
All this makes it very easy to drive around town. The standard manual gearbox is easy to use and the steering’s nice and light which helps make squeezing into tight parking spaces and dodging through traffic pretty much stress-free.
That being said, it’s not quite as comfortable or as quiet as a Honda HR-V or Peugeot 2008 and the diesel engine sounds a bit clattery when you accelerate hard. The petrol models are much smoother and feel perkier, but they are a little thirstier on long motorway drives.
The Suzuki’s party-piece is how surprisingly good fun it is to drive – for a tall SUV, at least. It barely leans in tight corners and has masses of grip which gives you the confidence to drive it like a hot hatch on your favourite stretch of winding country road – if that’s your sort of thing.
This doesn’t quite make up for the Vitara’s rather cheap-feeling cabin, but at least it helps it stand out from the crowd of more expensive and pretty dull-to-drive SUVs. On the subject of price, see how much you can save on our Suzuki Vitara deals page or read our interior, practicality driving and specifications sections for more in-depth info.
The Suzuki Vitara has space for four people and lots of useful smaller storage cubbies scattered around the cabin – the boot is a decent size but alternatives’ are even bigger
The Suzuki’s boxy shape might have been designed using Lego but at least it gives it a practical interior
The Suzuki Vitara’s boxy body means you get plenty of headroom in the front and back. Both the driver and front-seat passenger seats come with height adjustment as standard but Suzuki doesn’t offer the Vitara with any adjustable lumbar support – long journeys may take their toll on your lower back as a result.
In the rear seats your passengers get a reasonable amount of leg and headroom, even if you’re six-foot tall. The rear doors open to nearly 90 degrees and the raised seat bases make it easy to jump in the back without stooping. Just be careful not to bang your knee on the protruding door frame – it hurts.
The Suzuki Vitara is better for carrying three abreast than the tighter Peugeot 2008 and Honda HR-V, but a slight lump in the Suzuki’s floor eats into foot room. The rear seats aren’t quite as supportive as those in the Peugeot and Honda, but the large side windows and panoramic sunroof (available on SZ5 and S models) make the Suzuki Vitara’s cabin feel lighter and airier.
Fitting a child seat is a slightly mixed bag. The rear doors open nearly perpendicularly to the body, but the openings themselves are quite small. Thankfully, the seat bases are fairly high and the tall roof means you won’t have to bend down uncomfortably to fit the seat base. The Isofix anchor points are clearly marked, too, and do without the easy-to-lose plastics caps you get in some SUVs.
The Suzuki Vitara comes with absolutely huge door bins – they’re bigger than what you’ll find in either the Peugeot 2008 or Honda HR-V. The cupholder behind the central armrest can easily cope with a one-litre bottle, too, but the glovebox is rather small. Thankfully, it’s much larger than the minuscule offering you’ll find in a Peugeot 2008.
Pop your smartphone in the handy tray in the centre console and you won’t have far to thread a cable to reach the 12V plug and USB socket just ahead of the gear lever.
The Suzuki Vitara’s 375-litre boot is a little smaller than the 410-litre Peugeot 2008 and significantly less spacious than the roomy 589-litre Honda HR-V. There’s no boot lip to speak of though and, once you’ve folded the rear seats down in a 60:40 split, you’ll have access to 1,160 litres of room. Although the Suzuki has less space than the Peugeot’s 1,400-litre boot or the Honda’s 1,627-litre load bay, the Vitara’s adjustable boot floor means it’s easy to slide in heavy or bulky items.
With the rear seats up and the parcel shelf in place there’s enough room to carry two large and two small suitcase. A set of golf clubs will easily slide in, as will a baby stroller and a couple of small bags, and there’s even a handy 12V socket so back-seat passengers can charge their phones, or so you can vacuum up any mess in the boot.
There’s plenty of room to store the parcel shelf under the boot floor and Suzuki Vitara comes with a handy storage tray instead of a spare wheel that’s perfect for hiding away a few valuables. Two useful cubbies either side of the boot opening, a set of tether points and handy hooks for your shopping all help stop smaller items from rolling about.
The Suzuki Vitara isn’t the quietest or most comfortable SUV on the market but it’s certainly one of the most fun to drive, especially with the excellent 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine
The Suzuki Vitara’s raised driving position feels more like a miniature SUV than a pumped-up hatchback but it’s still good fun to drive
You can get the Suzuki Vitara with two petrol engines and one diesel, and it’s one of the few small SUVs on sale that’s available with four-wheel drive.
The 1.6-litre diesel will be your best choice if you cover many motorway miles. It’s not quite as smooth as the two petrols but it’ll happily cruise along at 70mph and returns a claimed 67.3mpg. It’s a little noisy when you accelerate hard and takes a leisurely 11.4 seconds to reach 62mph from rest, however.
The 1.6-litre petrol isn’t much quicker, but it’s quieter, smoother and costs around £3,500 less than the diesel. Suzuki claims it’ll return 53mpg but, in the real world it’ll achieve around 40mpg. It might not be the most exciting engine out there, but it offers the best balance of fuel economy and value for money across the Suzuki Vitara range.
If you want the quickest Vitara then go for the perky little turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol. It might be smaller than the 1.6, but it’s more powerful, just as efficient and makes the Vitara a hoot to drive. Unfortunately, it’s only available on top-spec Vitara S models and costs around £4,400 more than a comparable 1.6-litre version. This puts the otherwise cheap and cheerful Suzuki Vitara dangerously close to more premium Seat Ateca territory.
All engines can be paired with a four-wheel-drive system in SZ-T trim and above, and 1.4-litre S models have it as standard. Unless you’re sure you’ll venture off the beaten track, however, the standard front-wheel drive setup has more than enough grip to deal with a muddy country lane. It also returns better fuel economy.
The Suzuki Vitara comes with either a five or a six-speed manual gearbox as standard – depending on the engine you choose – but both 1.6 and 1.4-litre petrol versions can be fitted with a smooth six-speed automatic instead. It really helps take the stress out of long journeys and lengthy traffic jams.
The Suzuki Vitara’s raised driving position and boxy body offer excellent visibility both forwards and backwards. You’ll have no trouble glancing over your shoulder to check for overtaking traffic on motorways and the large rear windscreen and reversing camera – standard on all but entry-level cars – mean parking’s a breeze, too.
The light steering and responsive controls make the Vitara more at home in the city than most SUVs while the thin door pillars mean there aren’t any sizeable blind spots to worry about when you’re pulling out of junctions.
Unfortunately, its suspension struggles to soak up bumps at slow speeds but, on the motorway, it quickly settles down into a fairly comfortable cruise. Unfortunately, there’s noticeably more wind and tyre noise in the Suzuki Vitara than in either the Honda HR-V or Peugeot 2008.
On winding country lanes is where the Vitara really excels. Its square body might look a little top-heavy but it has plenty of grip and barely leans in tight corners. The slick manual gearbox, direct steering and responsive petrol engines all combine to make this unassuming Suzuki one of the sportiest small SUVs on sale. Diesel models have slightly softer suspension so don’t feel quite as sharp to drive.
The Suzuki Vitara scored an impressive five stars in a 2015 Euro NCAP crash test. It’s worth noting, however, that the testing procedure has been made significantly stricter since then, so some newer SUVs with a five-star rating will be slightly safer. Automatic emergency city braking is only offered on SZ5 and top-spec S models, too.
The Suzuki Vitara’s interior feels slightly utilitarian, but it’s durable and coloured trim pieces add some welcome cheer. The dashboard layout’s logical and the infotainment system is easy to use