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
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.
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
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.