“The Suzuki Vitara is a class stalwart and the latest version is affordable to buy and run, as well as being fun to drive”
The Suzuki Vitara is one of the original small SUVs and has a good reputation for reliable, rugged motoring. Suzuki has taken the latest Vitara down the crossover route and while on-road driving has improved, some of its off-road abilities have diminished slightly. It isn’t designed to tackle rough terrain in the same fashion as the Suzuki Jimny but it can still be specified with four-wheel drive.
The Vitara still suits those who are regularly faced by rough roads and adverse weather conditions. It's also priced to offer good value compared to the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur and Toyota C-HR, although the Citroen C3 Aircross, SEAT Arona and Hyundai Kona put up a strong challenge in terms of metal for your money. The Dacia Duster, meanwhile, comfortably undercuts all of the above, even in range-topping trim with four-wheel drive.
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A 2018 facelift retained the familiar boxy shape but Suzuki made small changes to the Vitara's exterior to make it look more modern. These included a redesigned front bumper and vertically-slatted front grille, as well as LED rear lights, different alloy wheels and a revised menu of paint colours. There are plenty of straight lines and flat surfaces and it looks rather more traditional than some rivals. A further update in 2020 added LED headlights and 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical assistance.
These simple lines also mean interior space isn’t compromised by swoops and curves, so there’s plenty of room. The Suzuki feels tough, too, with just some cheap-looking plastics inside showing up its competitive pricing. And there’s clearly substance beneath what you can see, with Euro NCAP awarding the Vitara the full five stars for crash safety.
During its life, the Vitara has been offered with several petrol and diesel engines but the 2020 update sees every model come with a 1.4-litre ‘BoosterJet’ petrol. It’s shared with the Suzuki Swift Sport, and now features mild-hybrid technology to boost performance and economy. ALLGRIP four-wheel drive can be chosen but only in conjunction with the plusher SZ-T and SZ5 trim levels.
All cars now get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, which should be better at cruising than the old five-speed. There’s no automatic version offered at the moment, so if you need one you’ll have to look at a different car.
Unfortunately, the switch to a mild-hybrid powertrain has made the Vitara more expensive, dragging the price up to more than some of its rivals. While some may feel its increased power and economy is worth the extra outlay, a high price tag definitely changes the Vitara for the worse when you consider it as an overall package. With a tall roofline, the Vitara leans a little more in corners than a hatchback or saloon, but grips keenly and can even be fun to drive. Suzuki has even included a ‘Sport’ button, which adds some resistance to the steering and sharpens the throttle response.
No model is light on equipment, either – even the entry-level SZ4 trim comes with alloy wheels, DAB radio, air-conditioning, adaptive cruise control and Bluetooth to connect your smartphone. Stepping up to SZ-T trim adds sat nav, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear privacy glass, and special 17-inch alloy wheels, while SZ5 brings parking sensors, keyless entry and start and a panoramic sunroof.
Safety is of course top priority for most families and the Vitara has a five-star crash-test rating from Euro NCAP, thanks to its roster of airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning. Meanwhile, the Suzuki finished 54th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK.
While this Vitara might not be as revolutionary as the original, it does most things very well, and should prove very dependable. If you can live without four-wheel drive, we reckon the mid-range SZ-T is the best value; it’s very well equipped - getting features such as sat nav, a rear parking camera, smartphone connectivity and larger alloy wheels - but only costs around £1,000 more to buy than the entry-level model.
Suzuki Vitara SUV - MPG, running costs & CO2
Fuel economy and other running costs are reasonable
The entry-level SZ4 model has a reasonably competitive starting price but the mild-hybrid technology has pushed prices up by about £1,500 compared to the old non-hybrid car. Forecasts suggest the Vitara won’t keep its value particularly well, which may push up your monthly payments on PCP finance deals.
The Vitara's fuel consumption figures, though, are much better since the electrical assistance was added. It’s now on a par with rivals, so shouldn’t be too expensive to run.
Suzuki Vitara MPG & CO2
All Vitaras are now powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which is said to return 49.7mpg in two-wheel drive models. With the new mild-hybrid tech, it returns about 6mpg more than the non-hybrid 1.4-litre engine that was previously offered. CO2 emissions of 128g/km give it an upper Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate for company-car drivers.
We wouldn’t recommend going for the four-wheel ALLGRIP drive model unless you really need it because it costs significantly more to buy, adding a premium of around £1,800 to the list price for the SX-T and SZ5 models. It also has an impact on efficiency, reducing fuel economy to around 45mpg while pushing up the CO2 emissions to 140g/km - which places it into a higher BiK banding than the front-wheel drive version.
As every Vitara has mild-hybrid technology, they cost £140 a year to tax, after a CO2-weighted year-one payment that’s included in the on-the-road price.
The Vitara sits in group 21-22 depending on the trim level, and if you spec the ALLGRIP four-wheel drive it’s much more expensive to insure than several small SUV rivals. By comparison, several entry-level versions of the Vitara’s rivals sit in far lower groups, with the Nissan Juke starting in group 11 and the least powerful Renault Captur starting in group eight.
As with the rest of its range, Suzuki offers a three-year/60,000-mile warranty on the Vitara. This was once considered the industry standard, but rivals like the Kia Stonic come with a longer cover period as standard.
Suzuki says its cars should be serviced once a year or every 9,000 miles – whichever comes first. If you don’t drive many miles, this should mean the same annual trip to the dealership as most rivals, but if you drive a lot, the Vitara could prove more expensive than models with more miles between services. Suzuki offers a range of fixed-cost servicing packages across its cars, so the Vitara should also benefit from this.
Suzuki Vitara SUV - Engines, drive & performance
The Suzuki Vitara range is limited to one engine, but it does feel quite sporty
Although the Vitara is one of the least bulky compact SUVs, it's no longer in a field of its own. It leans markedly in corners and rivals such as the Dacia Duster are comfortably a match for the Suzuki when it comes to driving fun. The Peugeot 2008 and SEAT Arona – though SUV-like in appearance – are more removed from the traditional off-roaders of old, offering a more car-like feel.
Driving the Vitara around town doesn't feel like hard work, because the steering is light (if a little artificial-feeling). But as the Vitara is heavier than a city car, it's slower to change direction and leans more in corners than, say, a Suzuki Swift. It holds the road well enough at speed, though.
The four-wheel-drive Vitara offers various transmission settings so you can tweak the car to suit your driving style and the type of road – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. Choosing Auto when you're cruising on the motorway puts the car into a fuel-saving permanent two-wheel-drive mode. Other modes help you to get the most out of the four-wheel-drive system.
Suzuki Vitara petrol engines
The 1.4-litre BoosterJet engine develops 127bhp, which is about 20bhp more than the old 1.0-litre engine. It might not sound like much, but it drops the 0-62mph time by two seconds to 9.5 seconds, which is easily competitive with (or better than) many of its rivals. All models get this engine, so there’s no sluggish entry-level version.
Every version of the Vitara gets mild-hybrid electrical assistance. This consists of a 48-volt battery that’s mounted under the front seat and a belt-driven integrated starter generator, which combine to reduce strain on the engine under acceleration as well as providing extra pulling power when needed. According to Suzuki, the addition of the mild-hybrid system adds around 15kg of additional weight to the Vitara, with no impact on performance.
Its flexible nature means you're not forever having to change gear, which is good news because the Vitara doesn't have the slickest manual gearbox you can buy.
The four-wheel-drive version is a little slower, taking 10.2 seconds to hit 0-62mph. Both front- and four-wheel-drive Vitaras can manage a top speed of 118mph, so cruising at motorway speeds isn’t a problem.
Suzuki Vitara SUV - Interior & comfort
The interior of the new Suzuki Vitara has some neat touches, but some plastics look and feel cheap
The Suzuki is a comfortable car to drive around in, riding well at speed. All models are quiet when you settle into an A-road or motorway cruise and vibrations are kept to a minimum. The ride can be a little fidgety on imperfect roads, though. In the SZ-T model, white stitching on the seats and steering wheel bring some welcome colour and lift the mood of the interior.
Suzuki Vitara dashboard
The recent updates brought only minor changes inside the Vitara. Most prominent are a colour information screen between the dashboard dials, a front centre armrest and the introduction of soft-touch plastics at the top of the dashboard. Despite these tweaks, the Vitara falls some way behind the best European rivals when it comes to interior design.There are some pleasing materials dotted around the cabin in frequent contact points, such as on the door handles, but the majority of plastics are hard and scratchy, which could put some buyers off. It's perhaps not such an issue on the lower-priced models, but a little embarrassing on top-spec versions that run the classy Skoda Kamiq close on price.
From behind the wheel, you’ll find the layout of the dashboard is logical – everything is where you'd expect it to be. The large analogue clock in the middle of the dash is an attractive touch, although this is only standard on SZ5 trim.
The seven-inch touchscreen interface has chunky, bright and clear graphics. However, two translucent menu bars mean the sat-nav map itself is squeezed into a narrow strip in the middle of the screen, which is frustrating. The Vitara also has MirrorLink functionality for smartphone use.
There are three trim levels – SZ4, SZ-T and SZ5. Even the entry-level SZ4 has a decent amount of kit, with 16-inch alloy wheels, a CD player, DAB digital radio, adaptive cruise control, automatic air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a USB port all coming as standard.
The mid-range SZ-T trim brings bigger 17-inch alloys, rear privacy glass and the touchscreen - with sat nav, a reversing camera display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The range-topping SZ5 model gets a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, folding mirrors, and keyless entry and start.
Suzuki offers a wide range of paint finishes for the Vitara, including a distinctive metallic orange and a pearl metallic turquoise. Two-tone colour combinations are also on offer (except on the SZ4 trim), some of which might be described as an acquired taste. You can also specify the colour of the front grille, bumper garnishes, instrument-panel trim, air-vent trim and clock.
You can specify a personalisation package, which gets you chrome-plated foglight surrounds, side mouldings and a roof spoiler. The Rugged package gets you front and rear skid plates, foglight surrounds, side mouldings and boot lip protection. These packs are not available on the SZ4 model.
The Vitara’s infotainment system isn’t the sleekest looking setup, but it’s logically laid out and pretty easy to use. If you go for one of the higher trim levels, the included sat nav features a map display that’s a little on the small side, while the screen reflects sunlight quite badly – although this is compensated for somewhat by the clear and excellent voice guidance.
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Speaking of voices, while the Vitara comes with voice control (if you choose a model with sat nav) we found this a bit hit-and-miss when it came to recognising our spoken inputs.
Suzuki Vitara SUV - Practicality & boot space
A well-designed boot helps make the new Suzuki Vitara a very practical family car
The Suzuki Vitara's light doors are easy to open and close. They open to almost 90 degrees, so getting in the car is a breeze. Although the car's seating position is higher than a hatchback's, older drivers shouldn't have any problem getting in.
Finding a good driving position once you’re behind the wheel isn’t a problem, as the wheel adjusts for reach and rake on all models, while the seat adjusts for height.
A high ride height and light steering mean the Vitara is good to drive around town. It's a sizeable car – 40mm longer than the Nissan Juke – so parking could be tricky in a tight spot. Parking sensors are available, but they’re only standard on the highest trim level.
Suzuki Vitara interior space & storage
There's plenty of headroom for all occupants in the Vitara, despite its sporty roofline. Rear legroom is decent, but if you're behind the driver and more than six feet tall, you may find space to be tight.
The doors offer plenty of storage space in their bins, including bottle-holders, but the size of the glovebox is underwhelming. There are two cup-holders up front and the front passenger seat has a pocket on the back, which is handy for holding a road atlas. There are also two ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the rear.
The Vitara's boot has a capacity of 375 litres. Drop the 60:40 split-folding rear seats down and this expands to 1,160 litres. This is pretty much the same size as a family hatchback like the Ford Focus, but many small SUVs offer more luggage space. The Nissan Juke offers 422 litres, while the Renault Captur has sliding seats and offers 422 to 536 litres.
The Suzuki's boot is very well designed, with a wide opening. It's nice and square inside, with no awkwardly shaped protrusions. There are also a couple of useful cubbies either side of the boot.
A removable false floor means you have a bit of space underneath to hide valuable items, plus there's no pronounced boot lip, which makes it as easy as possible to access the loading area. Furthermore, when you fold the rear seats down, they're completely flat, which is a boon when loading large bulky items. The seats fold down easily at the touch of a button.
Suzuki Vitara SUV - Reliability & safety
Early signs point to the new Suzuki Vitara being a safe and fairly reliable family car
The Vitara offers plenty of safety equipment as standard and Suzuki is well known for making fairly tough off-roaders.
Suzuki Vitara reliability
The Vitara feels built to last inside, despite the cheap-feeling plastics used in places. And Suzuki has a very good reputation for building SUVs that are both rugged and long-lasting.
The Suzuki Vitara was rated average for reliability in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, and finished in 54th place out of the top 100 cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 10.6% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once in the first year, with the infotainment system causing the majority of issues. Ride quality and fit-and-finish weren’t scored highly for satisfaction either. However, Suzuki owners were happy with running costs, acceleration, handling and rear-seat legroom, and the brand came 17th out of 30 in our Driver Power manufacturer poll.
The Vitara was crash-tested by the safety experts at Euro NCAP, coming away with a perfect five-star score. It was individually rated at 89% for adult occupant protection, 85% for child occupant protection and 76% for pedestrian protection. Safety assistance was scored at 75%. Key Vitara rivals such as the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008 and Renault Captur also all scored five stars.
Most of the Vitara's safety equipment comes as standard on all trim levels – and there's plenty of it. The list includes automatic braking if the car detects a potential collision ahead, cruise control, hill hold (to prevent the car rolling back on hills), seven airbags, ISOFIX child-seat mounting points and electronic stability control (to help prevent skids).
Radar brake support and four-wheel-drive hill-descent control are only available on the top-of-the range SZ5 trim.