The all-new Suzuki Vitara may well be a late entrant in the ultra-competitive crossover sector, but it’s been worth the wait.
Sitting somewhere between Nissans Juke and Qashqai in terms of size, the Vitara sets itself apart from much of the opposition right from the start.
Now, consider Suzuki’s off-road expertise and reputation for building solid, reliable, fun-to-drive cars and the Vitara must be a competitive package.
The truth is that it is the real deal and it’s obvious at first sight. Here’s a stylish SUV that’s distinctive, roomy and well put together at a great price (the range starts at £13,999).
Suzuki offers a choice of three engines – a 1.6-litre petrol and diesel of the same size.
I tested a range-topping Vitara S fitted with the eager new 1.4-litre turbo ‘Boosterjet’ petrol unit which develops 140bhp, coupled with a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
Officially it has a top speed of 124mph and can reach 62mph in 10.2 seconds, but it feels faster.
The good news doesn’t stop there – Suzuki has tried to give the Vitara more of a hatchback driving experience and it’s largely succeeded there too.
The car is easy to drive and handles well – a nice combination of light feel and controlled body roll. I suspect this had partly been achieved by the seating position, which is high, but not as high as some SUVs.
My test car was capable of a claimed 52.3mpg, coupled with relatively low CO2 emissions of 127g/km meaning that it will cost nothing to tax in year 1, followed by £110 a year.
Inside, the Vitara is comfortable, uncluttered, well packaged and solidly built, though some of the materials used have a durable rather than premium feel.
There’s plenty of space for passengers front and rear, plus a useful 375-litre boot (or 1,120 if you drop the rear seats). A good-sized glovebox is complemented with various cupholders and small storage spaces.
A 7-inch infotainment touchscreen controls most of the car’s systems. It could be bigger, but it does the job pretty well.
Equipment is generous across the range – even the entry-level Sz4 comes with alloy wheels, digital radio, cruise control and air conditioning. By the time you get up to the £20,899 S level, there are heated seats, LED lights 17-inch glossy black alloys, automatic headlights and rear privacy glass. There are also various personalisation options available.
The Vitara is safe too, scoring a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, aided by safety kit including seven airbags, electronic stability control and optional Radar Brake Support which automatically applies the brakes if the car senses a collision.
Last, but not least, there’s optional four-wheel drive across the range, but it’s standard on the S model. The clever Allgrip 4WD system offers four modes – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock – good enough to deal with everyday weather extremes and gives you that extra bit of confidence.
Verdict: The Suzuki Vitara is a bit of a revelation – good looking, well equipped, safe and spacious, it’s easy and fun to drive and great value for money.