Suzuki Vitara SUV review
“The Suzuki Vitara is an affordable, practical and reliable small SUV that’s good to drive”
- Lots of equipment
- Sporty engines
- Sharp design
- Not the most economical
- Brittle interior plastics
- Artificial-feeling steering
Verdict - Is the Suzuki Vitara a good car?
The Suzuki Vitara name has been around for a long time and the car itself has become known over that time for being a reliable and rugged small SUV. Older versions were very capable off-roaders, and while the current model isn’t bad in the mud, it’s much more focused on being good to drive on-road.
Suzuki Vitara models, specs and alternatives
The Vitara is a similar size to crossovers such as the Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur and Toyota C-HR. It’s pitched as more of a value-for-money model than these more mainstream options though, so it also competes with cheaper small SUVs like the Citroen C3 Aircross, SEAT Arona and the outgoing Hyundai Kona. It’s not quite as cheap as the Dacia Duster, though.
In 2022 a new full-hybrid was added to the range alongside the existing mild-hybrid petrol. The difference between them is that the full-hybrid model has a large motor and battery able to drive the wheels, while the mild-hybrid version simply has a tiny motor attached to a normal petrol engine that boosts efficiency – you don’t notice it when driving.
Other recent hybrid models from the brand including the Suzuki Swace and Suzuki Across are closely related to existing models from Toyota (the Corolla and RAV4 respectively), but the Vitara is Suzuki’s own model and feels quite different to them. It looks different too – it’s styling is quite plain next to other bold-looking small SUVs, but updates in 2018 and 2020 mean it still looks modern enough.
The interior is perhaps the Vitara’s weakest area, as it uses quite a lot of hard plastics that mean it feels a little cheap and downmarket. However, it's well-built and should last a long time if treated well, plus it has a five-star safety rating, so true to Suzuki’s reputation it is a well-engineered little car.
Petrol and diesel engines were available in the Vitara previously, but now there are petrol and hybrid models only, with no diesel in sight. The 1.4-litre ‘BoosterJet’ petrol is the base model and uses mild-hybrid technology, is available with four-wheel drive (Suzuki calls this ALLGRIP) and uses a six-speed manual gearbox.
The other engine option is the full-hybrid Vitara that uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine along with a 33bhp electric motor and a 0.84kWh battery for a total output of 113bhp. This version uses a six-speed automatic gearbox, and can return up to 54.3mpg while emitting 119g/km of CO2.
Unfortunately, the switch to hybrid powertrains 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 doesn’t do the Vitara any favours when you consider it as an overall package.
No model is light on equipment, either – even the discontinued entry-level SZ4 trim came with alloy wheels, DAB radio, air-conditioning, adaptive cruise control and Bluetooth to connect your smartphone. Now, the entry-level model is the SZ-T trim, which brings sat-nav, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, tinted windows and 17-inch alloy wheels. Top-spec SZ5 brings parking sensors, suede upholstery, keyless entry 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 52nd out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2022 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, smartphone connectivity and alloy wheels at a price that’s competitive with rivals. However, it’s a shame that the Full Hybrid isn’t much cheaper to run than the standard version, and sacrifices quite a bit of boot space.