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In-depth reviews

Suzuki Vitara SUV - Engines, drive & performance

The Suzuki Vitara range is limited to one engine, but it does feel quite sporty

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

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.

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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 Vitara Full Hybrid’s 1.5-litre petrol engine and 33bhp electric motor combine to produce 113bhp and 138Nm of torque, which doesn’t sound like a great deal. Luckily the Vitara is fairly light for an SUV, but 0-62mph still takes a leisurely 12.7 seconds. The automatic transmission’s changes are a bit sluggish, too, although the torque from the electric motor is said to help smooth the gaps between gears.

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Drive quickly and the petrol engine sounds a bit coarse, but take a more relaxed approach and below 50mph the petrol engine is impressively keen to cut out and let the electric motor do some work.

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.

Suzuki’s mild hybrid technology 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 62mph from a standing start. Both front- and four-wheel-drive Vitaras can manage a top speed of 118mph, so cruising at motorway speeds isn’t a problem.

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