The world’s gone SUV mad, with buyers clamouring for that blend of upright styling and on-road performance. The Suzuki Vitara is for someone slightly different - someone who prefers its unfussy, no-nonsense looks and the fact that it can actually do some off-roading if called upon. In today’s car-buying marketplace, that’s a pretty scarce option.
It’s fair to say the Suzuki Vitara is an old-school SUV with its square, upright looks and plenty of space between the tops of its wheels and the bottom of its wheel arches. It looks like an off-roader more than an SUV, so should appeal to those who want their car to be a working tool rather than a fashion accessory.
It also features the sort of bodywork to mark it out as a rough(ish), tough(ish) vehicle – there’s black wheel arch protection, black side skirts and a plastic lower edge to the front bumper. There’s also just enough chrome for family buyers who want their SUV to have a bit of pizzazz.
The entry-level models are pretty well kitted out, with 16-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights. Moving up the range brings larger alloy wheels and tinted glass, while a further climb up the range brings a panoramic sunroof.
It looks like an off-roader more than an SUV
What’s it like to drive?
The choice is simple – there’s just the one engine available these days. The 1.4-litre petrol is quick to rev and endows the Vitara with performance that belies its slightly staid looks.
If you’re in the market for a pre-2019 Vitara, they’re available with a choice of a 1.0-litre petrol, the 1.4, or 1.6-litre petrol, and diesels. The latter two are particularly punchy but could be a little noisy.
The rest of the driving experience is great fun. The Vitara feels truly nimble, and is completely at home on a twisty backroad, but without the side effect of discomfort.
The steering is at its best in town, where the lightness means that you’ll never break into a sweat while parking. It can feel a touch light at faster speeds, though.
You can have your Vitara with two- or four-wheel drive. The former will suit those who spend most of their time in town or on the motorway, the latter for those who live in the countryside or who do some light off-roading.
The rest of the driving experience is great fun.
Suzuki didn’t overreach on making the Vitara’s interior a funky and stylish place to sit, and it’s all the more usable for that. For a start, the large glass area and comparatively skinny pillars mean you have a fantastic view out. The Vitara’s designers also thought about what people need from a car’s interior, so the gear lever is sited quite high up, where it falls naturally to your grasp, and it’s even quite neat that the two circular vents on top of the dashboard flank a traditional circular analogue clock. Simple, usable.
The design is square-edged and utilitarian in places, with some of the trims and plastics styled for function over form. That said, the large swathe of chrome-effect plastic across the face of the dashboard certainly lightens the mood somewhat.
All models have a central touchscreen through which you can control the standard DAB radio and various other audio functions, as well as the Bluetooth system. On the next trim up, the screen is an inch larger and comes with sat nav, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which you’ll likely use more of the time. This trim also comes with a rearview camera as standard, which makes life much easier when parking.
This is one of the Vitara’s strong areas as there’s plenty of space for two tall adults up front (although the panoramic sunroof does steal some headroom). Better still, if you’re relegated to the rear seats, you won’t feel too hard done by, because of a decent amount of both headroom and legroom available from the outer two seats.
The central rear passenger might feel a little like they’ve drawn the short straw, because the middle seat is narrow, firm and raised, which compromises headroom. In reality it’s fine for short distances.
Boot space is great, and enhanced by the hidden underfloor compartment as well as the fact there’s no load lip to lift items over. The rear seats are also easy to fold down, and while they might not lie completely flat, neither do they present a step in the boot floor when down.
Running costs and reliability
If you do loads of long-distance trips, the 1.6-litre diesel is the way to go thanks to the average 70.6mpg in the two-wheel-drive model, and 67.2mpg in the 4WD version. The current 1.4-litre Boosterjet petrol engine manages an average of 49.7mpg in the two-wheel-drive Vitara, and 45.4mpg when all four wheels are driven.
What we love
The Suzuki Vitara is one of those very rare cars that caters for so many more people than its looks would suggest. Not only does it do all the rugged off-road things that its looks would suggest – it’s also great to drive on the road. It’s roomy enough to be a family’s sole mode of transport, and it’s reliable. Add in low insurance groupings that range from group 11 to 22, plus the peace of mind provided by a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, and running costs that should never be a concern.
Still looking for the one?
Use our comparison tool to find the car for you
The Suzuki Vitara may look like a slightly common-or-garden SUV designed a few years ago. The reason it’s lasted so well is its brilliant design that has stood the test of time. It’s backed up by underpinnings that give it a real joie de vivre while minimising the cost to your bank account, as well as the space to make daily life easy.
This review was