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Suzuki Vitara Review

7 / 10
18 January 2024

The Suzuki Vitara isn't going to win you over with trinkets or gimmicks.

Instead, this versatile little family SUV wades in with plenty of raw quality to tempt you away from its many rivals.

What we like:
  • Used examples are affordable
  • Decent performance for the price
  • Practical cabin
What we don't like:
  • Plasticky interior
  • Not as refined as some rivals
  • Infotainment system is fairly basic

Should I buy a Suzuki Vitara?

Almost every carmaker now has a small SUV in its lineup, but the Suzuki Vitara was one of the first on the scene – tracing its roots back to the late '80s.


Today's Vitara is no legwarmer-wearing throwback, however, with up-to-date hybridised engines and all the modern conveniences you'd expect. It also feels light on its feet considering its upright SUV stance, with good road manners, intuitive controls and reasonably nippy acceleration. Plus, the Vitara makes the most of its fairly compact footprint with enough practicality for a small family.


You do have to accept a little compromise, however. The cabin isn't as plush as some rivals and the infotainment system looks a bit naff. Neither is it the last word in refinement, with a bit more road noise than you'll find in rivals and slightly firm suspension.

Interior and technology

It's tough to mask the fact the Vitara is designed to be affordable. Nevertheless, Suzuki has tried to lift the ambience with some silver plastic paneling and three centre-mounted circular air vents, faintly reminiscent of some much more expensive brands. It does feel tough, however, and should stand up to whatever your kids can throw at it… or spill on it… or rub into the carpet…


Anyway, the infotainment system fitted on SZ-T and SZ5 cars shouldn't give you many headaches. Its menus are simple and all screens include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which means easy access to all the functions you're actually going to use – just as well because the built-in software is a bit plain compared to some more flashy rivals.


And the story remains the same for the rest of the cabin – you'll either appreciate its no-nonsense approach, or you'll prefer something with slightly more flair like a Renault Kadjar.

Practicality

The Vitara is less than 4.2 metres long – shorter than a Volkswagen Golf, as well as being narrower. Despite that, you get a good amount of space in the cabin, with noticeably more rear-seat room than cars like the Kia Stonic or Ford Puma.


Six-foot-tall adults will be able to sit behind each other without running out of knee room, but bear in mind the panoramic glass roof on range-topping SZ5 models does eat into headroom a little. The tall, flat roof and squared-off door opening means it's fairly easy to dock a bulky child seat with the Isofix points.


That boxiness also pays off in the boot, which is a useful, square shape, allowing you to load taller items in upright. Neither a pushchair nor the most extravagant of weekly shops should prove too tough for the Vitara's cargo area.

Engines and performance

Most Vitaras on the used market come with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine which, from mid-2020 onwards, was aided by a 48V mild-hybrid system. This the engine we'd recommend for most buyers because it's gutsy enough to make light work of the Vitara's SUV body, returns reasonably good fuel economy and settles down to a quiet hum if you're not booting it.


Older models were available with a 1.6-litre non-turbo petrol and, briefly, a 1.0-litre turbo unit. Neither of these are as effortless as the 1.4-litre turbo so you'll have to work them a little harder to hit motorway speeds.


2022 saw the addition of a 1.5-litre full-hybrid option. This automatic-only model can drive short distances, such as pottering through traffic, on electric power before engaging the petrol engine.

Driving and comfort

SUVs can sometimes be a little hamstrung on the road thanks to their taller centre of gravity causing them to wobble about. Not so in the Vitara, because the fairly firm suspension keeps everything nice and level, giving you the same kind of confidence on a twisty road that you'd feel in one of Suzuki's smaller hatchbacks. Cornering like a hooligan will eventually cause the front end to wash wide, so very keen drivers stuck shopping SUVs might prefer something like the Ford Puma.


As is often the case, firming up the suspension means the Vitara doesn't quite ride with the grace of something like a Skoda Kamiq or Peugeot 2008. Uneven road surfaces cause small vibrations to be sent up the base of your seat, and large impacts from potholes are both felt and heard. That said, there's still enough absorption to make long journeys fairly relaxing.

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