The new Vitara is a straightforward, no-nonsense car. Somewhere between the Renault Captur and Skoda Yeti in size, it’s a chunky, small SUV that is designed to offer useful family practicality and easy-going on-road manners, with a dash of off-road usability and design flair for good measure. In essence, it’s a family hatch with added interest.
Prices are predicted to start from around £14,000 for the 1.6, two-wheel-drive petrol, stretching up to £19,500 for the top spec four-wheel-drive 1.6 diesel, and equipment will include air-con, digital radio, Bluetooth and alloy wheels even on base SZ3 trim, while SZ4 and SZ5 are expected to get a colour touch-screen, a nav system and climate control.
What’s the 2015 Suzuki Vitara like to drive?
Underneath is a modified SX4 S-Cross chassis, but if anything the Vitara is a perkier drive. The ride comfort on our pre-production test cars was firm but well damped, so while you feel big bumps and dips in the road as a thump through the cabin, it rarely gets crashy, and there’s not too much ponderous body-lean through corners.
The steering is adequate, if nothing special; it’s well-suited to low-speed pottering, being light and predictable, but on faster roads you’re aware of how vague it is around the straight-ahead and there’s not much feedback. Only those who regularly have to scrabble up mud tracks or suffer severe winter weather need go for the on-demand four-wheel-drive ‘Allgrip’ system, because the front-wheel-drive models have plenty of grip in normal road use.
Both engines put out 118bhp, and are flexible enough to hold low-revs around town without spluttering. However, the diesel will be more popular with motorway drivers – not only because it'll be more economical, but it also gets a six-speed gearbox that helps it to spin at lower revs than the five-speed petrol, and the spread of mid-range torque means you don’t have to work it so hard if you want a burst of acceleration.
That’s not to say the petrol is without merit. It revs much more smoothly than the diesel, works really well around town and, if anything, brings a glimmer of fun to the Vitara that the diesel fails to deliver.
The petrol is also more refined (not to mention around £1500 cheaper) than the clattery diesel, keeping engine noise to a distant and easily ignored hum unless you let it spin towards the high-pitched redline. Both models we tried suffered from a fair amount of road noise, particularly over grainy surfaces.
What’s the 2015 Suzuki Vitara like inside?
Suzukis are known more for durability than a plush finish, and the Vitara isn’t likely to change that. Slide into the driver’s seat – which is high-set and well-suited to anyone who’s not as dexterous as they used to be – and the first thing you notice is the broad sweep of grainy-looking, hard plastic across the top of the dash. At least small touches such as padding on the front armrests and the gloss-black surround to those fitted with nav mean it avoids feeling properly budget in higher-spec trims.
Otherwise, the air-con controls are straightforward, the dials are easy to read and the driving position is good, even if some drivers will wish for a bit more lateral support.
It’s easy to access the main infotainment functions on the touch-screen that's likely to be standard on higher trims levels, too, although the screen can be slow to respond and the touch-sensitive buttons for the volume and home screen are really fiddly and unresponsive.
Space is quite plentiful. An average-sized adult can sit behind a tall driver without feeling hemmed-in, and the airy-feeling cabin feels bigger than a Renault Captur's, being roughly on a par with the Kia Soul for passenger space.
Boot space is better than the Kia’s though; the Suzuki’s 375-litre boot is broad, and can be fitted with a variable-height boot floor, while the seats fold easily to leave a smooth if slightly sloped loadbay.
Should I buy one?
Potentially, yes. Okay, so it doesn’t have the smartest-feeling interior, but neither do any of its rivals, and the Vitara is roomier than most, easy to drive and offers more serious off-road potential.
It looks set to be competitively priced, too, with PCP finance offers likely to start from a reasonable £180 per month. Equally, with emissions as low as 106g/km on the front-wheel-drive diesel, and with a business-focused SZ-T trim complete with the nav system and a low P11D value, the Vitara has promise as a company car.
We’ll have to wait to drive a final production car – which could yet have some suspension tweaks for the UK market – and have a look at the residual forecasts for the Vitara before making a final judgement, but this honest-feeling small SUV could be a really recommendable option in this growing class.
What Car? says...
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 DDiS 4wd
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £19,000 (est)
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 11.5sec (est)
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy tbc
Suzuki Vitara 1.6
Engine size 1.6-litre petrol
Price from £14,000 (est)
Torque 115lb ft
0-62mph 10.5 sec (est)
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 53.3mpg