Renault Captur TCe 120 Dynamique Nav
List price £17,805
Target Price £15,873
Renault’s popular and practical little SUV gets exterior and interior tweaks
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ-T
List price £16,999
Target Price £16,102
The Vitara is our favourite sub-£15,000 SUV. How does it fare in the more expensive SZ-T guise?
Vauxhall Crossland X 1.2 Turbo 130 Tech Line Nav
List price £18,290
Target Price £17,736
The first Vauxhall to be based on a Peugeot platform and certainly not the last
Let’s set the scene: you’ve got £18,000 to spend on a small car. You don’t want a humdrum hatchback, but you need a decent amount of space inside. Sounds like a job for a small SUV.
For the past four years, the Renault Captur has hoarded a big chunk of sales in this segment. Frugal engines, funky looks and a big dollop of practicality have always been big draws, but a low-rent interior most certainly wasn’t. Thankfully, a recent update has poshed things up and sharpened its exterior looks.
But is the new Captur the best small SUV in this price bracket? To find out, we’re pitting it against our current favourite, the Suzuki Vitara. It’s a little bigger than the Captur and undercuts its French rival on price, even in the well-equipped SZ-T trim.
Neither car is guaranteed a win here, though, because there’s a new kid on the block: the Vauxhall Crossland X. It’s more powerful than its rivals and comes packed with standard equipment.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Despite having 10bhp more than its rivals in the turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder form tested here, the Crossland X initially fails to convert that into a performance advantage. There’s barely any difference between the three SUVs when you accelerate to the redline through the gears, either from a standstill or when you’re moving.
It’s a different story if you leave the car in one gear and put your foot down, though. The Crossland X thrashes the turbocharged 1.2-litre four-pot Captur from third gear upwards by at least half a second. The Vitara is the only car with a five-speed gearbox and no turbocharger to boost the power of its 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine; this mix of fewer cogs and much less low-rev pulling power means it takes the longest to wind its way up to speed.
You need to rev the Vitara’s engine hard to make swift progress, revealing a loud but not totally unappealing engine note. The Captur’s engine is much smoother and the quietest of the three, while the Crossland X’s sends the most vibrations through the controls and sounds the coarsest. Even so, the Crossland X is actually quieter at a cruise than the Vitara, mainly because it generates less wind noise.
The Captur has the softest suspension and is the most comfortable over all surfaces. Only particularly bad ruts and bumps really upset it, making the Captur the best for a gentle cruise. The Vitara is firmer, but good damping means the car deals with uneven surfaces quickly and without causing too much discomfort.
While the Crossland X is slightly softer than the Vitara, it can’t deal with sharp-edged bumps and potholes as quickly, sending a jolt through the car. Over crumbly urban roads, it jostles you around the most and the ride never settles down, even on the motorway.
Come off the motorway and onto a twisting country road and you’ll find the Vitara is in its element. Its steering may feel a bit vague, but the firm suspension means there’s little body lean and front-end grip is the best here. Keen drivers will have the most fun in the Vitara.
The Captur may not feel very sporty due to its soft suspension, but it’s predictable and has the most natural weighting to its steering. There’s a bit of body lean when cornering, but it’s otherwise pretty tidy. Meanwhile, the Crossland X’s steering is too fast when you turn the wheel by a small amount and its handling can be unpredictable. You get little warning that the front tyres are running out of grip, and if you come off the accelerator too sharply, the rear can slide a little.
Page 1 of 6