Suzuki Vitara long-term test review: report 1

The Suzuki Vitara has long been one of our favourite small SUVs, but how will it fare as a photographer's assistant?...

Suzuki Vitara front

The car Suzuki Vitara 1.0 Boosterjet SZT 2WD Run by Max Edleston, junior photographer

Why it’s here To see how a small SUV with a 1.0-litre engine copes when asked to cover long motorway journeys and haul around gear for our roving photographers

Needs to Function as a mobile office when needed, be comfortable and economical for long trips and be able to store all of our photography equipment

Mileage 2882 List price £18,999 Target Price £18,221 Price as tested £19,799 Test economy 45.0mpg Official Economy 53.2mpg Extras Bright Red paint and Black roof (£800) Contract hire £174.80 Insurance group 13 Typical insurance quote £457

29 March 2019 – The Vitara joins our fleet

As the newest member of the What Car? team and having taken on a full-time photographer’s lifestyle, dashing the length and breadth of the UK to shoot the cars you see on this website and in the magazine, I've had much to learn.

First off, the sheer amount of kit I have to take to a shoot, which ranges from the obvious, such as lights, tripods and cameras, to the not so obvious, such as kitchen roll, bottles of Windolene and even a paintbrush to make sure my subjects scrub up as well as they can. As a result, it was time to replace my little Volkswagen Polo with something more practical.

My wishlist was reasonable: I need an economical, reliable car with plenty of space for all my gear. Furthermore, there’s no telling where this job will take you, so a modicum of off-road ability is welcome, too. That led me to the Suzuki Vitara, a small SUV that has been highly rated by What Car? in the past, with our road testers praising its low running costs, spacious interior and sharp looks.

In fact, the Vitara has been named as our favourite small SUV in its price point for two years running. However, there are a few areas where it has lagged behind rivals such as the class-leading Seat Arona – namely lacklustre engines and the large amount of cheap-feeling plastic within the interior. I'll be discovering whether a recent facelift has addressed those.

New Volkswagen T-Cross vs Seat Arona vs Suzuki Vitara

My SZT model sits centrally in the Vitara range and comes with features including a DAB radio, cruise control and a rear-view camera. This is our recommended version, and I want to explore whether the extras it comes with over the entry-level SZ4 are really worth paying for.

It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As someone who uses sat-nav apps heavily, I felt this was a must for my car. I note this model comes with built-in sat-nav, but it doesn’t update with real-time traffic alerts, which can make or break a journey along motorways on a Friday afternoon. The smartphone mirroring capabilities allow you to use a whole host of alternatives, such as Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps.

I chose the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine, because I'm intrigued to see how well such a small motor performs in a car of this size. Is it muscular enough to help me out on the odd occasion I need to put my foot down?

I cover many miles in my cars, spending hours on the road, and as such I need my driving experience to be comfortable and quiet so that I don’t get to my destination with a sore back, bleeding ears and a bad mood. I'll therefore be paying extra close attention to the ride and refinement.

Suzuki Vitara interior

It will also be interesting to see how the front-wheel-drive model does off road when I need to get away from the beaten track to shoot a car. After all, Suzuki’s Allgrip four-wheel drive system is a £1800 option. Ouch.

Finally, I want to see if the 1.0 Boosterjet's official fuel economy is as good as it appears on paper and whether it can match the surprisingly frugal 1.6-litre engine it has replaced. Suzuki has already set the bar very high with the smaller Ignis SUV, it being most efficient car we've yet tested on our True MPG cycle.

A major element of taking on the Vitara is getting used to driving a bigger car. Okay, it isn’t exactly competing for size against the Audi Q7, but as someone who has only driven small hatchbacks until now, the Vitara is quite a step up in terms of road presence. I wonder how long it will take me to adjust to a taller driving position and (hopefully) improved visibility.

In fact, I'm looking forward to finding out what it’s like to live with an SUV in a more general sense. What it is about them that drives the car-buying public crazy?

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