Suzuki Vitara vs Citroen C4 Cactus

The latest Suzuki Vitara takes on one of our favourite small SUVs, the distinctive Citroen C4 Cactus...

Suzuki Vitara vs Citroen C4 Cactus

The contenders

Citroen C4 Cactus 1.2 PureTech 110 S&S Feel

List price £16,815

Target Price £15,810

The attention-grabbing Cactus has already seen off a host of rivals, including the Nissan Juke

Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ-T 2WD

The Vitara is a new compact SUV that's cheap to buy yet remarkably well equipped

List price £16,250

Target Price £15,345

Remember the old Suzuki Vitara? It was something of a fashion statement back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but hasn’t enjoyed much limelight over the past decade or so.

Suzuki hopes this latest version will change that. It's designed to land the firm a slice of the increasingly lucrative small SUV market, so features lots of modern kit, and smart styling, for an attractive price. Is this enough to beat the quirky and characterful Citroen C4 Cactus?

What are they like to drive?

These two small SUVs might cost similar money and compete in the same class, but they have very different engines. The Cactus has a three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbo petrol that puts out 109bhp, whereas Suzuki has equipped the Vitara with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol, which produces 118bhp.

True, both cars can get from 0-60mph in 9.5sec. However, while the Vitara’s engine needs to be revved hard before it starts to perform, the Citroen’s pulls strongly from just 1500rpm. This makes it easier to maintain snappy progress and means fewer gearchanges are required in everyday driving.

Suzuki Vitara vs Citroen C4 Cactus

So, the Cactus has the edge in a straight line, but it isn’t as capable as the Vitara through corners. The Suzuki has relatively stiff suspension by small SUV standards, so doesn’t sway about as much as the softly sprung Citroen through tight twists and turns.

The Vitara has more front-end grip, too, although it is let down a little by its steering; this is precise but overly light, particularly around the central position, and it doesn’t weight up quickly enough in bends. Meanwhile, the Cactus’s steering is just as accurate but also weightier, which gives you a bit more confidence when cornering quickly.

Suzuki Vitara vs Citroen C4 Cactus

Perhaps more pertinently, both cars are easy to manoeuvre around town and had similar braking distances in our tests. However, the Cactus’s brake feel is a little too sharp initially, which can take a while to get used to.

Despite the Vitara’s stiffer suspension, it tends to deal with most types of bumps better than its French rival. The softly sprung Cactus soaks up speed bumps well enough, but is flummoxed by pockmarked surfaces and potholes, which send nasty jolts through the cabin. The Cactus also feels comparatively wallowy over dips and crests in the road.

The Cactus is the more peaceful cruiser, though. Its engine is smoother and quieter at all speeds, and there’s a fair bit less wind and road noise to contend with on the motorway. It’s just a pity the gearshift is so vague; the Vitara’s is far more precise.