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Used test: Suzuki Vitara vs Volkswagen T-Cross

You could save yourself thousands on either of these small SUVs by buying them at a year old. We've put them head to head to see which is the better buy...

Suzuki Vitara and Volkswagen T-Cross

The Contenders

Suzuki Vitara 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T

List price when new £18,999
Price today £13,500* 
Available from 2019-present

A car we've long recommended, the four-square Vitara is both roomy and good value.

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI 115 SE

List price when new  £19,555
Price today £16,000*
Available from 2019-present

New, the T-Cross is among the best small SUVs, but is it as good as a used buy?

*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

There’s never been a better time to be shopping for an SUV, with manufacturers doing their best to cover every niche you could possibly be interested in. 

Take Volkswagen. If you want luxury, it has the Touareg; if you need something family-friendly, there's the Tiguan; and if you fancy a small SUV, you actually have two options: the T-Roc or the fractionally more compact and cheaper T-Cross.

Suzuki Vitara driving

The latter only went on sale in 2019, but there are already plenty of examples on the used market that will save you all that tiresome first-year depreciation. So, what's stopping you? Well, maybe the fact you can have another of our favourite used small SUVs, the Suzuki Vitara, for even less. Time to see which is the better buy.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

We’re testing both cars in 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol form, with the T-Cross the slightly more powerful of the two, producing 113bhp versus the Vitara’s 109bhp. 

This is reflected in performance, with the T-Cross fractionally quicker in a dash from 30mph to 70mph – a good indication of overtaking ability – taking 9.9sec to the Vitara’s 10.2sec. Likewise, if you put your foot down in third, fourth or fifth gear without changing down, the T-Cross is marginally the quicker of the two.

Volkswagen T-Cross driving

However, we have a feeling that what will be more significant to most potential buyers is the T-Cross's superior comfort. It’s a little smoother than the Vitara at motorway speeds, but it’s around town where you really notice its more sophisticated ride.

True, the way the T-Cross's suspension has been tuned isn't perfect; drive down a rippling B-road and you feel your head rocking from side to side. However, the Vitara jostles you around in your seat more, albeit without ever becoming truly uncomfortable.

The up side of the Vitara’s relatively firm suspension is that it resists leaning over in corners better than you’d expect from a tall car like this. But although it has decent grip and changes direction keenly enough, your fun is marred by the steering. It’s not only unnervingly vague during the first few degrees of lock but also feels overly light at all speeds.

Suzuki Vitara rear

The T-Cross's steering is more precise, making the car more pleasant to guide down any road, regardless of speed. And like the Vitara, the T-Cross resists body lean well.

Unlike the five-speed Vitara, the T-Cross has a six-speed manual gearbox with a light, relatively short shift action. The Vitara’s has a longer throw, but finding the gear you’re after is still easy enough.

More frustrating is the Vitara’s sluggish start-stop system. If the engine shuts off just as traffic starts moving, there's a noticeable pause before it fires back up again, whereas the T-Cross restarts nearly instantaneously the moment you press the clutch pedal.

Volkswagen T-Cross rear

The T-Cross’s good manners don’t end there; its engine is also smoother and quieter than the Vitara’s. The Vitara suffers from a rough patch from 1500-1750rpm, the rev range you often use when pulling away, with this sending vibrations through the steering wheel.

The Vitara isn’t the quietest of companions, either; its engine is always audible and it generates more wind and road noise at all speeds. In fact, the T-Cross is more hushed everywhere, thanks to its sixth gear, which allows its engine to spin more slowly at 70mph.

As for braking, the Vitara can pull up from 70mph in the shorter distance, but it doesn’t feel especially reassuring when doing so, nose-diving heavily. The T-Cross isn’t far adrift of the Vitara, and feels a lot more stable under braking. 

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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