Suzuki Vitara review

Category: Small SUV

The Vitara offers loads of standard kit and efficient engines but rivals have a more premium feel

Red Suzuki Vitara front cornering
  • Red Suzuki Vitara front cornering
  • Suzuki Vitara interior dashboard
  • Red Suzuki Vitara boot open
  • Suzuki Vitara interior infotainment
  • Red Suzuki Vitara front right driving
  • Red Suzuki Vitara front driving
  • Red Suzuki Vitara rear right driving
  • Red Suzuki Vitara badge detail
  • Red Suzuki Vitara lights detail
  • Red Suzuki Vitara alloy wheel detail
  • Red Suzuki Vitara alloy wheel detail
  • Suzuki Vitara interior front seats
  • Suzuki Vitara interior back seats
  • Suzuki Vitara interior steering wheel
  • Suzuki Vitara interior air-con controls
  • Suzuki Vitara interior drive mode selector
  • Suzuki Vitara interior panoramic roof
  • Red Suzuki Vitara front cornering
  • Suzuki Vitara interior dashboard
  • Red Suzuki Vitara boot open
  • Suzuki Vitara interior infotainment
  • Red Suzuki Vitara front right driving
  • Red Suzuki Vitara front driving
  • Red Suzuki Vitara rear right driving
  • Red Suzuki Vitara badge detail
  • Red Suzuki Vitara lights detail
  • Red Suzuki Vitara alloy wheel detail
  • Red Suzuki Vitara alloy wheel detail
  • Suzuki Vitara interior front seats
  • Suzuki Vitara interior back seats
  • Suzuki Vitara interior steering wheel
  • Suzuki Vitara interior air-con controls
  • Suzuki Vitara interior drive mode selector
  • Suzuki Vitara interior panoramic roof
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Introduction

What Car? says...

Practical. Affordable. Easy to live with. There are plenty of very sensible things that the Suzuki Vitara aims to be, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s just a boring box on wheels.

In fact, on paper, it looks like a cracking small SUV, with a big boot, low running costs and generous standard equipment. It's available as a mild hybrid or regular hybrid, and you can have two or four-wheel drive, and a manual or automatic gearbox.

Is all that enough for the Vitara to hold its own against the best small SUVs though? After all, competition is fierce among models that combine SUV style, estate-car practicality and a hatchback price.

Rivals include loads of family favourites, from the Ford Puma to the VW T-Cross. Meanwhile, the regular hybrid Vitara is also competing with the incredibly efficient Toyota Yaris Cross.

Read on to find out how the Suzuki Vitara stacks up in all the important areas – from performance and handling to practicality and efficiency...

Red Suzuki Vitara rear cornering

Overview

While the Suzuki Vitara comes with loads of standard kit and efficient engines, many of its rivals don’t cost that much more but are better to drive, more spacious inside and feel more upmarket. If you do get one, we recommend entry-level SZ-T trim and the mild-hybrid engine for the best value.

  • Cheaper versions are good value
  • Mild-hybrid engine provides decent performance
  • Great reliability rating
  • Interior quality beaten by rivals
  • So-so resale values
  • Panoramic roof seriously restricts headroom
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Our Pick

OurPicksRRP £25,449.01
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet 48V Hybrid SZ-T 5dr review
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

Our chosen engine for the Suzuki Vitara is a 1.4-litre petrol, which has mild-hybrid technology and comes with a slick six-speed manual gearbox that enables precise shifts. It's quite sprightly for a small SUV, nipping from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds – slightly quicker than the entry-level Ford Puma and the equivalent VW T-Cross.

While the mild-hybrid version can't drive on electricity alone, the regular hybrid can – but has less power (113bhp), so it's slower to accelerate to 62mph, taking 12.7 seconds. That's not helped by its standard automatic gearbox, which provides very slow gear changes compared with the lightning fast double-clutch autos in the Seat Arona and VW T-Roc. The Toyota Yaris Cross manages the same sprint in 10.7 seconds officially.

The Vitara comes with front-wheel drive as standard, but can be upgraded to AllGrip four-wheel drive, although that adds weight and reduces straight-line performance. Of course, the advantage is more traction and added confidence in slippery conditions, but don’t expect it to match a Jeep Renegade or Suzuki Ignis off road.

Suspension and ride comfort

The best way to describe the Vitara’s ride is "firm but well-damped". To explain, while big bumps or potholes will send a dull thud through the interior, the car rarely gets unsettled and it never becomes jarring. 

Indeed, the Vitara isn’t uncomfortable to cover long distances in – it's just not as comfortable as the slightly softer Skoda Kamiq and VW T-Roc.

Suzuki Vitara image
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Handling

When you head out on to a twisty road, the Vitara goes round corners well enough, but it's let down by the steering, which is very light when you begin to turn the wheel and gives little sense of connection to the front wheels. It’s better suited to town driving, helping you manoeuvre into parking spaces and around tight roundabouts with ease.

The hybrid version is only 40kg heavier than the mild-hybrid, and the extra weight makes very little difference to how the car handles. Even with AllGrip four-wheel drive, the Vitara is never as composed or fun to drive as a Ford Puma or VW T-Cross.

Noise and vibration

The Vitara’s 1.4-litre engine is smooth enough even when worked hard, but sounds tinny and noisy during moderate acceleration (it’s certainly noisier than the Arona and T-Cross). All models suffer from intrusive wind and road noise too.

The hybrid Vitara's automated manual gearbox mostly avoids the jerkiness these types of gearboxes are known for, but there’s a significant "nodding" sensation as it changes gears.

"In terms of the ride, you definitely notice when you go over a bump or a pothole – you get a big thud through the interior – but it all settles down quickly afterwards and never becomes jarring." – Doug Revolta, Head of Video

Driving overview

Strengths Engines have decent performance; easy to drive

Weaknesses Lots of wind and road noise at speed; firmer ride than rivals

Suzuki Vitara interior dashboard

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

Finding a suitable driving position in the Suzuki Vitara is simple because the driver’s seat and the steering wheel can both be moved up and down as well as forwards and backwards.

The seat is quite comfortable, although a little more side bolstering wouldn’t go amiss to grip you more tightly through corners. There's no adjustable lumbar support or electric seat adjustment.

The gear lever in manual versions is high-set and relatively large so it falls easily to hand. Likewise, most of the controls are intelligently laid out, and the physical buttons and dials for the climate control make it easier to make adjustments on the move than the touch-sensitive ones you’ll find in higher trim versions of the VW T-Cross.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

It’s easy to see out of the Vitara, thanks to its lofty driving position and slim front window pillars that do little to interrupt the view at roundabouts and junctions. 

The news when you look over your shoulder is just as good, thanks to slim rear pillars and glass where your blind spot would usually be. Making things even easier, blind-spot monitoring comes as standard on all versions. 

You also get a rear-view camera as standard equipment, helping to make parking a doddle, while top-spec SZ5 trim adds front and rear parking sensors, too.

Sat nav and infotainment

As standard, Suzuki fits all Vitaras with a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, a USB port, built-in sat-nav and Smartphone Link, which lets you mirror your smartphone on the screen using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. If you opt for SZ5 trim, you get a slightly better stereo system.

The touchscreen is easy to use on the whole but can be a little slow to respond. On top of that, the touch-sensitive pads for volume adjustment and other frequently used functions are more fiddly than physical buttons or dials would be.

It’s not as good as the system in the Ford Puma and miles away from the set-up in the VW T-Roc.

Quality

An impression of unbreakable quality is not something the Vitara exudes. The doors and boot lid feel quite light and tinny when you close them, while many of the interior plastics, including those on top of the dashboard and those lower down, feel cheap to the touch. The Puma, Seat Arona and T-Cross have altogether more modern-feeling interiors.

However, while the Vitara isn't exactly plush inside, its interior does feel durable, and there are gloss-black plastics and patterned fascias to help break up the gloom. The suede seat fabric and door inserts on SZ5 models look and feel good too.

"Basically every other rival has an altogether more modern feel compared to the quite tired and old-feeling Vitara." – Doug Revolta, Head of Video

Interior overview

Strengths Good visibility; sturdy interior; comfy driving position

Weaknesses Cheap-feeling interior materials; some fiddly touch-sensitive buttons

Red Suzuki Vitara boot open

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

Thanks in part to deep footwells, there’s enough room in the front of the Suzuki Vitara for tall drivers. If you’re very lofty, though, the head room-robbing panoramic glass roof that comes with SZ5 trim might mean your quiff brushes the ceiling.

A USB port and 12V socket are handily located behind the gearstick, but the accompanying cubbies are too small for many of the latest smartphones. On top of that, the two cupholders are positioned annoyingly far back behind the central armrest.

Rear space

There’s plenty of leg room and a decent amount of head room in the Vitara's two outer rear seats, even when the front seats are occupied by tall people.

The middle seat is slightly raised so its occupant is more likely to struggle with head room. An adult can sit there, but shoulder room will be very tight if all three rear seats are filled. Again, the SZ5's panoramic glass roof has the effect of lowering the ceiling a little.

If you want maximum rear space in a small SUV, try the Skoda Kamiq.

Seat folding and flexibility

It’s pretty standard fare here, with rear seats that split and fold 60/40, granting you much more luggage space when you need it. The Vitara doesn't have any of the useful sliding rear-seat versatility you get in a Citroën C3 Aircross or Renault Captur (or even a Suzuki Ignis).

It's easy to lower the backrests by pulling the levers at the top, and there's no need to faff about removing the rear headrests first, as you have to in some cars. What's more, because the backrests are so light, it’s no chore getting them back up again.

Boot space

The mild-hybrid Suzuki Vitara's 362-litre boot is big by the standards of small SUVs and we managed to fit in five carry-on suitcases when we tested it. The regular hybrid has a smaller boot, with 289 litres, because the larger battery steals some of the storage space.

In the mild-hybrid car's boot, there's a useful underfloor storage area that's ideal for stowing valuables or loose items, plus two storage pockets (one on each side). If you drop the rear seats, they don’t fold completely flat, but there’s no awkward step in the extended boot floor to make life difficult when you're sliding in long, bulky items.

Not all the Vitara’s rivals are this well designed, but if you need more boot space, try the Citroën C3 Aircross, Ford Puma or Skoda Kamiq.

"Space up front is okay... if you’re especially tall, the panoramic sunroof you get on SZ5 models might mean you feel a little cramped, but otherwise it’s fine." – Doug Revolta, Head of Video

Practicality overview

Strengths Big boot; lots of rear space; enough front space for tall passengers

Weaknesses Panoramic roof reduces head room; rear seats are not very versatile

Suzuki Vitara interior infotainment

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Suzuki Vitara costs around the same as a cash purchase as the Renault Captur, but less than a Ford Puma, Toyota Yaris Cross or VW T-Cross. Indeed, even range-topping SZ5 just about undercuts those rivals. The thing is, the Vitara is predicted to depreciate faster.

The Vitara is a relatively inexpensive car to run, and the mild-hybrid engine brings good fuel economy, with an official WLTP figure from 53.2mpg. The Puma (which has mild-hybrid tech too) returns 52.3mpg, although the regular petrol-powered T-Cross can achieve figures that aren’t far off.

The regular hybrid Vitara can officially manage 54.3mpg, which is good, but somewhat south of the far more impressive 60mpg of the Yaris Cross.

Whether you choose the mild hybrid or the full hybrid, opting for the four-wheel-drive system does noticeably reduce fuel economy, and also increases CO2 emissions.

Equipment, options and extras

Despite being the entry-level trim, SZ-T is the one we’d go for, because it keeps the cost to a minimum, includes loads of kit and doesn’t get the head room-limiting panoramic roof. It includes 17in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, automatic air conditioning, automatic headlights and heated door mirrors.

Upgrading to SZ5 trim gets you even more features without adding that much to the cost. Highlights include keyless entry and electrically folding door mirrors, along with the suede trim, parking sensors and an upgraded stereo.

Reliability

Suzuki as a brand came a highly impressive fourth out of 32 car makers in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey – below Toyota in second, but way ahead of Ford and VW.

The Vitara itself also did reasonably well in the small SUV category of the survey, finishing in the top half of the table and above the T-Roc and Puma.

As with many of its rivals, Suzuki gives you a three-year or 60,000-mile warranty as standard, with a 12-year anti-perforation warranty to quell any concerns about rust. However, that's nowhere near as good as the 10-year warranty that can get from Toyota if you regularly service your car at an approved centre.

Safety and security

The Vitara was awarded five stars in its Euro NCAP safety tests back in 2015, but the rating has expired. It’s hard to compare the model with more modern rivals that have proven themselves under the latest, more stringent testing regime.

The Vitara gets loads of safety tech as standard though, including automatic emergency braking (AEB) – a safety system we consider vital. All models get lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The Puma, along with other rivals, reserves some of those features for its options list.

Security experts Thatcham Research awarded the Vitara four stars out of five for its resistance to theft but only three stars for its resistance to being broken into. Those are below-par scores for the small SUV class.

"The stop-start system helps fuel economy, but while the Vitara is relatively impressive in that regard, a lot of its rivals are too." – Doug Revolta, Head of Video

Costs overview

Strengths Cheaper than rivals; cheap to run; good reliability score

Weaknesses Quick depreciation; expired safety rating


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FAQs

  • It's available as a mild hybrid (MHEV) or regular hybrid (HEV), but there is no electric car version.

  • If you’re after a small SUV that’s affordable, efficient and has loads of standard equipment, the entry-level Vitara wouldn’t be a bad purchase. The thing is, many of its rivals are more spacious, better to drive and hold their value better.

  • No matter which engine you go for, the Vitara shouldn’t be all that expensive to run. Indeed, even the entry-level mild hybrid engine can officially manage more than 50mpg. It’s worth noting, though, that four-wheel drive models aren’t as efficient and produce more CO2.

At a glance
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Target Price from £21,769
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RRP price range £25,449 - £30,999
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)2
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)hybrid, petrol
MPG range across all versions 47.8 - 54.3
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £1,410 / £1,844
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £2,821 / £3,688
Available colours