Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There's a choice of two petrol engines, both of which are turbocharged: a 109bhp 1.0-litre and a 138bhp 1.4-litre.
The 1.0-litre is our recommendation and is a worthy rival to the equivalent engines of other small SUVs, such as the Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Cross. Power arrives promptly when you put your foot down and outright acceleration is respectable; 0-62mph takes 11.5sec if you stick with the standard manual gearbox and front-wheel drive.
The 1.4-litre is worth considering, too, adding a useful dollop of extra power for overtaking and motorway journeys. Both engines are available with an automatic gearbox or, should you need extra traction, four-wheel drive. However, if you want both of those things together, you'll need to go for the 1.4.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Vitara has firm but well-damped suspension. Big bumps or potholes will send a dull thud through to the interior, but the ride rarely gets unsettled and never becomes jarring.
SZ-T and SZ5 models get 17in alloy wheels instead of the standard 16in rims, but these don’t noticeably compromise the Vitara’s ride quality. All things considered, this is one of the more comfortable small SUVs, although the Volkswagen T-Roc and certain versions of the Arona are even more so.
The Vitara goes around corners well enough but is let down by its steering. It’s very light when you begin to turn the wheel away from the straight-ahead position, and there’s little sense of connection to the front wheels. Around town, though, it’s absolutely fine.
Despite the steering issues, there's still some fun to be had hustling the Vitara down a twisty B-road – especially in the sportier S model, which has stiffer suspension to help minimise body roll. It's still not a composed as an Arona or T-Cross through tight twists and turns, though.
Noise and vibration
The Vitara’s engines are smooth, even when worked hard, but they sound a bit thrummy when you're getting up to speed and are noisier than the engines of rivals such as the Arona and T-Cross. All models suffer from intrusive wind and road noise, too.
If you go for the 1.0-litre engine you get a five-speed manual gearbox, whereas the 1.4-litre unit gets a six-speeder. Both are slick and precise and, thanks to well-weighted clutch pedals, allow you to change gear quickly and pull away smoothly.