We really rate both petrol engines. The 1.6-litre is responsive if you keep the revs up. Meanwhile, the turbocharged 1.4-litre is quicker and stronger, so it's perfect if you often venture onto the motorway.
The 1.6-litre diesel develops the same power as the 1.6-litre petrol, but has more torque from lower revs. This makes it easier to drive in the real world, because it will accelerate cleanly without you constantly needing to change to a lower gear.
Opting for the automatic gearbox option instead of the manual blunts the performance. The same is true of the optional four-wheel-drive system that's available on the 1.6-litre petrol and diesel. This is standard on the petrol 1.4 S, but because of its extra turbocharged kick it’s still plenty quick enough, even with the four-wheel drive.
Suzuki Vitara ride comfort
The Suzuki Vitara has firm but well-damped suspension. Big bumps or potholes will send a dull thud through the cabin, but the ride rarely feels unsettled or crashy.
In addition, the car's body doesn’t lean much in corners, which helps prevent occupants being thrown around and inspires a high level of confidence. You can drive the Vitara for hours on motorways, or across country on rougher roads, and it doesn’t get tiring or uncomfortable. This is still the case even on the slightly stiffer-sprung S model.
SZ-T, SZ5 and S models get 17in alloys, instead of the standard 16in items, but they don’t compromise the Vitara’s ride quality.
Suzuki Vitara handling
The Vitara has a precise and grippy front end but is let down by its steering. There’s not much feedback through the wheel, and it’s very light around the straight-ahead position. Little additional weight builds in faster corners, either, which makes the steering feel disconnected from the road. Around town, though, it’s absolutely fine.
Despite the light steering, there's still some fun to be had hustling the Vitara down a twisty B-road thanks to its excellent body control; this is more akin to a well-sorted family hatchback than a wallowy off-roader. Go for the sportier and stiffer-sprung S model and things only get better.
Suzuki Vitara refinement
The Vitara’s petrol engines are smooth, even when worked hard. They make quite a good noise when revved, too, so are rarely annoying.
The diesel is naturally the noisiest engine, particularly at idle and when accelerating. It does settle down when cruising, though. All models suffer from intrusive wind and road noise, making the Vitara a noisier motorway car than some of its rivals.
If you go for the 1.6-litre petrol you get a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.4-litre petrol and diesel versions get a six-speeder. Both are slick and precise, and combined with their well-weighted clutch pedal, let you can change gear quickly and easily.
With a turbocharger to boost power, the smooth and nippy 1.4-litre petrol is actually the best of all the Vitara’s engines. However, because it’s only available on the top-level 4WD S model it’s too expensive to recommend.
Our pick 1.6-litre petrol
The naturally aspirated petrol is smooth and economical. It’s eager, too, and provides decent performance. It isn’t the cleanest engine around, though, and it doesn’t offer as much mid-range pulling power as some rivals’ smaller turbo engines.
Choose the diesel and you’ll benefit from a hefty hike in torque over the petrols, a feature that makes the Vitara relaxing to drive. It’s also cleaner and more economical than the petrol engines, so is cheaper to own and to run whether you’re a private buyer or a company car driver. It’s noisy under acceleration, though.