Since its introduction in 1988, Suzuki’s Vitara has become a highly successful car. That's despite the fact that neither the first-generation car, nor its replacement introduced in 1998, was a particularly competitive on-road performer. Against that they were attractive, well-priced and fairly good off-road.

That’s not good enough these days. The current Grand Vitara has to hold its head above water in a busy sector of the market, and while it offers more in the way of traditional off-roading hardware than its more modern rivals, the trade-off could be a lack of the sophistication now normal in the compact SUV class.

Granted, most more recent opposition is also more expensive, but the success of the sector shows that people are prepared to pay. This road test features the 2.0-litre petrol version with 138bhp, an engine now supplanted by a 166bhp 2.4. A 127bhp, 1.9-litre, Renault-sourced turbodiesel is also offered.

Top 5 Compact SUVs

  • A huge improvement over the old model and now among the class leaders

    BMW X3

    1
  • The new Land Rover Discovery Sport is the successor to the Freelander

    Land Rover Discovery Sport

    2
  • The Swede's XC60 compact SUV is a rival for Range Rover's Evoque

    Volvo XC60

    3
  • The Q5 is Audi's response to the Land Rover Freelander 2, BMW X3 and Volvo SC60

    Audi Q5

    4
  • Kia's seven-seat Sorento SUV is now in its third generation

    Kia Sorento

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Suzuki range

Driven this week