From £14,4708
Suzuki's all-new Vitara looks and drives well enough to give the market's current darling, the Nissan Juke, some serious hurry-up
Steve Cropley Autocar
26 November 2014

What is it?

This is the new Vitara, The new weapon Suzuki wants to use to for continue its expansion in Europe. It will hit the market next April, but we were allowed to road test it in late prototype form, months before the launch. 

The company has been having a good time in the UK market over the past three years, practically doubling its sales to 37,500 units and acting like a serious player instead of the wallflower it has often been. And that's before it launches six new models planned for the next three years. 

First of the new crop will be the super-frugal baby Celerio, but it will be the arrival of the new Vitara SUV that really gets thing moving. Suzuki wants to take aim at the Nissan Juke, the class favourite, plus the Skoda Yeti and all the other B-segment SUVs currently crowding into the market – and no wonder. 

By 2020, demand for B-segment SUVs is tipped to reach a million a year, and Suzuki believes it deserves a decent share, not least because it has been building small off-roaders since 1970, so this latest model contains more than 40 years of concentrated know-how.

The Vitara has an all-new body and interior but uses adapted underpinnings from the recently launched S-Cross

There are two engines: an improved version of Suzuki's 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol four and an improved, cleaner 1.6-litre diesel producing precisely the same power but around double the torque.

What's it like?

In size, the Vitara fits between the Juke and Yeti, which makes it big for the B-segment. But its prices go straight into the class's heartland: the front-drive petrol model is around £14,000, while the ritziest 4x4 diesel, which includes gadgets like radar cruise and automatic city braking, sits below £19,000. 

There are new colours and lots of personalisation; owners can choose a black or white grille, a city or a rugged body look and even their own fascia colour from half a dozen different options.

On the road, the 1.6DDiS 4x4 impresses with strong torque off the mark and pleasing mid-range acceleration. 

The steering is fairly light, though perhaps a little slow near the straight-ahead. The suspension isn't sophisticated in description (what with a twist beam rear end), but it shows the benefit of UK tuning; body control is excellent and the car damps high-frequency bumps well to give occupants an overall feeling of comfort and robustness.

The diesel gets a standard six-speed gearbox (you only get five with the petrol) that has a light, short throw. 

The engine is quite vocal, even at idle, but it sounds quieter when working and supports high overall gearing, so its note disappears at a motorway cruise. Road and wind noise are not that well contained, but the Vitara is no worse in this respect than anything else in this class. 

Still, this is an easy and enjoyable car to drive, with faithful controls, a comfortable driving position and an obvious long-distance capability. Although we drove nowhere near any mud or dirt, we'd back it to show prowess off road, too.

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AllGrip (4x4) models get a transmission mode selector (Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock) plus hill descent control. Sport tweaks the engine to yield extra torque and sends a greater percentage of it rearwards for better cornering balance. 

Lock is for when you're bogged; it directs torque to each corner and brakes any wheel that tries to spin. If the car is capable of driving out, it will manage it in this mode.

Suzuki calls the new Vitara city-friendly, and it is, the compact dimensions and relatively tall body making it easy to manoeuvre in crowded streets. That tallness helps overall packaging, too; the Vitara feels big in front, but that airy feeling doesn't come at the expense of rear room. The boot is generous and there's a false floor with more storage beneath. But for really big loads, the backrests collapse on to the squabs; there's no sign of a flat floor.

Should I buy one?

On rational grounds, the Vitara looks a very decent bet. 

It is business-friendly; Suzuki is aiming at 111g/km for the four-wheel-drive diesel manual. That must surely mean it'll surely turn a combined economy figure in the late 50s; even the petrol auto can do 49.5mpg. These are fine figures indeed for any 4x4, however small. 

In sum, the Vitara looks a decent competitor in a sector not yet known for product excellence. It's smart, though not in the funky Nissan Juke sense. 

But who knows? Perhaps platoons of buyers who dislike funk are out there, just waiting. Whatever, the Vitara is capable, economical and well priced. It deserves to do well.

Suzuki Vitara 1.6DDiS 4x4

Price £18,900 (est); 0-62mph 10.5sec (est); Top speed 120mph (est); Economy 57.5mpg (combined, est); CO2 111g/km ; Kerb weight 1295kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 118bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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rybo1 27 November 2014

Vitara

If I had choice between the Vitara and the Juke, I'd go with the Vitara on styling alone. In my opinion, the Juke is one of the most hideous looking vehicles on the road, just plain ugly.
5wheels 27 November 2014

Catch up

Suzuki seem to thrive in catch up marketing. Watch what the others do and then do their best to be better. The original Swift was a gem - and the 1.3 motor loved to be hammered. I know I used one for rally practice for 3 years without it ever letting me down or breaking anything - amazing. The Vitara on the other hand was rubbish. Suspension would have been better named suspection as it crashed and leaped around like an agricultural trailer behind the tractor. This new model looks way better has the also excellent 1.6 engine, the only annoying thing I noticed was the seats dont fold flat - stupid easy to remedy design. Go to the Outlander and see how those fold (and also tilt for comfort. 7 out of 10 for effort
BigMitch 26 November 2014

What an absolute mess.

What an absolute mess.