Buyers get a choice of three engines to propel the Vitara. Two are 1.6-litre units, with one burning diesel and the other petrol. No matter which motor you opt for, both develop 118bhp, while the diesel benefits from a hefty torque advantage of 236lb ft at 1750rpm to the petrol's 115lb ft at 4400rpm. While the 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine produces a princely 138bhp and 162lb ft, but Suzuki has also increased the pressure of the fuel injection system and tweaked the turbocharger to keep the wastegate closed to reduce the amount of lag when jumping back on the throttle.
Petrol power probably isn’t most people’s idea of a natural fit for a compact crossover – even more so when you consider that the Vitara’s 1.6-litre M16A motor comes without the functional benefits of a turbocharger – but the usual advantages still apply: if your average mileage requirements are modest, then a diesel unit isn’t necessarily mandatory.
It helps in the Vitara’s case that the engine isn’t required to haul around a particularly onerous amount of weight. The car doesn’t feel nearly as flat-footed as it might were it carrying an industry-standard mass. By keeping a goodly amount from the scales, Suzuki has ensured that there’s sufficient tractability for the new model to feel amenable in the real world.
It also, when full of fuel and half-filled with road testers, did considerably better at getting to the national limit than Suzuki claimed it would, knocking a full 2.0sec from the 11.5sec quote. At 9.5sec, that makes the Vitara if not exactly quick then at the very least enthusiastic in a way that we – and surely very few of its prospective buyers – expected.
That said, with a different variant of this engine being previously shared with the Swift Sport, perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised. Certainly, the four-cylinder unit delivers its power in much the same way, remaining earnest even beyond the 6000rpm at which its 118bhp peak is produced.
On the road, the 1.6-litre D16AA diesel motor impresses with strong torque off the mark and pleasing mid-range acceleration. It's quite a vocal unit, even at idle, but settles down when working and supports high overall gearing, so its note disappears at a motorway cruise.
The petrol variant only comes paired with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the diesel gets a six-speeder; which has a light, short throw. However, the five-speed manual doesn’t possess quite the positive shift action that we’d like or the refinement that would prevent you from hearing every element of the process.