Is the 2019 Suzuki Vitara the best budget SUV in the world?
The Vitara name has been with Suzuki for some time now, over the years it has developed somewhat to become the Vitara we have now. No longer is it a strange looking 4x4 with questionable build quality, now it's a refined and well built crossover SUV with good styling and fantastic technology and safety.
Last year I drove a 1.4 Vitara manual (pre-facelift) with 'all-grip' through a snow storm and chaotic weather, the nippy little underdog beat many considerably higher priced competitors to get me home in one piece whilst never making me question the ability of the car.
The outside is nicely rounded and relatively stylish, smooth lines and a good 'grill to bumper' ratio mean the front end looks decent too. Unlike many competitors, Suzuki offer the Vitara with powder-coated alloys instead of diamond cut. This gives you confidence off-road without the worry of scratching the wheel face - it also makes the car cheaper to buy.
The facelift gets a light-cluster update on the exterior, however to the unobservant eye you won't notice much else. It still has the new styling language which you'll see across the Suzuki range, from the Swift Sport to the Jimny - however the Vitara also has some styling characteristics you won't see on anything else. It's a unique design which also isn't too far away from others in the brand.
Inside it's surprisingly tech-heavy, even on the middle of the road SZT model. Navigation, DAB, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, cruise control, reversing camera and much more. For a vehicle which costs £19k it's surprising just how much tech you get for the money.
The interior build quality is good, while there is an abundance of plastic - it's soft touch and hard wearing. The seats are comfortable and visibility from the drivers seat is excellent thanks to larger exterior mirrors. Rear legroom is more than needed with head-room also being acceptable - ISOFIX means 'family' capabilities are done with ease.
The boot space is extremely good, passing my 'gig test' with flying colours. The last Vitara I had it didn't pass on load capacity, however it appears I just.. did it wrong. The boot sizes haven't increased, it took everything this time with ease and it meant nothing was on display for prying eyes at the services.
Performance isn't a strong point for the 1.0 3-cylinder, however considering it is just that.. a 1.0 3-cylinder, you'd probably be surprised to hear it doesn't feel like one. The immediate pickup is shockingly good, around town it's more than quick enough for any situation - on the motorway whilst it isn't a rocket ship, it will sit comfortably at 70mph without worry. On backroads you can still attempt to overtake slower vehicles as the engine pulls really well.
It pumps out an honest 110bhp/160Nm torque, getting to 62mph in 12.5 seconds and topping out at 111mph. Most of the acceleration happens between 0-40mph, around town that's all you need. Merging on to motorways you do have to keep the hammer down, however you end up getting up to speed considerably faster than you'd think.
Handling wise you get decent feedback with a good feel, whilst there is some body roll it's minimal for the type of vehicle it is. The brakes are responsive however they do offer little feedback to the driver - but it's not a performance car so what do you expect?
You can safely have fun on b-roads in the Vitara 1.0, whilst in other cars you may be standing on the brakes to knock speed off, the Vitara isn't so quick it puts you in any danger. Even when entering corners slightly faster than intended, the Vitara doesn't give you any sign of understeer or bouncing - it feels.. almost.. composed.
The Vitara I had on test costs £21,680, this gives you a SZT and an automatic gearbox. Prices start around £17,000 for the SZ4 and go above £22,500 on the SZ5 - however with Suzuki you don't have to spec much in. Each model comes with everything as standard, if you want something else it's probably on the higher trim.. so you just buy that.
The engines available are the 1.0 3-cylinder and 1.4 4-cylinder and both have the all-grip option available. If you drive around town a lot, the 1.0 will suit you perfectly. Spend any time on the motorway and you'll appreciate the extra power from the 1.4. The auto box is smooth and responsive, but if you want extra control you'll want to option the manual.
The Vitara is a superbly capable and practical every day SUV which doesn't break the bank to buy or run. The off road capabilities are extensive thanks to the fact Suzuki make the incredibly immense Jimny.. so it really is a proper 'crossover' SUV.
Put the Vitara up against rivals like the Seat Arona, Renault Kaptur, Mazda CX-3 or the Audi Q2 on a cost basis.. and the Vitara wins by a country mile. However, put it up against the Dacia Duster.. and it's a pretty close call.
So really, the Vitara is truly the best budget SUV in the world.. if you want something different.. and you want lots of technology as standard.