What is the Suzuki Vitara?
The Suzuki Vitara is a small crossover SUV, which has a history of proper four-wheel drive capability in an inexpensive package.
The latest model (Suzuki Vitara LY) is very much on-road orientated, however – although you can still buy a 4x4 version, most buyers opt for the cheaper front-wheel drive variants. The Vitara fits into the Suzuki line-up below the SX4 S-Cross and above the Jimny.
- Top speed: 112-124mph
- 0-62mph: 9.5-12.5 seconds
- Fuel economy: 36.6-45.9mpg
- Emissions: 121-143g/km CO2
- Boot space: 375-710 litres
Which versions are available?
The Vitara doesn't come in a huge range – there is only one five-door bodystyle in the current generation, which is available with a choice of just two turbo petrol Boosterjet engines.
The lower-powered option is a 1.0-litre motor with 111hp. It comes with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, which can be combined with front- or Suzuki AllGrip four-wheel drive; you can have a six-speed automatic versions as well, but only with front-wheel drive. The more powerful option is a 1.4-litre engine with 140hp. This gets a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto, both of which can be combined with front- and four-wheel drive.
There are currently three Vitara trim levels; all are generously equipped, but if you can afford to step up from the entry-level version it’s definitely worth doing so.
Styling and engineering
The Vitara has a chunkier look than most rivals in this segment of the crossover market. It looks more like a proper off-roader than a cutesy city car on stilts, but has still been substantially modernised.
On the inside there is plenty of space, and a sensible control layout – but some dubious plastics in places, including some occasionally less-than-tasteful colour choices.
Engineering-wise, the Vitara is related to the larger Suzuki SX4 S-Cross SUV.
Is it good to drive?
As with most Suzukis, the Vitara provides a very spirited driving experience – not necessarily something you’d expect given the way it looks.
Given the choice, we’d opt for the 1.4-litre engine, which feels quicker than the on-paper numbers suggest. Though the 1.0-litre is certainly up for the challenge, the going isn’t quite so easy. Either way, you get light but keen steering, plenty of grip – even from the front-wheel drive models – and good body control in the corners.
The four-wheel drive system is ‘on-demand’, which means that in normal driving it’s mostly front-wheel drive until grip loss is detected, then it sends power to the rear as well. You do get a choice of four driving modes, though. The Vitara’s not got the most sophisticated ride quality, but should prove comfortable enough in every day driving, and has a generally ‘light on its feet’ feel.
How much does it cost?
Suzuki’s list prices aren’t as super-cheap as they used to be, so the Vitara doesn’t immediately look like a massive bargain. However, all models are well-equipped, and the Vitara holds its value well, which is helping Suzuki create some very impressive finance deals. APR details and so forth can vary, but at the time of writing our finance editor is keen to stress the Vitara is one of the best value cars on sale.
Suzuki Vitara Model History
First-generation Suzuki Vitara (1988-2000)
You might be confused to see just one former Suzuki Vitara generation listed here, when two other models were sold between 1998 and 2015. That’s because they were labelled Grand Vitara, and our system treats them separately as a result.
Anyway, the original Vitara was available as a three-door, a three-door convertible and a five-door. It was quite a basic car by modern standards, but also helped create the fashion-led ‘soft-roader’ segment that prioritised looks over farm-hand style off-road capability, and thus is a direct precursor of the current crossover SUV movement.
Despite this, some proper four-wheel drive hardware made it reasonably capable off-road – but it was in having an on-road driving experience that wasn’t akin to tractor that really made it stand out at the time, even if what’d we expect that to mean has shifted considerably since then.
These days you’ll be hard pressed to find one of these that hasn’t been abused to within in an inch of its life – not least because there was a trend for building massively wide versions for a while – but if you do, the original Vitara is not about to become a future classic at any point soon, so try not to pay too much for it…
Read our comprehensive Suzuki Vitara owner’s reviews to find out what existing drivers think.