Suzuki Vitara: Petrol vs diesel

  • We compare our long term Vitara to its petrol sibling
  • Petrol model is cheaper but the diesel offers lower running costs
  • Is top-of-the-range SZ5 trim worth the extra cash?

We’ve had the keys for our Suzuki Vitara a couple of months now and already supassed the first 1,000 miles on test.

Putting it through its paces we’ve already been to the New Forest, Cheddar Gorge, visited an off-road track and even had a day at the seaside soaking up the little of the sun this summer has had to offer so far.

Our test car is fitted with a 1.6-litre diesel engine combined with the firm's ALLGRIP off-road system. In SZ5 trim it also sits right at the top of the range in terms of kit and price.

We recently took delivery of a petrol Vitara in mid-range SZ-T spec which provided the perfect opportunity to compare the two and find out which offers better value for money.

Price and kit

Our long-term car costs £22,099 to buy which includes the optional Atlantis Turquoise Pearl metallic paintwork with black contracting roof which is, in our opinion, the best colour combination on offer. The more subtle petrol test car is in Cosmic Black metallic paint and costs £15,949 to buy.

So the petrol Vitara is a lot cheaper, but it’s not fitted with a four-wheel drive system which we were really impressed with when we recently took our long termer off-road.

In terms of kit, both cars come equipped with a rear view camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, sat-nav, four speakers, silver roof rails and air-con.

Moving up to SZ5 trim in our long termer gains more luxuries including keyless entry and start, double sliding panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, automatic LED lights, suede and leather seat upholstery and safety systems which notify you if you’re too close to the car in front.

When you consider that the ALLGRIP system adds close to £2,000 to the price tag, we think SZ5 actually comes well equipped for the price. It's not as good value for money as SZ-T though.

The comparable diesel in SZ-T trim without the ALLGRIP system will cost you £2,000 more so it really depends on how many miles you travel each year on which will make the most financial sense.

Driving

The petrol engine on offer here is a 1.6-litre engine with 118bhp and 156Nm of torque enabling the car to complete the 0-62mph sprint in 11.5 seconds. Our long-term diesel Vitara offers the same bhp but with 320Nm of torque. It does weigh more than the petrol though, so it's slower getting from 0-62mph and completes the sprint in 12.4 seconds.

With light steering and a 10-metre turning circle, the Vitara drives very well around the city and is easy to park too. The petrol engine can be noisy when accelerating at times though and is mated to a long-geared five-speed manual in comparison to our diesel which has a six-speed.

Around the city you’ll not notice any shortcomings, however the sixth gear will be missed as soon as you join the motorway. The Vitara is noiser and worse on fuel with five gears because the engine holds the revs higher. 

There’s a fair amount of grip on offer in the petrol model but it’s the diesel which handles better thanks to the ALLGRIP system.

Running costs

Although diesels are known for low running costs, we were expecting the petrol to do better here because of our long-termer's extra weight and four-wheel drive system.

Official fuel consumption figures are good with a combined figure of 53.3mpg. Its CO2 emissions let let the petrol down though at 123g/km meaning tax costs will be £110 after the first year - until 2017 when the bands will change.

Our diesel offers a combined figure of 67.2mpg and CO2 emissions of just 106g/km meaning you’ll pay £20 per annum after the first year. While neither fuel economy figure is likely in real-world driving (as you can see from our calculated figure at the bottom of this article), it's a decent benchmark to compare cars all the same.

Our long-termer is likely to have higher insurance costs though, because it's in insurance group 17 whereas the petrol is in group 13.

Which would we buy?

The petrol engine is great in the city but our long term diesel is the champion of the motorway and offers far greater versatility for everyday driving.

There’s no denying that the cheaper price tag of SZ-T trim is certainly tempting though, it comes with plenty of kit as standard and offers the better value for money of the two.

Mileage: 1,279

Fuel economy: 47.8mpg