Parkers overall rating: 3.2 out of 5 3.2
  • Two choices – mild or self-charging hybrid
  • Neither is particularly fast
  • Vitara is lightweight and fun to drive

Petrol engines

There’s a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine on offer here, badged as ‘Boosterjet’. It has a degree of mild hybrid assistance making it more efficient and responsive, but don’t expect to be driving this on electric power alone – you’ll need the self-charging hybrid variant for that, detailed below.

Since the introduction of the self-charging hybrid this Boosterjet Vitara is available only with a manual gearbox, but it can be had with Allgrip four-wheel drive.

Suzuki Vitara rear tracking

This is our pick of the range – it’s a really nice little engine with plenty of performance considering the Vitara’s light weight. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and easy to use, and the whole package is efficient and even reasonably refined.

Hybrid engines

Suzuki’s brand partnership with Toyota might lead you to expect that the Vitara hybrid uses a version of Toyota’s 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain. It doesn’t. Instead, it uses a Suzuki-developed system, pairing a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine with a relatively low-power electrical system and an automated manual gearbox.

The result isn’t very impressive. The electric motor has just 33hp, so it’s not particularly keen to power the car for long periods as with rival systems. The system as a whole has a fairly puny output of just 115hp and very little torque, so even though the Vitara doesn’t weigh very much performance is slow.

Worse still is the automated manual gearbox, which clunks through changes and is very sluggish to respond.

It’s bad enough that we’d recommend looking elsewhere if you need an SUV with an automatic gearbox – perhaps to the Suzuki S-Cross, which uses a traditional torque converter automatic and is much better. Certainly, rival hybrid systems in the Toyota Yaris Cross and Kia Niro are more pleasant to drive and more efficient.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Light weight means fun handling
  • Vitara rides quite well
  • Four-wheel drive means additional security

It’s no hot hatchback, but Suzuki knows how to make a neat-handling car and the Vitara doesn’t disappoint in this respect. The suspension is relatively unstressed as it doesn’t have much weight to handle, and so while the Vitara doesn’t exactly iron out the bumps it rides over them without thudding.

Suzuki Vitara front tracking

There’s little in the way of body roll and the steering is light, if not as precise as some rivals such as the Puma and Kamiq. Even so, the Vitara is an easy car to drive.

There’s also plenty of grip, especially in Allgrip four-wheel drive models which push power from the front wheels to the rear when it detects slip at the front. There’s also a Sport mode, which sharpens the throttle response and distributes torque to the wheels that have the most grip to further enhance cornering ability.

Snow mode uses four-wheel drive by default and is perfect for low-friction surfaces, as is Lock mode which is designed to extract you from any sticky situation (sand, mud or snow for example).