Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

There are only two engines providing Suzuki Vitara performance, and both are turbocharged petrols badged Boosterjet.

The first is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine producing 111hp and 170Nm of torque when fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox. The 0-62mph for this version is 11.5 seconds, while the automatic version's time is 12.5 seconds. Go for the Allgrip (four-wheel drive) model - which is manual-only - and the 0-62mph time sits between the two at 12.0 seconds. Top speed for all three versions is 111mph. 

If you want more power, there's the 140hp 1.4-litre Boosterjet shared with the Swift Sport hot hatch. With more torque at 220Nm, it's far better suited to longer journeys and driving with the car packed with passengers and luggage. Add to that a six-speed manual gearbox and it's much more relaxed and mature-feeling. A front-wheel drive version of this with a manual or automatic gearbox gets from 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, while the Allgrip version takes 10.2 seconds. Again, this is the same for both manual and automatic gearboxes. 

Engines no longer available

At launch there was a 1.6-litre four cylinder petrol engine, producing the same power as the diesel – 120hp. But that deficit in pulling power, meant you had to work it hard to make any progress; peak power arriving at 6,000rpm and torque at 4,400rpm. You’ll certainly get used to the working the gear lever if you need to really get going if you're buying a used one of these.

It’s refined enough though, and thanks to a low kerb weight of just 1,075Kg the front-wheel drive five-speed manual model can crack the 0-62mph dash in 11.5 seconds. This lightweight configuration feels far more at home in town though, as the short gearing of the standard five-speed manual gearbox sees it screaming for another gear at the motorway legal limit.

The on-demand Allgrip four-wheel drive system adds weight and blunts performance, adding another half a second to the 0-62mph time, while the optional six-speed automatic increases the figure by the same again.

The Japanese company reckoned that diesel would only make up 25% of all sales but the oil burner’s characteristics suit the Vitara well. Especially if you plan to venture out of town. Boasting the same peak power figure, but delivered 2,250rpm lower in the rev-range, and with twice as much torque 2,000rpm below that it’s far more flexible. No need for a flurry of gear changes all the time.

There’s no mistaking its fuel source though, with some typical diesel grumble throughout the rev range – though it’s never uncomfortably noisy or particularly intrusive. You’re merely aware that it’s present somewhere in the background.

There’s no gearbox option for the diesel though, with a six-speed manual the only fitment, and the 1.6 DDiS takes 12 or 13 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph depending on whether you opt for the front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive model. 

Handling

It’s no sportscar, and in fact you’d be hard pushed to call the Suzuki Vitara a Sports Utility Vehicle in this respect either, but it is perfectly competent. Especially the petrol models, which are commendably light and feel more agile than the diesel engined-cars.

Either way there’s little in the way of disconcerting body roll and if you’ve opted for one of the Allgrip four-wheel drive models plenty of cornering grip also.

In fact with the on-demand system the Auto function on Allgrip will push power from the front to rear wheels when it detects slip at the front, while the Sport mode sharpens throttle response and distributes torque to the wheels that have the most grip to enhance cornering ability further.

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).

Back on the road there isn’t much feedback through the rather light steering, but it’s accurate enough and thanks to the car’s small size and agility it’s not difficult to drive the car quickly and place it into a corner with precision.