First Drive

First Drive: Suzuki Vitara

The story:
Suzuki has given a mid-life refresh to its largest model, the Vitara, which is now four years old. Revised styling, interior and engines are the big changes.
Key rival:Nissan Qashqai
Suzuki Vitara 1.0 Boosterjet 111 SZ-T
On sale:Now

Suzuki is a gently growing brand in the fleet sector, riding a wave of petrol engine popularity, having moved away from diesel across the range.

The Vitara is a good example of the Japanese brand’s increased strength, and the SUV has now reached mid-life, with the company enacting a refresh that includes looks, interior and new engine options.

The styling is, as is usually the case with facelifts, most obvious from the nose, with a redesigned grille and lower bumper, while the rear lamps have also been redesigned.

The interior changes are subtle, but include new soft-touch material for the upper instrument panel, a colour information display for the centre of the instrument cluster and suede seat fabric for the top SZ5 model.First Drive-May 2019-Suzuki Vitara-Image 2

Engine-wise, the new unit is the lower-powered of the two, with the 1.0-litre 111hp Boosterjet already used in the Baleno, S-Cross and Swift models coming across to Suzuki’s largest car. Despite the modest power output, the three-cylinder naturally aspirated unit copes without fuss, although you need to work it a bit if it’s to provide more than modest performance. Nevertheless, it’s also pretty efficient at just 121g/km, rising to 129g/km for either the auto or the Allgrip 4×4 options, figures helped by the car’s comparative light weight.

The other engine option is the 140hp 1.4-litre that was previously offered only in the sportier Vitara S trim but which now lands in the SZ-T and SZ5 models.

The Vitara is a prime exponent of getting what you pay for in terms of driving experience and cabin quality. There’s nothing wrong with it, but similar-sized mainstream cars costing thousands more do it a bit better. Which is kind of the point; the Vitara is very well-priced, especially given the levels of standard kit. All cars get alloys, climate control, cruise control and roof rails, while the SZ-T driven here is still less than £19,000 but adds sat-nav, smartphone connectivity, 17-inch alloys, rear privacy glass and a rear parking camera. The top-spec SZ5 is only available with the more powerful engine, but adds a host of safety systems including blind-spot warning, plus a panoramic roof, LED lights, adaptive cruise and keyless entry.

Running costs are good, with a decent 38.5% residual-value prediction from Kee Resources at three years and 60,000 miles.

Paul Barker

The verdict

Slight improvements to the looks and interior help the case of a neat and well-priced little SUV.