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Car group tests

Suzuki Vitara S vs Mazda CX-3

We see if Suzuki's 1.4-litre turbo Vitara S is a better buy than the naturally aspirated 2.0 Mazda CX-3

Petrol crossovers aren’t as popular as their diesel equivalents, but with unleaded now under £1 per litre at the pumps, is it worth considering an alternative to a more expensive diesel compact SUV?

That’s what we’re aiming to find out here, as the new Suzuki Vitara S offers four-wheel drive and a 1.4 petrol turbo engine to deliver peppy performance without sacrificing running costs.

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But do you need a downsized turbo in a supermini-sized SUV? Well, Mazda doesn’t think so; its all-wheel drive petrol CX-3 uses what the company calls a ‘right-sized’ 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit.

Best crossovers to buy

The Suzuki is more efficient on paper and boasts more standard equipment than the Mazda, yet the CX-3 is more upmarket inside – although you’ll have to pay extra for the added luxury. So, it’s safe to say we could be in for a very close contest. Read on to find out which of our crossovers offers the better balance of cost, kit, performance and practicality.

Head to head

Engines

Mazda claims it doesn’t need turbos to hit efficiency and power targets. Instead, it uses ‘right-sized’ engines that deliver suitable performance for the size of the car without adding the complexity or cost of a turbo.

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However, the 2.0 petrol here can’t match the Suzuki’s 1.4 turbo in terms of performance, fuel economy and CO2 emissions.

Technology

Despite being the cheaper car, the Vitara has more tech. Keyless go, a reversing camera and LED headlamps feature on both to make day-to-day life easier, but while you can’t get heated seats on the Suzuki, its adaptive cruise control might be a bigger bonus for some.

Off-road ability

Both cars feature four-wheel drive, but the Suzuki S has more off-road prowess, with a locking diff for extra traction on slippery surfaces and hill descent control. The rear diff hangs lower than the Mazda’s, though, thus reducing ground clearance. 

Verdict

First place: Suzuki Vitara S

Neither car makes a solid case over its diesel counterpart, but the Vitara S is the better petrol crossover. It’s cheaper to buy and run thanks to its more efficient turbo engine, while you get more standard equipment for your money, too. The Vitara S also handles sweetly and is more practical than the Mazda, making it a better all-rounder. 

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Second place: Mazda CX-3

Even though the Mazda feels more upmarket inside, its cabin isn’t as functional as the Vitara’s. With four-wheel drive and petrol engines, neither car is an eco champ, but the Mazda’s much higher CO2 emissions inflate running costs, which is why it finishes second here. We’d save some money and go for the two-wheel-drive 1.5 diesel instead.

Other options for similar money...

NEW: Subaru XV 2.0i SE PRICE: £21,995 ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4cyl 148bhp

There aren’t many petrol crossovers to choose from, but Subaru has just updated its XV for 2016. However, the entry-level SE is pricier than the Vitara, isn’t as well equipped and emits 160g/km of CO2 – so will be more costly to run.

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USED: Skoda Yeti Outdoor 1.4 TSI 150 L&K 4x4 PRICE: £22,495 ENGINE: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 148bhp

For the same price as the Mazda, you could get a used Skoda Yeti Outdoor, which is better off-road and more practical. We found a 2015 top-spec Laurin & Klement model with 3,000 miles on the clock for just over £22,000.

Figures

 Suzuki Vitara S 1.4 Boosterjet AllGripMazda CX-3 2.0 Sport Nav SkyActiv-G AWD 
On-the-road price/total as tested£20,899/£20,899£22,495/£23,995
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£7,225/34.6%£9,099/40.5%
Depreciation£13,674£13,396
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£833/£1,668£1,114/£2,230
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,651/£2,751£1,681
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost16/£371/D/£11019/£444/F/£145
Servicing costs£18.99pm (3yrs)£18pm (3yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase4,175/2,500mm4,275/2,570mm
Height/width1,610/1,775mm1,535/1,765mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,373cc4cyl in-line/1,998cc
Peak power 138/5,500 bhp/rpm148/6,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 220/1,500 Nm/rpm204/2,800 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/4wd6-spd man/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel47 litres/repair kit44 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 375/710 litres287/1,197 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,210/520/1,200kg1,235/600/1,200kg
Turning circle10.4 metres11.4 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers12,500 miles (1yr)/14912,500 miles (1yr)/170
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.31st/31st9th/15th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars89/85/76/75/585/79/84/64/4
   
0-60/30-70mph8.6/7.7 secs9.1/8.0 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.6/5.3 secs4.4/6.1 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 6.7/8.6 secs8.1/12.2 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 124mph/2,500rpm124mph/2,750rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 43.4/31.5/9.8m48.5/34.3/9.3m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph70/52/65/72dB52/68/62/71dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range33.8/7.4/349 miles33.2/7.3/321 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined44.8/56.5/52.3mpg34.9/51.4/44.1mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined9.9/12.4/11.5mpl7.7/11.3/9.7mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket193/127g/km/20%197/150g/km/25%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/rear/yes
Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEB*£1,350/y/adaptive/yNo/yes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/no/noYes/£800 (half)/yes
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£430/yes/yes£660^/yes/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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