Suzuki Vitara review - Engines, performance and drive
Nimble handling makes the Vitara fun to drive, while the 1.4 Boosterjet hybrid engine provides a decent turn of pace
Suzuki says its aim with the Vitara was to make it drive like the Swift supermini, and it’s not as far off as you might think. The extra weight and higher centre of gravity means it doesn’t change direction quite as quickly and it rolls a little more, but it still clings to the road eagerly when you up the pace.
The steering is relatively light yet offers plenty of feel, and the Suzuki turns into corners with surprising eagerness. Grip is strong and body movement well contained despite the car’s tall stance, too.
The raised driving position and light steering make it well-suited to driving around town, but if you want a Suzuki Vitara with the maker’s ALLGRIP four-wheel-drive system, you’ll have to go for a higher-spec SZ5 model. If you want to do some light off-roading, the system is more than happy to oblige, although the latest Vitara can't hold a candle to the older model for off-road ability.
Four transmission settings - Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock – change where the power is sent. Auto is a two-wheel drive fuel-saving mode for when you’re cruising on the motorway, while permanent four-wheel drive modes Snow and Lock can help extricate you from sticky spots. Sport sends power to the rear tyres when needed, according to throttle inputs.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
The 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel was dropped with the 2018 facelift, but that's no bad thing, as it was pretty agricultural on anything more than half throttle. Similarly the rev-hungry 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine was also ditched.
The 1.4-litre Boosterjet mild-hybrid makes 127bhp and 235Nm of torque, and it gives the Vitara a decent turn of pace - 0-62mph arrives in 9.5 seconds, with a maximum 118mph. The SZ5 ALLGRIP 4x4 takes a little longer to get up to speed, at 10.2 seconds from 0-62mph.
A Full Hybrid model was added to the range in 2022, replacing automatic versions of the Boosterjet engine. Suzuki and Toyota may have an agreement in place about hybrids (the Swace and Across are rebadged Corolla Touring Sports and RAV4 models respectively) but Suzuki has created its own hybrid powertrain for the Vitara.
With 113bhp and a 0-62mph time approaching 13 seconds, the Vitara Full Hybrid doesn’t look particularly impressive on paper. It’s held back by its lazy automated manual gearbox and a less powerful electrical system than the Toyota Yaris Cross. The electric motor does assist uphill, and attempts to smooth out the gearchanges with a burst of torque. It’s not always successful. At least the Vitara’s other positive driving characteristics are retained in the Full Hybrid.
In this review
- 1Suzuki Vitara reviewThe Suzuki Vitara has transformed from a chunky off-roader into a softer crossover that's affordable and good to drive
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingNimble handling makes the Vitara fun to drive, while the 1.4 Boosterjet hybrid engine provides a decent turn of pace
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsLightweight build and efficient hybrid powertrains make the Vitara an economical crossover
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe sharply suited Suzuki VItara is let down by a cheap-looking interior - but it's very well equipped
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceTwo-wheel-drive versions lack the versatility of the 4x4, but the Vitara's crossover design is practical enough
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe Vitara boasts excellent crash test results, but Suzuki owners seem to have a downer on build quality