What is it?
The Vitara is good value, will tackle muddy stuff easily and looks perfectly acceptable. Not refined enough, though.
The Vitara is a more serious off-roader than rivals. The pay-off is rubbish handling: over-light, vague steering, and a tendency to get knocked about by bumps.
The three-door is pretty poor - no rear seat space, a terrible ride, and it's noisy. The longer-wheelbase five-door body is a bit more habitable, thanks partly to a better ride.
The 1.6 petrol in the three-door struggles badly, but then you wouldn't want to drive it fast; the 2.0 in the five-door has a better handle on things. But the sensible choice is the Fiat-sourced diesel.
On the inside
The Vitara is reliable for an abuse-inviting 4x4, and all well assembled. But the dashboard is made of cheap plastics and the whole vehicle has a rather tinny feel.
If you live where there is no road at all, the Vitara delivers the practical benefit of being able to drive you home. Otherwise, the SWB isn't very versatile at all, and the five-door merely average.
The Vitara will have pretty much standard-level Japanese costs for servicing, but beware high fuel bills on the petrols and high insurance on all.