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The Top Gear car review:Suzuki Vitara
For:Surprisingly fun to drive, keen petrol engines, pretension-free
Against:Not the most glamorous or sophisticated. Which might actually please you...
What is it?
Navigating your way through the world of small SUVs must be a flipping nightmare. But perhaps this one has a chance of standing out because unlike a Juke or Kona or Aircross (or T-Roc, HR-V, CH-R or any of the 4,304 others), it has heritage.
The Vitara name has been plonked on the back of small, road-biased 4x4s since 1988, making it a ‘crossover’ before that blasted word had infiltrated just about every sector car market. Heck, there was a convertible Vitara decades before a convertible Evoque.
That doesn’t mean this latest Vitara leads where others follow, though. Quite the opposite, in fact; to ensure this one’s a whole heap more competitive than the uninspiring car it replaced (back in 2015), it takes influence from the cars that arrived late to the soft-roading party but have since eaten all of the cake.
So it looks and feels very car-like, where Vitaras of old built a slightly less rugged body upon Suzuki’s typically rugged underpinnings. This one is front-wheel drive as standard, with four-wheel drive an option, bringing with it a mode-selection dial that clicks through Snow, Sport, Auto and Lock modes depending on the terrain you’re traversing. Given you’ll have selected this over the all-conquering Jimny tucked in the other corner of the Suzuki showroom, we wonder if most of those will sit redundant. There’s kudos in them at least being offered, though, right?
While this is a more stylised Vitara than ever (albeit minus the rhino spare wheel cover), it’s still a car that puts substance above all else. Climb inside and it’s tangibly short on glamour compared to all rivals bar a Dacia Duster. Its physical dials, simplistic trip computer and harsh materials could provide shell shock after its TFT-packed and soft touch-centric rivals.
But hey, its door plastics feel like they’ll survive with the cockroaches when our impending doom finally arrives, making them far better for deflecting the drama of family life than the faux-Alcantara armrests you might find elsewhere in this class.
The Vitara launched in 2015 with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, but its 2019 refresh binned the latter, with your choices reduced to two turbocharged petrols: a 109bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder and the same 138bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder you now find in the Suzuki Swift Sport. An automatic gearbox and 4WD are optional on both, though if you want to combine the two you’ll need the 1.4.