Contrary to what its more assertive SUV styling may suggest, the Vitara slots into Suzuki’s showroom range below the S-Cross – on price and on overall length.

It’s reasonable to assume that a larger ‘Grand’ version will bookend that position at some point soon, taking the fight to the likes of the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga. But even without back-up from a bigger brother, the normal Vitara could certainly hold its own among its burgeoning competitor set, being longer and taller than both a Renault Captur and Nissan’s popular Juke.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Options to customise the car's look are greater than Suzuki owners are used to

The Vitara’s stylistic references to the 1988 original come thick and fast when you run your eye from nose to tail. The obvious ones are the shape of the headlights and the rising feature lines on its flanks.

Look harder and you’ll clock the clamshell bonnet and front wing vents as visual homage, too. What matters most is that Suzuki has penned a distinctive, sturdy, modern-looking design here – one with a more amiable and straightforward visual identity than plenty of its rivals.

The Vitara model range is slightly truncated by Suzuki’s normal standards, featuring only SZ4, SZ-T, SZ5 and sporty S trim levels, our test car being an SZ5 model. But options to customise the car’s look are greater than Suzuki owners are used to.

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Several two-tone colour schemes are offered, with body and roof in contrasting paint, and you can also dress up your Vitara with special grille treatments and wheel arch garnishes, or with an Urban or Rugged accessory pack. The Urban pack gets you chrome foglight bezels and a roof spoiler, and the Rugged pack buys front and rear skidplates and extended bodyside mouldings.

The body-in-white and suspension come adapted from service in the S-Cross. Ultra-high-strength steel in the body structure adds rigidity without extra weight. Revised lower arms, subframes and struts shore up the front axle and a U-shaped torsion beam suspension features at the rear.

Engines, meanwhile, are limited to a 1.6-litre normally aspirated petrol or a DDiS turbodiesel, both peaking at 118bhp, and a turbocharged 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine producing 138bhp but is only available with the Vitara S. 

The petrol is the cheaper of the two when fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive as standard – and as tested – but it is also available with four-wheel drive and with a six-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, either separately or together. The diesel is limited to a manual transmission, albeit with six speeds, but it comes in front-drive and all-paw formats. The Vitara S is the only petrol model to offer six-speed versions of the manual or automatic gearbox and only four-wheel drive form.

Few rivals offer as much flexibility on engine, gearbox and drivetrain permutation. And even fewer do it while imposing such a negligible weight penalty as the Vitara. On our scales, the car weighed just 1124kg, against a claim of 1075kg and a class average that’s more like 1250kg. Impressive stuff.

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