When we scheduled the Vitara for a test drive, I was really excited because in 2011 I drove a 2-door ’94 Vitara for a couple of months. I remember the ’94 Vitara as being a really fun and reliable car so I wanted to see how they have progressed in the meantime.

It’s really hard to compare the latest Vitara model with the old one (the ’94 one) because back in the day you couldn’t find stuff like - low beam LED lights, adaptive cruise control or really nice infotainment systems with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, which you can find on the newer models.

Now, let’s talk about the exterior! Design wise, I prefer the SX4 S-Cross, but the Vitara isn’t bad looking either. You probably noticed by now that the wheels are not some fancy alloy wheels but some really standard steel wheels. That’s because the dealership had mounted winter tires on the car which don’t look that bad on snow, but you can also get alloy wheels on the car.

Moving further, on the front bumper you’ll be able to find a pair of headlights with low beam LEDs, which are awesome! And at the bottom of the bumper you’ll find the 2 DRLs on LED right next to the fog lights (which are turned on only for the pictures, we’re not that kind of people). Moving to the side of the car, you won’t see too much going on but a really cool feature is the button for the keyless entry which can also be found on the trunk. I would just like to point out that we received a clean car and we tried to keep it as clean as possible for the time we had it, but because we traveled about 60 km to do some off-roading on snow and take some cool pictures we weren’t able to do so. Also, this car really likes to get dirty!

Moving to the interior, even if you find a lot of hard plastic around the cabin (which is what you get on almost all the cars in this price range), there are a lot of good things about the interior. After you get inside and get comfortable behind the wheel, you’ll notice that the ride is pretty high and you have great visibility of the road in front of you. The steering wheel size is really nice and it’s easy to use the buttons placed on it, which are to control the stereo volume, buttons for the adaptive cruise control and also for your phone.

The dashboard looks really nice and the screen between the speedometer and rev counter is really simple and offers enough info, but the button to control that little screen is located behind the steering wheel next to the speedometer, which is not the best location for such a button.

Let’s talk about the infotainment which in my opinion is a really good one. What I mean by it, the home screen is really simple with 4 other small windows which will take you to Media, Phone, Sat Nav or MirrorLink. Each window has a small shortcut button, so you can operate each category without leaving the home screen and in the middle of the screen you’ll find a star with shortcuts for each category. Simple to use, that’s why I think it is a really good system. The only problem I had with it, I couldn’t launch Waze on it, only Google Maps, but maybe my phone was the problem as Android Auto crashed a couple of times.

Moving to the back of the car - the back doors are quite small, but it’s expected as the car is not that large. Anyway, there’s enough room in the back. One small issue I had (but we didn’t try this with other cars, so I can’t really blame only Suzuki for this) is that while trying to fit the child seat and fix it with the seatbelt, I noticed that the seatbelt length was really short and it wasn't really easy to do. But, on the plus side, the car comes with an Isofix system which is more secure and way easier to use.

Let’s talk performance and I’ll start by recommending the 1.4 Turbo Petrol engine! It has more power, more torque and probably even better fuel economy than the 1.6 naturally aspirated Petrol engine. At least, that’s what Suzuki says in the official statements. There’s also a 1.6 Diesel engine that provides even better fuel economy, if that’s what you’re looking for.

The 1.6 Petrol engine we had is an engine that you will want to use for short trips and not too much off-road as it can feel quite lazy and underpowered sometimes. There is also a Sport mode which changes the throttle response and if you keep it in high revs, it starts to come alive, but also the fuel consumption will be quite high. If you want to know more about the 1.4 Turbo Petrol engine, read our Suzuki SX4 S-Cross review.

Let’s not forget about the AllGrip 4WD system which is really smart. On Auto mode it prioritizes the fuel economy, uses only 2WD and it can switch to 4WD when less grip is detected. You also have 3 other modes to choose from. Sport, which allocates more torque to the rear wheels which in turn makes the handling better, Snow which optimizes the 4WD system and all electronic systems for better grip on loose surfaces and there’s also Lock mode which is great help when you get stuck.

3 things I really like about the Vitara:

  • The panoramic sunroof that opens almost completely. Really awesome! There’s other, more expensive competitor cars that don’t even offer something like this!

  • LED Headlights – they provide a really good amount of light on the asphalt and it makes it a pleasure to drive during the night.

  • AWD does the job really well! Even if the 1.6 engine is lacking torque, the AWD system helps a lot during off-road.

3 things I really don’t like about the Vitara:

  • Too much cheap-feeling plastic around the cabin.

  • The 1.6 Petrol engine. I just prefer the 1.4 Turbo Petrol as you get more power and better fuel efficiency.

  • The steering wheel doesn’t weigh up at all when switching to sport mode.

Would I get this car? Yes. Overall, it's a great car that offers quite a lot for the price. Also, it offers more than its direct competition, so I definitely recommend this car.

Price of the tested model: ~19,000 Euro (VAT included).

Engine and Gearbox: 1.6-litre petrol, 120hp (156NM), 5-speed manual

Thank you Suzuki Cluj for lending us the car, we really appreciate it!

Photos by: Clau Morar