What stands out?

The Suzuki Vitara Series II presents as a stylish small SUV at a modest price. It offers a well-equipped cabin and a choice of two engines, among them a strong naturally aspirated petrol, and a very zippy turbocharged petrol which also has an all-wheel-drive option.

What might bug me?

Not having the opportunity to make your base-spec Vitara safer. Autonomous emergency braking, which comes standard in the Vitara Turbo versions isn’t available in the lower-spec variants, even as an extra-cost option.

Tyre noise, especially on coarse-chip bitumen and gravel.

Complaints from the rear seats because there are no USB or 12-volt sockets for your kids to charge their phones or tablets.
Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

In a Vitara Turbo AllGrip, getting blasted by the sun on a hot day. The large, transparent sunroof shields you only with a translucent screen: there is no opaque blind.

Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

What body styles are there?

A five-door SUV is the only body style. The Vitara comes in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions.

The Vitara is classed as a small SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Vitara versions have?

Bluetooth phone connectivity, an audio system with iPod and USB input, and cruise control. All can be operated from a steering wheel that adjusts for height and for reach.

A reversing camera, and satellite navigation with its own maps, displayed on a 7.0-inch central colour touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay. If you own a compatible iPhone, you can display some apps on the touchscreen and control them from there (or by voice).

Keyless entry, and climate-control air-conditioning, which automatically maintains the temperature you set.

Soft-touch dashboard, which replaced the rock hard surface on the Series I model, and leather trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters.

Centre console armrest.

Daytime running lamps, which make the car more visible on overcast days.

Roof rails, which make it easier to fit luggage systems.

Alloy wheels (of 17-inch diameter), which are nicer looking and usually lighter than steel wheels with plastic covers. A space-saver spare wheel (with a recommended top speed of 80km/h).

Electronic traction control, which inhibits wheelspin on slippery roads.

Electronic stability control, which can help bring a skidding car back under control. All new cars must have this feature.

Seven airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front-seat passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; a curtain airbag down each side of the car to protect heads from side impacts; and an airbag to protect the driver’s knees and legs.

The Vitara comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 1.4-litre ‘Boosterjet’ turbocharged petrol engine in the more expensive Vitara Turbo engines is nice and zippy to drive and quite fuel-efficient, with an official combined fuel consumption of 5.9-litres/100km. It is available with both front- and all-wheel-drive.

One reason you may not want to choose this engine is you want to pay less for your Vitara, with the base spec versions coming with a non-turbocharged, 1.6-litre petrol engine, which consumes 6.2-litres/100km.

Another is you want an manual gearbox, which is only available with the 1.6-litre engine, which is available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic. The Vitara S Turbo comes only with the six-speed automatic. The manual is actually rated at 5.8 litres/100km but it’s unlikely it will be more efficient than the turbo in real world driving.

The Vitara used to be available with an efficient diesel engine, but this was dropped from the Series II update in February 2019.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The base Vitara comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox, with the six-speed automatic costing an additional $2000. The only additional options are premium paint, and a two-tone paint option.

Step up to the Vitara Turbo and you get the more powerful engine described above, and the six-speed automatic gearbox.

The Turbo also gains autonomous emergency braking and other advanced driver assist features including lane departure warning, weaving alert, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.

The Turbo also has ‘premium suede’ upholstery, and an audio system with six rather than four speakers. A proximity key lets you unlock and start the car without removing the key from your pocket or bag.

Self-levelling LED headlights switch on automatically when it gets dark, and windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains. Front and rear parking sensors tell you how close you are to near obstacles.

Aesthetically, the Turbo benefits from a different grille design and polished black alloy wheels.

Spend more again for an Turbo AllGrip and you get the same appointments, but gain an all-wheel drive system that helps you in slippery conditions such as mud, snow and sand. The most expensive Vitara also comes with a panoramic sunroof.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The transparent roof panels Turbo AllGrip are not covered by a solid blind. There is only a translucent screen, which might let in too much heat and light for you on very bright days.

In the front-wheel-drive Vitara Turbo you may need to take special care when accelerating from low speeds in slippery conditions, to ensure smooth, spin-free, progress.

White is the only standard colour: all other colours cost about $500 extra. Opting for a two-tone paint option will cost about $1250 more.

How comfortable is the Vitara?

The Vitara has a nicely finished and detailed cabin. The dashboard has a somewhat mixed look, with the antique-style black and white face of its big analogue clock sitting above a modern, multi-coloured touchscreen. Both work well, even if they look like they come from different centuries.

The dashboard is covered with soft-touch material, which is a nice change from the previous model, though there are still hard plastics in the cabin including on the doors.

With both tilt and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, and height adjustment for the driver’s seat, there is no problem getting comfortable. The cabin has good head and leg room for tall drivers and front-seat passengers.

A high level of tyre noise on just about any surface detracts from comfort once you’re moving.

The 1.6-litre petrol engine is smooth and responsive, and the manual gearbox has a precise and light action. Those who prefer the automatic will find it changes gear smoothly. Vitara Turbos, with their 1.4-litre turbocharged engines, are more responsive again.

This steering is light and direct, which makes the Vitara feel nimble around town, but can feel a little disconnected when driving on loose surfaces such as gravel.

What about safety in a Suzuki Vitara?

Seven airbags, seat-belt reminders, electronic stability control and a reversing camera contribute to safety in any Vitaras. It is a package that prioritises protecting you in a crash, helping you control the car, and the safety of others when reversing.

The Turbo versions gain an active safety suite that adds autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, weaving alert, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.

The Turbos also benefit from automatic headlamps and wipers, and parking sensors front and rear.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Vitara five stars for safety, its maximum, in July 2016. The lack of available active safety in the base versions might see a different result if the Vitara was tested again today.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Even the base-spec Vitara is fun to drive, especially when its 1.6 petrol engine is teamed with the manual gearbox. The auto also pleases however, as it shifts quickly and at just at the right time.

If you plan to go touring in your Vitara, you’ll have even more fun in a Turbo or Turbo AllGrip.

The Turbo exhibits very little turbo-lag (that dead feeling when you first press the accelerator with a turbocharged engine), instead bounding forward energetically with a gentle squeeze from the right foot.

Keen drivers will the all-wheel drive Vitara as it steers more precisely. All could benefit from more steering feel at low speeds and on loose surfaces such as gravel.

Thankfully, the steering feel improves the harder you push a Vitara through corners. And there’s good balance and grip on smooth roads – again, especially in AWD versions.

On most surfaces, the ride is acceptably supple. However big bumps taken at speed sometimes unsettle the Vitara, requiring a steering correction.

All-wheel drive helps the most expensive Vitara on unsealed roads, in the snow, on farm tracks and on easy fire trails. However, the relatively low-profile tyres are potentially damage prone. And you wouldn’t want to venture far from civilisation with only the standard, skinny, space-saver spare wheel.

How is life in the rear seats?

The back seat is wide enough for two adults and a child, although when sitting behind a tall driver or tall front-seat passenger the legroom is very restricted.

Rear-seat passengers get nothing extra like air-vents, USB charging ports or centre armrest.

The slightly tall-riding Vitara is a good height for getting small children in and out of child seats.

The back seat has two ISOFIX child-seat restraints and three conventional child-seat tethers.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Vitara is a small SUV but its cargo space betters many similar cars, due to its more traditionally box-shaped SUV-style body.

Under the cargo area is a stowage compartment, and below that the space-saver spare. A luggage security blind is standard.

Removing the space-saver spare requires the cargo area to be fully unpacked.

The 60:40 split rear seat is a simple single-fold design, which means the cargo floor isn’t completely flat when the seat backs are folded down. As a result cargo area with the seats down is just 710 litres.

Where does Suzuki make the Vitara?

Suzuki makes the Vitara in Hungary.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

The main things you might miss if you have an entry-level Vitara are latest active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking, which are standard in the most affordable versions of cars such as the Mitsubishi ASX, Kia Seltos, Mazda CX-3, Holden Trax, Nissan Qashqai, and Toyota C-HR.

The Vitara is no longer designed to be driven over rough ground off-road. Three small SUVs that are built to handle off-road driving are Suzuki’s own Jimny, and the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. The Subaru XV also has some off-road capability.

Among other small SUVs you might consider are the Honda HR-V, Peugeot 2008, and Renault Kaptur.

Are there plans to update the Vitara soon?

The current generation Vitara arrived in late 2015 in front-drive RT-S and all-wheel drive RT-X form, both using the 1.6-litre petrol engine.

About May 2016 the petrol-engined RT-X was discontinued. At the same time Suzuki introduced the similarly equipped S Turbo, with its 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine, in both front-drive and AWD form. Soon afterwards it added the RT-X Diesel.

In February 2019 Suzuki introduced the Vitara Series II which brought a slightly revised exterior design and smaller range, with the RT-X Diesel deleted. The RT-S designation was dropped from the entry-level versions which are simply known as Vitara, while the Turbo S FWD and AWD versions were renamed Vitara Turbo, and Turbo AllGrip.

In October 2019 Suzuki increased its warranty from three years to five across all its models, including Vitara.

An all-new Vitara is not expected until 2021 at the earliest.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The most affordable Vitara with the manual gearbox arguably represents the best value. But we like the Turbo AllGrip, which is very well equipped for the price including the advanced driver assist tech and boosts safety levels. The 1.4 litre turbo’s refined performance makes it a fast and effortless highway cruiser, and the AWD is handy for dirt and gravel roads.