2017 Suzuki Vitara Range Review

2017 Suzuki Vitara Range Review

Priced From $21,990Information

Overall Rating


3.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

3 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

3 out of 5 stars


4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProLooks like a prestige SUV; appealing engines.

  2. ConDoesn’t like the big bumps.

  3. The Pick: 2019 Suzuki Vitara S Turbo (4WD) 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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The Suzuki Vitara presents as a stylish small SUV at a modest price. It offers a well-finished cabin and a choice from three engines, among them a very zippy turbocharged petrol and a strong but frugal turbo-diesel. There are front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions.

What might bug me?

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Tyre noise, especially on coarse-chip bitumen and gravel. And you won’t find it easy to drown that out if your music collection resides on CDs: there’s no player.

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

In a Vitara S Turbo, perhaps some wheelspin and screeching up front when you accelerate from low speeds. In the front-wheel drive version and on wet roads especially, the S Turbo has enough grunt to overcome tyre grip fairly easily when you press the accelerator, and its traction control system can’t quite keep up. This is much less evident in the four-wheel drive S Turbo.

In a Vitara RT-X Diesel, 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.

Also in an RTX Diesel, taking extra care in stop-start traffic or when parking. The diesel uses a dual-clutch auto gearbox, which works rather like a manual gearbox with robot control.

While it shifts smoothly and swiftly once on the move, and saves fuel in country driving, it can’t quite match the fluid take-up from rest that you get from the conventional auto in other Vitaras.

What body styles are there?

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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 Vitaras have?

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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).

Climate-control air-conditioning, which automatically maintains the temperature you set.
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 three-year, 100,000km warranty.

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

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The 1.6-litre turbo-diesel uses the least fuel of the three engines available in a Vitara, consuming as little as 4.9 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). Even in the real world it generally uses less than 6 litres/100km. And it is not only thrifty: the diesel is strong and it performs effortlessly.

One reason why you might not choose it is that you don’t want to put up with the smell and oiliness of diesel fuel, which you may get on your hands or on the soles of your shoes when refuelling.

Another could be that that you want to pay less for your Vitara. The diesel is available only in the most expensive Vitara, the all-wheel drive RT-X Diesel.

A third reason is that the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol in the Vitara S Turbo is nice and zippy to drive and still quite fuel-efficient. And an S-Turbo costs a lot less to purchase, even in all-wheel drive form.

If you are happy with a front-wheel drive car, you can pay less again for a Vitara RT-S, which will have a non-turbocharged, 1.6-litre petrol engine. This is the least powerful engine in a Vitara.

Expect your petrol Vitara to use about 25 per cent more fuel in real-world driving than it recorded in the official test test – so about 8 litres/100km for an S Turbo.

The 1.6-litre petrol in the Vitara RT-S 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 RT-X Diesel comes only with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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Step past the least costly Vitara, the RT-S, and spend more for a Vitara S Turbo 2WD and you get the more powerful engine described above, and an automatic gearbox.

The S-Turbo also has partial-leather seats, 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 S-Turbo benefits from a different grille design and polished black alloy wheels.
Spend more again for an S Turbo 4WD and you get the same appointments but gain an all-wheel drive system known as All Grip, which helps you in slippery conditions such as mud, snow and sand.

Choose the most expensive Vitara, the RT-X Diesel, and the main thing you gain is the more miserly fuel use and longer touring range of the diesel engine. The diesel has all the features of the S Turbo 4WD, except that its grille and wheels are similar to those on the RT-S. And it brings you a two-panel glass sunroof, with the front panel power-opening.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The transparent roof panels on the RT-X Diesel 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 S Turbo 2WD models 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 extra.

How comfortable is the Vitara?

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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.

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 in the RT-S 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 S Turbos, with their 1.4-litre turbocharged engines, are more responsive again.

The diesel is a bit noisier than either petrol engine, which you notice more from outside the car than in. But the diesel also feels as though it propels the car with less effort. Around town the diesel’s dual-clutch gearbox also shifts smoothly, even if not quite as quickly as the auto in the petrols.

WhichCar reviewers criticised the steering of early production run Vitaras, complaining of heaviness or stickiness around the straight-ahead position. This has since been resolved on all models.

(Suzuki says the factory adjusted the Vitara’s electric power steering for all cars produced since September 2015.)

What about safety in a Suzuki Vitara?

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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.

All but the RT-S also benefit from automatic headlamps and wipers, and parking sensors front and rear.

However, the Vitara does not offer active safety features such as automatic emergency braking – which can apply the brakes on its own, to help you avoid a frontal crash that you have failed to see coming.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Vitara five stars for safety, its maximum, in July 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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Even the Vitara RT-S 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 an S Turbo or the RT-X Diesel.

The S 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.

The RT-X Diesel feels even more relaxed when you’re cruising, and on the highway its auto gearbox feels slicker. The diesel is just pipped by the S Turbo at high speeds when maximum acceleration is called for – perhaps when overtaking another car.

Keen drivers will prefer either all-wheel drive Vitara to the front-drive versions as they steer more precisely. All could benefit from more steering feel at low speeds.

Thankfully, the 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 Vitaras 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?

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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.

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?

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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.

Where does Suzuki make the Vitara?

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Suzuki makes the Vitara in Hungary.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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The main things you might miss are latest active safety features, such as automatic emergency braking

Low-speed auto braking, which operates at city speeds and can prevent a collision or reduce damage, is standard on the Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-3, and available on the Honda HR-V, for example.

Blind-spot monitoring (which tells you when other cars are close by in traffic), rear cross-traffic alert (which warns you of cars crossing your path when you’re reversing), and lane-departure warning (which wakes you up if you are drifting out of your lane), are also standard on the C-HR and available on some other small SUVs.

The Vitara is no longer designed to be driven over rough ground off-road. Two small SUVs that are built to handle off-road driving are Suzuki’s own Jimny and the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

Among other small SUVs you might consider are the Mitsubishi ASX, Holden Trax, Subaru XV, and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Are there plans to update the Vitara soon?

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This all-new 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.

A minor update is not expected until at least 2018, although equipment may be adjusted in the meantime. An all-new Vitara is not expected until 2020 at the earliest.

The current Vitara is the first to have been based on the one-piece body and chassis structure typical of passenger cars. Previous Vitaras, since the nameplate’s inception in 1988, had been built on the ladder-type separate chassis typically used for trucks and off-road capable 4x4s.

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

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The Vitara RT-S with the manual gearbox arguably represents the best value. But we like the S Turbo with all-wheel drive. All that refined performance makes it a fast and effortless highway cruiser, and the AWD is handy for dirt and gravel roads.