Towcar review: Suzuki Vitara

The Suzuki Vitara may be relatively small but is it mighty? It's size means it could be a good choice for those with smaller tourers, teardrops or trailer tents, as Lesley Harris found out.

Over the years the Suzuki Vitara has morphed from a chunky off-roader into a stylish compact crossover. It is an ever-evolving market, and the latest incarnation of the Vitara includes subtle styling tweaks, new engines and even more tech and safety equipment than before. While its light weight will mean you are limited in your choice of caravan, members owning smaller tourers, teardrops and trailer tents should certainly give it consideration. Let’s take a closer look. 

The hallmark clamshell bonnet and redesigned grille are bordered by LED headlamps, while a new-look bumper (which aids aerodynamics) houses the fog lights and LED running lights. Muscular lines flow over the wheel arches, while the Range Rover Evoque-like roofline gives the Vitara a very pleasing look. Two new dual-tone colours have been added to the palette for 2019, giving buyers plenty of choice. 

Comfort – 81%

Moving inside, the materials don’t feel of a particularly high quality–hard plastics are used throughout – but you do get a sense of it being well put together. While functional, the interior is a little dull, although chrome-rimmed air vents and detailing give it a lift. If you fancy jazzing it up you could opt for the coloured air vent rings, steering wheel trim and door trims. 

The dash has a clean and uncluttered feel to it and the easy-to-use, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system features bright, clear graphics. As well as sat-nav and DAB radio the Vitara also has MirrorLink smartphone connectivity. 

Seats and steering wheel can be adjusted for rake and reach, while rear passengers have enough space to remain comfortable – even the sloping roofline doesn’t eat into headroom. My only gripe would be that the central front cubby sits too far back, hampering rear middle-seat leg room. 

Driving – 80%

The Vitara SZ-T is available with a choice of engines– a 1.4-litre Boosterjet and this three-cylinder 1.0-litre Boosterjet, which puts out 109bhp @ 5,500rpm and 170Nm of torque. 

Now it may be small, but this turbocharged unit is flexible enough to give you plenty of punch when you need it. Power is delivered through a five-speed manual gearbox – a six-speed auto is available but only on two-wheel-drive variants. 

Our test car came with Suzuki’s AllGrip 4WD system that will certainly help you out in muddy or snowy conditions. 

It’s Suzuki’s aim to make the Vitara as much fun as the Swift Sport. As a previous owner of the latter, I was keen to give this car a try. Obviously, the Vitara is taller than the Swift, so it rolls a little more in corners and it’s not as agile, but what it does have is the ‘fun factor’. There’s a Sports mode too, adding resistance to the steering and sharpening throttle response. 

Town driving was easy – a high seating position means you have a great view of the road ahead. In fact, large windows offer brilliant all-round visibility. The light, easy steering and standard rear parking camera mean it’s a breeze to park, too. 

On twistier B-roads the Vitara offered good levels of grip and was enjoyable to drive. On the motorways it kept pace nicely with the traffic and rode well, even over our less-than-perfect roads. As a bonus there’s very little road or wind noise, so the cabin is a quiet and calm place to be. 

What impressed me most about this Vitara (with the AllGrip system) was the amount of kit on board: blind-spot monitor, hill descent, hill hold, lane-departure warning and prevention, adaptive cruise control, speed-sign recognition, 17in alloys, privacy glass – the list really does go on... and on. 

Towing – 80%

The Vitara’s kerbweight is 1,160kg, which, applying the Club’s (85%) guidelines, means you should tow no more than 986kg with it. Towing with a 1.0-litre car a few years ago would have been unthinkable – but thanks to new technology, smaller-capacity engines can produce as much power as older, larger, less economical ones. 

And I was pleasantly surprised by the test vehicle, which hauled a small caravan more than competently. There was no tugging or pitching, and although it did struggle on the steeper inclines, it motored along very happily on the flat. It wasn’t even flustered when overtaking large lorries on the motorway. 

The Vitara has a reasonable-sized boot, which is a good square shape and has a wide opening. A flat load lip makes life even easier. 

Verdict – 80%

If you have a smaller form of living accommmodation on tow, the Suzuki Vitara is a practical, reasonably-priced, stylish SUV that shouldn’t be overlooked. It comes with plenty of kit and, although the interior isn’t luxurious, it’s well built and should cope with the wear and tear of everyday family life well.