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Suzuki Vitara 2019 review

The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money, but there is a small catch.
EXPERT RATING
6.4
Suzuki's Vitara is a much loved compact SUV, but it's worth thinking about which engine you want under the bonnet?

Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.

The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.

That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.

Suzuki Vitara 2019: (base)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.2L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$25,490

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.

That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.

  • 17-inch alloys come standard with the Suzuki Vitara. 17-inch alloys come standard with the Suzuki Vitara.
  • As does a space-saver spare. As does a space-saver spare.

Perhaps the only complaint about the price is that similar competition from Hyundai and Mazda come fitted with a few more safety features.

That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.

2019 Suzuki Vitara

Explore the 2019 Suzuki Vitara range

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.

The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.

  • Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am.
  • I wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but they've already grown on me. I wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but they've already grown on me.

The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.

Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.

  • Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders.
  • Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV.
  • The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags.
  • Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres. Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres. Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.

Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.

The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   5/10

The 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.

I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.

The base Vitara is easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin. The base Vitara is easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.

As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.

The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

The non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.

My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

On board are seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls. And that's it. If you want advanced safety, step up to the Vitara Turbo.

The Vitara scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in July 2016.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal. 

Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.

Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.

For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.

It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.

Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.

It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.

The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.

The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.

Verdict

It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.

The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.

The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised. 

Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$28,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$21,990
Highest Price
$35,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $23,990 2019 Suzuki Vitara 2019 (base) Pricing and Specs
GL (2WD) (QLD) 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $22,490 2019 Suzuki Vitara 2019 GL (2WD) (QLD) Pricing and Specs
GL+ 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $22,990 2019 Suzuki Vitara 2019 GL+ Pricing and Specs
GLX (4x4) 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,990 2019 Suzuki Vitara 2019 GLX (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.4
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans5
Fuel consumption6
Safety6
Ownership7
Driving6
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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