LDV D90 VS Suzuki Vitara
- Makes more sense as a diesel
- People-mover practicality
- Terrible software
- Cheap interior
- A bit unwieldy to drive
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
It’s pretty hard to miss the LDV D90.
Mainly because it is gigantic; it's one of the biggest SUVs you can buy. In fact, I’d say what’s drawn you to this review is maybe you’ve seen one of these behemoths trucking past, and you’re wondering what the LDV badge is all about and how this relatively unknown SUV stands up against popular rivals and other notable newcomers.
To get one confusing thing out of the way, LDV once stood for Leyland DAF Vans, a now-defunct British company which has been brought back to life by none other than China’s SAIC Motor – yes, the same one which also resurrected MG.
So, is this MG big brother worth looking into? We took the recently released diesel version of the D90 on test for a week to seek some answers…
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Looking for a cheap, powerful diesel SUV with huge cabin space and a humane third row for adults? The D90 is a really sound offering, especially considering the price of entry for this top-spec diesel which should resonate with Aussies a bit better than the petrol version.
It has plenty of issues that could be ironed out, but they’re all so small and not sale-breaking it’s almost annoying how much better the D90 could be with just a little work. Rivals should be looking over their shoulder for what comes next.
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.
Some colleagues I’ve spoken to like the way the D90 looks. To me, it looks like someone gene-spliced a Hyundai Tucson with a SsangYong Rexton in a lab, then grew it in a stew of peptides and this was the result.
What can’t really be communicated in images is how truly massive the D90 is. At over five metres long, two metres wide and almost two metres tall, the D90 is certifiably huge. Given that’s the case then, it’s admittedly almost admirable that only the side profile makes this thing look a little goofy.
I think LDV has done a pretty good job on the front, and the rear is simple but well resolved for a vehicle that rides on a ladder chassis (just take a look at the Pajero Sport for how ladder-chassis rear designs can get… controversial…).
The wheels, garnishes, and LED headlights are all tastefully applied. It’s not ugly… just confronting… size-wise.
Inside shares some familiar characteristics with sister-brand MG. Look from a distance and it’s all quite nice, get in too close and you’ll see where the corners have been cut.
The first thing I don’t like about the interior is the materials. Apart from the wheel they are all pretty cheap and nasty. It’s a sea of hollow plastics and mixed trims. The faux-wood pattern, which is clearly just a print on a plastic resin is particularly gnarly. Reminds me of some Japanese cars from 20 years ago. It might work for the Chinese audience, but that’s not where the market is in Australia.
On the other hand, you could say “well, what do you expect at this price?” and that is true. Everything is here and works, just don’t expect the D90 to be playing alongside the established players when it comes to fit, finish, or material quality.
The huge screen works to finish the dash, but that darned software is so ugly you’ll wish it didn’t. At least all the major touch-points are ergonomically accessible.
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.
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.
The D90 is as massive on the inside as it is on the outside. I’m talking better space than a minivan, and nothing says that more than the humane third row. At 182cm tall, I not only fit in the rearmost two seats, but I can do so in as much comfort as any other row. It’s staggering. There’s actual airspace for my knees and head back there.
The second row is massive and on rails too, so you can extend the amount of room available to third-rowers – and there’s so much room in the second row, you’ll have space even with the seats moved forward.
My only criticism here is that the giant rear door is far enough forward to make clambering into the third row a little tricky. Once you’re there though there are really no complaints.
The boot is even usable with the third row deployed, with a claimed 343L of space. That should be hatchback-sized, but the measurement is a little deceptive as the space is tall but shallow, meaning it will only allow you to place smaller bags (a few, if you can stack them) with the remaining space.
The boot is otherwise cavernous with a wild 1350L available with the third row stowed flat, or 2382L with the second row stowed. In this configuration, with the front passenger seat slid forward to its furthest position, I was even able to get a 2.4-metre-long benchtop in the back. Truly impressive.
Second-row occupants get their own climate control module, USB ports and even a full-sized household power outlet, with more legroom than you could possibly need. My only complaint was that the seat trim seemed a little flat and cheap.
Front occupants get large cupholders in the centre console, a deep armrest box (with no connectivity in it, just a randomly placed DPF cycle switch), pockets in the doors, and an awkward binnacle under the climate controls that houses the single available USB port. My phone didn’t fit in there.
No complaints about leg and headroom in the front either, though, with plenty of adjustability to boot. The driver’s seat offers a commanding view of the road, although it can be a little unsettling to be so far off the ground in corners… more on that in the driving section.
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. 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.
Price and features
On paper, the seven-seat D90 is immediately quite appealing. At $47,990, it is literally a lot of car for the money. This latest iteration, the bi-turbo diesel, is only available in Executive trim at this price, but you can pinch pennies further by choosing one of the lesser petrol turbo variants.
Regardless, and much like its MG sister brand, LDV is good at making sure that essential spec boxes are ticked.
This includes screens galore as is popular in the Chinese market, including a massive 12-inch multimedia screen and 8.0-inch digital dash.
A screen is only as good as the software that runs on it though, and let me tell you, the D90’s software is not good. A quick flick through the weirdly small menu reveals barebones functionality, terrible resolution and response time, as well as possibly the worst execution of Apple CarPlay I’ve ever seen.
I mean, it doesn’t even use all of that screen real estate! Not only that, but in a recent overhaul to CarPlay, Apple released software to utilise wider displays – so the car’s own software must simply be incapable of supporting it. Inputs also proved laggy, and I had to repeat myself on multiple occasions to get any use out of Siri. Unlike every other car I’ve used, the software in the D90 wouldn’t return to the radio after you hang up or stop talking to Siri. Frustrating.
I’d rather have a far smaller display that actually worked well. The semi-digital dash was functional, although barely did anything that a small dot-matrix display isn’t capable of and had one screen which for my entire week said ‘loading’. I’m still not sure what it was meant to do…
At least it supports Apple CarPlay at all, which is more than could have been said for segment hero, the Toyota LandCruiser.
The D90 does tick some necessary items that are quite good. LED headlights are standard, as are leather seats with eight-way power adjust for the driver, a heated multi-function steering wheel, 19-inch alloy wheels (which still somehow look small on this huge thing), three-zone climate control, eight-speaker audio system, electric tailgate, keyless entry with push-start ignition, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre-pressure monitoring, as well as a fairly substantial safety suite which we’ll explore later in this review.
Great on paper then, the bi-turbo diesel engine is a boon, as is the fact that the D90 rides on a ladder chassis with an electronically-controlled low-range terrain mode for the transmission, too.
You’d expect to pay more – even from Korean and Japanese rivals for this much specification. No matter which way you cut it, the D90 is good value.
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.
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.
Engine & trans
The diesel also gets its own transmission, an eight-speed torque converter automatic with computer-controlled ‘Terrain Selection 4WD’.
This gives the D90 diesel a max towing capacity of 3100kg braked (or 750kg unbraked) with a max payload of 730kg.
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.
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.
The D90 diesel is said to consume 9.1L/100km of diesel on the combined cycle, but ours didn’t score near that with a figure of 12.9L/100km after a week of what I’d consider “combined” testing.
The D90 a big unit, so that number doesn’t seem outrageous, it’s just nowhere near the claim… All D90s have 75-litre fuel tanks.
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.
The D90 is easier to drive than it looks… to a degree…
It lacks some polish of its more established rivals, which results in a drive experience that isn’t bad, but occasionally frustrating.
The ride somehow manages to be soft and harsh at the same time. It undulates over larger bumps, while transmitting the worst parts of smaller, sharper ones to the cabin. It speaks to a lack of calibration between the suspension and dampers.
That having been said, the D90 masks its ladder chassis underpinnings well, with little of that typical body-on-frame jiggle that some rivals still struggle with.
The drivetrain is good, but a little unruly. As you’d imagine from the figures, there’s more than enough power on tap, but the transmission tends to have a mind of its own.
It will occasionally lurch between gears, pick the wrong gear, and off-the-line will sometimes be delayed before shunting the D90’s bulk forward with a sudden mountain of torque. It doesn’t sound particularly good either, with the diesel surging through the rev range with industrial crudeness.
By the time the D90 has reached cruising speed though, there’s really not much to complain about, with the D90 milling along with plenty of power in reserve for overtaking. The view of the road is commanding, but you really feel the D90’s high centre of gravity in the corners and under heavy braking. The physics of such a large object are undeniable.
I have to say, LDV has done a fantastic job of the D90’s steering, with a quick, light feel that betrays the SUV’s size. It manages to stray on the right side of lightness though, not being so disconnected that you lose a feeling of where the wheels are pointing. No mean feat in something this shape.
Overall then, the D90 isn’t bad to drive and has some genuinely great characteristics, it just also has a litany of small issues that get in the way of it being truly competitive with segment leaders.
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.
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.
The LDV D90 carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of 2017, and has a fairly comprehensive active safety suite.
Included on the diesel is auto emergency braking (AEB) with front collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, driver-attention alert, traffic-sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control.
Not bad for the price, and nice that there’s nothing optional. Expected items include electronic traction, stability, and brake controls, as well as six airbags.
The curtain airbags do extend to the third row, and there’s the bonus of a reversing camera and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system.
LDV covers the D90 with a five-year/130,000km warranty, which is not bad… but falls behind sister brand MG, which offers seven years/unlimited kilometres. At the very least it would be nice to have the unlimited kilometre promise.
Roadside assist is included for the duration of that warranty, but there’s no capped price servicing offered through LDV. The brand gave us indicative pricing of $513.74, $667.15, and $652.64 for the first three annual services. An initial six-monthly 5000km checkup is free.
All D90s need to be serviced once every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.
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.