Suzuki Vitara VS Jeep Renegade
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
- Tonka tough
- Lots of standard inclusions
- Looks the part
- Iffy entertainment software
- Naff interior
- Vague steering
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|
Jeep's Renegade might be late to the mini-SUV party but it comes with a pretty impressive back catalogue to suggest that this is a SUV that can cash the cheques its name can write.
The top of the range Trailhawk can write even bigger cheques than the lower models, bringing with it a range of off-road tech toys to let you really get down and dirty.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
Rugged, dependable and good off-road are the most obvious qualities of the Trailhawk. It stands out from the rest of the mini-SUVs by being able to do the S and the U with plenty of vigour.
It's just a shame that its on-road manners can't match that of its big brother, the Cherokee. Unless you're planning on proper off-roading, the Trailhawk might not be quite what you're looking for.
How do you think the Renegade Trailhawk matches up to its small SUV rivals? Tell us in the comments below.
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.
In what is absolutely not a coincidence, the Renegade immediately conjures up the Wrangler. Upright grille from the Willys Jeep (references abound here), round headlights, squared off wheel arches to mimic the Wrangler's guards, short overhangs and big rear view mirrors.
The 17-inch wheels look completely lost in the wheelarches which are even more cavernous owing to the Trailhawk's 50mm of extra ride height. The wheels are also a bit cheap looking but will probably survive the belting the car is intended to take.
Less rugged is the interior, despite a fairly self-conscious effort to make it look and feel chunky. The front seats are flat and unsupportive with the rears just as lacklustre making sure everyone is sliding around together. Luckily, front passengers get a dash-mounted grab handle.
It seems quite well put together, however, but with carpets and easily-marked plastics, you'll hope your passengers don't bring the mud in with them too often. And the "Since 1941" stamped into the steering wheel can go.
The dashboard is reasonably clear and has plenty of information to share via the screen between the dials but whoever thought marking the redline with a water splash graphic in bright orange should probably rethink their design decisions.
Storage is limited to two cupholders up front, door pockets in each door and nets on the front seat backs.
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
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.
The Renegade range starts at $28,000 for the 1.6-litre Renegade Sport manual front-wheel drive, climbing between $2000 and $3000 through the Sport Auto, Longitude Auto, Limited Auto with a final jump of $4000 to the 2.4-litre auto-only Trailhawk.
Standard is a nine-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, cruise control, electric front seats with heating, satellite navigation, automatic bi-xenon headlights, auto wipers, leather trim, roof rails, front and middle bash plates, full size spare, heated leather steering wheel, privacy glass, trailer sway control and tyre pressure monitoring.
The lairy Omaha orange is $500, part of an eleven colour palette with only two no-cost paint options (black and white).
You can add lane departure warning, auto-parking and a black painted roof for $500 each, a removable and retractable roof called My Sky Roof for $2200 or a more conventional electric sunroof for $1900.
The Beats-branded nine-speaker stereo is run via Fiat-Chryser's UConnect system, accessible through the 6.5-inch touchscreen. While it improves with every attempt, it's still quite clunky and when the sat-nav is added, becomes a bit of a mess.
Thankfully, not every function has been crammed into the touchscreen interface, so you'll spend more time with your hands on the wheel rather than working out which bit of the screen has the climate control.
Engine & trans
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 Trailhawk is powered by Fiat's 2.4-litre four naturally-aspirated four-cylinder producing 129 kW and 230 Nm. Jeep reckons you'll get 7.5L/100km on the combined cycle. Our mostly city driving with a longish motorway run produced an 11.0L/100km average over a week.
The transmission is a nine-speed ZF automatic driving all four wheels.
The Trailhawk also has Jeep's five mode Selec-Terrain system which should cover pretty much every eventuality – Auto, Sport, Mud, Sand and, just for the Trailhawk, Rock. The Trailhawk is rated to tow 400kg unbraked and 907kg braked.
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.
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 Trailhawk name suggest that things are going to get muddy – compared to the rest of the range, the range-topper rides 50mm higher and has exposed, easy-to-reach tow hooks in the fairly unlikely event you get stuck. It also has a 20:1 low-range crawl ratio and Active Drive 4x4 which means it can switch between front and all-wheel drive. It'll also wade through almost half a metre of water. It's a genuine mud-plugging proposition and will take on some much bigger machinery out in the bush.
On the road, where we spent all our time in the Renegade, it's not what you'd call particularly inspiring. There's a number of sources of noise that contribute to a less than quiet cabin and having to constantly correct your course at freeway speeds adds to the tiring nature of the Renegade.
It's much better at lower speeds, pottering around but then again, its nine-speed transmission needs a lot more work on the shift mapping because it seems to forget which gear it needs to be in when you sink the right foot. If you don't need the Trailhawk's extra off-road goodies, consider the 1.4 litre Limited or Longitude.
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.