Suzuki Vitara VS Renault Captur
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
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|
The Renault Captur is stupendously, ridiculously popular… in Europe.
So popular, in fact, that it’s not quite enough to have just one Renault Captur, to they sell another one - a de-specified, Dacia-based Renault Kaptur – that looks exactly the same.
Bizarre. But then, the Captur is a bit bizarre. It’s as if it comes from an alternate dimension where style trumps practicality, and vibrant colours and tight dimensions are more important than, say, a cupholder.
The point is, in Australia at least, buying a French car tends to be a deliberate and not necessarily value-based choice. With so many keenly priced and well-specified Japanese and Korean competitors, a car like this requires a buyer who wants something genuinely different.
So, can the recently updated Captur appeal to buyers wanting something a little left of centre in one of Australia’s most hotly contested market segments, or does it play second-fiddle to the small SUV market leaders? I spent a week in one to find out.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|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.
The Captur might be one of Europe’s strongest-selling small SUVs, but what it offers doesn’t translate well into Australia’s market, where the sheer number of highly specified and keenly priced competitors puts a strain on its value.
The powerful new engine is welcome, and it continues to serve up plenty of that unique French style, it’s just a shame to see those things come first over today’s advanced safety items and a truly slick drive experience.
Do you think the Captur still has what it takes to duke it out with the small SUV segment leaders in Australia? Share your thoughts 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.
This is one of the Captur’s strong suits. At least, on the outside. It comes with oodles of euro charm. I like its same-but-different approach to the Clio’s styling formula. The light fittings and grille insert are familiar but toughened up a little with SUV-specific flair. LED light fittings look the business, with their blue tinge contrasting the car’s orange and black, and the way the DRLs clasp the lower vents and echo into the bodywork is oh-so satisfying.
The black bumpers that ride over the wheelarches and expand around the sides of the car are a nice touch. Contrast chrome and silver plastics are applied tastefully. I’m not as keen on the rear of this car as I am on the front, but everything remains proportional, and the little spoiler that runs off the roof rounds the package out nicely.
Inside, things aren’t as great. It looks okay from a distance, as you’re hopping in, but once you’re there its easy to see this car’s flaws.
You’re confronted with this huge expanse of dashboard reaching out to the front of the car, void of any particular aesthetic treatment, and a swathe of boring, grey, hollow plastics off-set by chromes and silvers that look okay, but are not great to touch.
The dash cluster has a big chunky look, the same as the Clio, but it's still on an off-putting angle, with old-school, chunky red dials. The leather trim on the steering wheel is nice but doesn’t make up for the switchgear, which all feels a little more Fisher-Price than Fisher&Paykel.
Is there really an excuse for dials, switches and even a gearknob that have far too much movement in them, even when locked in position? It feels lazy. Those who have driven this car’s Korean and Japanese rivals will be accustomed to superior interior finishes by now.
I have to say, this criticism does not apply to the Captur’s seats, which are finished in a lovely, plush leather trim. They have good side-bolstering and a commanding position with great visibility. The same applies to the second row.
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.
Those front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of room, but what’s up with the French and neglecting cabin storage? The Captur is a bit better in this regard compared to the Peugeot 208 I had the week before – which had poor excuses for cupholders and next to nothing in the doorcards – but still, it trails behind its rivals.
Front passengers get small cupholders in each door, a trench under the climate controls, a glovebox and a centre top-box tethered to the driver’s seat, which has possibly the smallest storage area inside it I’ve ever seen. You can fit maybe a slim wallet in there. I was a little frustrated by the clunky manual front-seat controls, which were hard to reach and operate. The Intens is a top-spec model, at least give the driver electric sliding adjust.
In the back you’ll get the same great seats as you do in the front, but rear passengers get even less useful bottle holders in the doors, some netting on the back of the front seats, and a neat trench in the middle that even has a 12V power supply, at the cost of legroom for the middle passenger.
There are no air vents back there, either. Legroom is okay for an SUV this size, but nothing impressive, while headroom was more than ample for my 182cm tall frame, despite the sunroof eating some of the ceiling.
Boot space comes in at a fairly decent 377L – comparing well to the 350L of the Fiat 500X, but not so well to the 410L boot of the Peugeot 2008. The Captur’s rear load space has a removable floor, so you can either boost the space to 455L, or a have flat floor with the second row folded flat, your choice.
In that second-row-down configuration, the Captur grants 1235L of space.
While Renault has made some significant improvements to its multimedia offering in the last few years, I found the Intens’ native system a bit clunky to use, and without the option for Apple CarPlay I was stuck with it.
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 Captur comes with some great features, some not-so great features, and a few notable omissions. Let’s have a look.
Our Intens is the top of a two-variant range. Coming in at $29,990 (MSRP), you’ll get 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with Android Auto, but oddly no Apple CarPlay…), built-in sat-nav, auto LED lights front and rear with cornering fog lights, a fixed panoramic sunroof, leather-trimmed seats, with heated front ones, leather-trimmed steering wheel, 360-degree parking sensors, a reversing camera, ‘park assist’ auto parking, keyless entry with push-start, single-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
Not a bad set of equipment, but it’s also hardly a top-spec CX-3 or Hyundai Kona, which come with much more, albeit at a marginally higher price. It would be nice to at least see the inclusion of power-adjustable front seats.
Also, it’s incredibly confusing that this car doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay. It’s hardly excusable when it does come with Android Auto and, get this, the base model Zen gets a slightly different media system that does support Apple CarPlay at the cost of ‘enhanced’ built-in sat nav. Weird.
In its favour, the style items that the Captur comes with look fantastic. The two-tone colour scheme is standard on every car, even at Zen level (you can option a solid scheme if you really want) and the 17-inch alloys and little design touches on the exterior really add to this car’s appeal. Our car’s ‘Atacama Orange’ scheme is a $1000 option. The leather seat trim is excellent and well above average for this segment.
For the same money as the Captur Intens you can hop into similarly equipped and style focused euro rivals like the Fiat 500X Pop Star ($29,990) and Peugeot 2008 Allure ($29,990). The Volkswagen T-Roc and T-Cross are on their way to shake up this segment soon, so look out for those.
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.
In this incarnation, which Renault calls the ‘150 TCe’ – you’ll get 110kW/250Nm. This engine is leagues better than the slightly hopeless 88kW 1.2L engine that came before it and actually boosts the Captur’s outputs way ahead of its euro competition.
The Intens drives the front wheels only via a six-speed ‘EDC’ dual-clutch automatic transmission, which I wasn’t a fan of. Find out why in the driving segment of this review.
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 Captur Intens with its new engine carries a claimed/combined fuel consumption number of 5.4L/100km. Usually I struggle to hit anything below six without hybrid-assistance tech, although it was worth a shot given that this Renault also has stop-start technology and hardly weighs anything.
After a week of driving, though, the best I could muster was 7.2L/100km. The Captur’s on-board computer has a ‘Trip Report’ feature, which gives you an eco-score and analyses your driving behaviour. It’s kind of neat. I’m sure if you made a game out of it you could get this number down closer to 6.0L/100km.
You’ll need to fill the Captur’s 45-litre tank with at least 95RON mid-grade petrol.
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.
Okay, so the new engine is great. The Captur has plenty of punch now, some might say almost too much punch, as stomping on the accelerator will result in wheelspin and aggressive torque steer, thanks to peak torque availability from just 1600rpm. Still, it’s a welcome experience to drive a Captur that doesn’t feel breathless.
What lets down the experience is the transmission. I was genuinely surprised to find that the Captur is now equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch, as for most of my drive week it behaved with the clumsiness of a single-clutch automated manual. I thought these transmissions were a thing of the past, but despite its modern dual-clutch moniker, it was far too easy to catch the Captur in the wrong gear or, worse still, searching for the right one for far too long.
Even when driving in a straight line, shifts seemed slow compared with contemporary VW dual clutches; you could feel the Captur’s frame lurch forward slightly as it worked its way through each gear in a rather mechanical fashion.
Aside from the transmission marring the experience, the rest of the Captur offers a decent drive experience. The suspension feels just right up front, giving the small SUV a compliant ride, although it was a little stiff with its simple torsion-bar rear. It was easy to get the back dancing around over road imperfections.
That being said, driver and passenger comfort were decent, no matter what you heard the rear suspension getting up to, partially thanks to those great seats.
Steering was fast, but almost too light in some situations, and noise intrusion in the cabin was at acceptable levels, with the engine making itself largely unknown.
It’s tough for the little French SUV because there are significantly more popular and very good rivals in Australia’s market compared to Europe’s.
In terms of more advanced features, the Captur Intens gets Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and… that’s it.
You get the regular suite of electronic stability aids, a reversing camera, and just four airbags.
Despite that, three-cylinder versions of the Captur carried maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings from 2013. This four-cylinder model has yet to be tested, but it’s hard to see how it can get close to a five-star rating with no additional active safety.
The now-expected auto emergency braking (AEB), Rear-Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane departure warning (LDW), Lane Keep Assist (LKAS), and active cruise features are all missing, even from the options list.
The Captur has two ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the two outboard rear seats and three top-tether mounts across the second row.
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.
Each of the three years the service cost is set at $349, with the addition of an air filter ($52) and a pollen filter ($60) every 24 months. That service cost is not terribly expensive, but also not cheap. You’re on your own after the three years of fixed pricing is up.