Suzuki Vitara VS Toyota C-HR
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
- Cool styling
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added
- Bigger touchscreen now standard across range
- Visibility not great in the second row
- 1.2-litre petrol engine lacks oomph
- Manual transmission dropped from line-up
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|
You know the Distracted Boyfriend internet meme? The one where the guy is checking out another lady while his disgusted girlfriend glares at him?
Now, if me actually attempting to translate a meme (and purely a visual gag at that) hasn’t put you off then chances are you’re likely to read this review about the updated C-HR which has just landed, looking like nothing has changed except for the price.
Well, there are changes – some are big such as the addition of a hybrid to the range and a new media system, and some aren’t as noticeable, like the tweaks to the C-HR’s face.
This review will take you through the new prices, reveal the features and safety tech, and tell you what it’s like to drive. And, I promise, no more meme explanations.
|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.
Not making huge design changes is very Toyota – look at the LandCruiser and the 86 – and if anything, keeping the same styling could improve the resale vale of you C-HR if you decide to part with it down the track. The changes that have been made are good ones: the new, bigger screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; and a hybrid.
The sweet spot in the C-HR range is the FWD petrol entry grade, but if money had nothing to do with it, I’d pick the hybrid Koba for sure.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
Absolutely – just look at it. Toyota could have easily just done an SUV version of the Corolla and kept it conservative looking, but they’ve gone all out and risked creating something that might not be to everybody’s tastes, and the company should be commended for the bravery.
The C-HR’s styling is adventurous with that big, fat face, pumped-up wheel guards and protruding tail-lights. Tweaks in this update really are limited to redesigned front and rear bumpers.
I’m a fan of two-tone roofs on all cars and the option to get it on the C-HR enhances the puffed-up body.
I’d say the C-HR has the most interesting cabin of all current Toyotas. Take a close look at the images of the interior with its textured materials and diamond patterns. The new bigger screen really is the only change to the cabin in this update.
You can spot a top-of-the-range Koba from the entry grade C-HR by the privacy glass and larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
The C-HR isn’t a big SUV. Want the dimensions? The C-HR is 4309mm long, 1795mm wide and 1565mm tall. Ah, but is it practical? Let’s talk about that below.
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.
The answer varies between “oh, wow” and “oh, dear”. Oh, wow in terms of rear legroom, because even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare (even headroom is good); also, in terms of boot space – because there’s 318 litres.
Oh, dear in terms of the cool-looking rear door handles being so high (small children might not be able to reach them) and the how visibility is reduced for those sitting in the second row by the way the window line kicks up.
That said, cabin storage is good with four cupholders (two in the back and two up front), decent-sized door pockets, a deep centre console bin and a large hidey hole in front of the shifter.
What’s missing? Not much. Wireless charging would be good, but still there’s a 12-volt outlet and a USB port.
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 updated C-HR comes with a small price increase. The update also sees the manual variant dropped from the C-HR line-up. This leaves the front-wheel drive (FWD) base-spec C-HR with the auto transmission as the entry point into the model and the price of this has increased by $550 to $29,540, while the all-wheel drive (AWD) costs another $2000.
The Koba grade with FWD now starts at $33,940 (a $650 increase), with the AWD commanding that $2000 price premium.
New to the range and now the priciest C-HR is the FWD Koba Hybrid at $36,440.
Coming standard on the entry-level C-HR is an 8.0-inch touchscreen (which replaced the previous 6.1-inch display), sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker stereo, fabric seats, LED headlights and running lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Stepping up to the Koba adds 18-inch alloys, privacy glass, leather upholstery, heated front seats, panoramic camera and proximity unlocking.
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 C-HR comes with a choice of petrol engine and, new with this update, a hybrid system.
The petrol variant has a 1.2-litre turbo four-cylinder engine making 85kW/185Nm. Unfortunately, a manual gearbox isn’t offered any more, but there is a CVT auto and you can choose between a two-wheel drive or AWD.
The hybrid combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (72kW/142Nm) and an electric motor (53kW/163Nm). Toyota says the combined power output of the engine and motor is 90kW. A CVT auto does the honours here, too.
The C-HR is screaming out for a powertrain that offers more grunt – imagine a Gazoo Racing variant?
Until that happens my pick is the hybrid, the little nudges of torque the electric motor provides while cruising along are great and you’ll save fuel, too. Read about that next.
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.
Let’s start with the petrol C-HR. Toyota says the FWD car should use 6.4L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads while the AWD uses a smidge more at 6.5L/100km. The petrol engine requires 95 RON premium unleaded.
The hybrid (which is FWD only) is the mileage hero with Toyota saying the combined fuel economy is 4.3L/100km. Urban fuel economy is even better at 3.8L/100km. The petrol engine used in the hybrid system requires 91 RON unleaded.
The Australian launch of the C-HR was on country roads – the hilly, winding, fast sort which should really use up lots of petrol, but after 50km the trip computer said the hybrid C-HR was using an average of 4.9L/100km.
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.
Don’t dismiss the C-HR as being all about the way it looks. This is one of the best driving small SUVs at this price point. There are more popular ones which don’t ride, steer or handle anywhere near as well as the C-HR, and that’s down to the new-generation platform which also underpins the new-gen Corolla.
Until this update only the 1.2-litre turbo petrol was available in Australia and now the hybrid variant has arrived to join it.
I drove them back-to-back at the Australian launch and was reminded how the 1.2-litre with the CVT just seemed to lack the oomph that this SUV could easily handle.
There’s a 2.0-litre version of the car in the United States and I can’t help but feel we’ve been shortchanged in missing out on that gruntier car.
The hybrid became my pick of the two and not just because it’s way more fuel efficient - it was more fun to drive. I enjoyed the little nudges the electric motor gave when I dabbed accelerator while cruising.
Dab the accelerator in the petrol-only C-HR and as with most turbocharged cars there’s a lag or delay and with a CVT there’s a lot of noise before anything happens. The responsiveness from the hybrid won me over.
The suspension in the hybrid C-HR is different to the petrol, too. The hybrid car’s ride felt softer and more comfortable while the petrol sibling was firmer and a bit sportier feeling.
The Toyota C-HR scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017. Coming standard across the range is advanced safety equipment such as AEB with pedestrian detection, active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, auto high beam, and blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
All C-HRs also come with seven airbags, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX points across the second row.
Both grades come with a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor.
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.
The C-HR is covered by Toyota’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Hybrid versions are also covered by the same warranty including the battery.
Servicing of the petrol and hybrid variants is recommended annually or every 15,000km with the first four services capped at $195.