What are you driving?
This is the Suzuki Vitara, and it's probably one of the most sensible cars you can buy. Ruggedly reliable, sensibly priced, well-equipped and with a frugal little petrol engine in place of the unrefined old 1.6 diesel, there are not many reasonable arguments against this car.
Well, there are a few, but we'll get to them later. First off, let's give you a rundown of the additions and updates to the Vitara, which has been with us since 2015 in its current guise, but was revised last year.
Outside, there is a new grille and new lights, still surmounted by the distinctive clamshell bonnet. The bumpers are new and so are the rear lights, which are now provided by LEDs.
Inside, there are some upgraded seat fabrics, a small redesign for the main instrument cluster, which now incorporates a small digital display between the dials, and some improved soft-touch material for the top of the dash.
The Vitara has become a little more expensive, too - when it was launched in 2015, you could get one for under €20,000, but now prices start from €23,430. That's in part because the original base model, the SZ4, has been dropped and now the range starts with this SZ-T. Standard equipment is good, though, which helps to compensate, and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a navigation system, smartphone connectivity, rear parking camera, LED daytime running lights, cruise control with speed limiter, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB digital radio, a chrome grille and rear privacy glass.
On the engine front, the old Fiat-sourced 1.6-litre turbodiesel has been dropped, and replaced with the 1.0-litre BoosterJet three-cylinder petrol unit from the Swift supermini and Ignis. The 'AllGrip' four-wheel-drive option has been dropped, but you can upgrade to a 150hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine if you like, which also comes with the option of an automatic gearbox.
Name its best bits
The engine is just delightful. The 1.0 BoosterJet has already well and truly proven itself in other Suzuki models, and it comports itself really rather well here in the Vitara. Yes, it's 40-or-so-hp down on the 1.4, but it's also lighter on the nose than the bigger engine, and that pays dividends in the corners.
The Vitara isn't the last word in handling and driver entertainment in the small crossover class, but it's far from disgraced when you get to a twisty road. The steering is strictly a feel-free zone, with an over-abundance of assistance, and nothing much in the way of feedback, but even with that handicap, it's quite engaging to drive. It still manages to transmit, through the seat of your pants, how much grip is available underneath, and it feels adjustable and agile when bombing along a twisting country lane - a task for which it appears tailor-made.
Economy is decent, too, and you should easily be able to squeeze 45mpg out of this engine in daily driving, which isn't bad, if not quite up to diesel standards. Space inside is good too - it's not as big in the boot as some more recent rivals, such as the Renault Captur nor Ford Puma, but there's ample space in the back seats, and overall comfort levels are very decent. Oh, and if you upgrade to the pricier SZ5 model you get seats with suede inserts that have a rather cool tyre-tread pattern. Nice.
Anything that bugs you?
The Vitara was once actually our favourite car in this compact crossover class, but in spite of the updates, it shows rather too easily how far and fast the class has improved. It's gone from being one of the roomiest to having one of the smallest boots (a serious issue if you're trying to squeeze a family in for a long journey) and the quality of the cabin plastics no longer stands up as well as it should. Refinement has also fallen behind the class best.
And why have you given it this rating?
It's undeniable that the Vitara has slipped back behind the best in class, and really what it needs is a major cabin upgrade and some improvements to noise, vibration and harshness. For all that, though, it remains a solid choice - reliable, reasonably spacious, nice to drive and with an excellent turbocharged petrol engine.
What do the rest of the team think?
As Neil said, we liked this generation of the Vitara a lot when it first launched, but it just isn't keeping up with the rest of the class. Saying that, the engine is a gem and it remains spacious, plus you just known it'll be super-reliable. But, sadly, we know that buyers of cars in the crossover sector don't often place such things at the top of their lists of priorities.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor
The Vitara might not ignite desirability in image-conscious buyers, but, those with their sensible shoes on will see the outright appeal of the Suzuki. As Neil said, that 1.0-litre engine is a gem and ideally suited for drivers sticking to shorter urban routes. Everything about the Vitara seems rugged and you get the sense that every button will still function like new in ten years time.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor