Good: nice design, good interior, drives well
Not so good: lack of a diesel option in this spec will deter some
The Suzuki Vitara remains somewhat of an underestimated player in the busy crossover market. Its chunky looks combined with contoured flanks show that Suzuki is about much more than simply producing cheap cars these days. Add to that the choice of two-tone contrasting roof colours that we're more used to seeing on the likes of a MINI or Range Rover Evoque and it's easy to see how the Vitara is gaining fans.
For the sportier looking Vitara S, Suzuki has reduced the paint choices to four colours: black, grey, red and the white that you see here. These are all solid colours with no option for a contrasting roof colour. Suzuki has ticked the right standard fit boxes when it comes to the exterior styling of the Vitara S, in my opinion. These items include chunky 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels that are finished in gloss black and restyled front bumpers that feature contrasting black surrounds for the LED daytime running lights, while matt silver aluminium-look door mirror caps and more extensive black cladding on the base of the doors reinforce the rugged appearance. All are relatively simple additions, but the combined result looks well.
Inside, Suzuki has made what was already quite a nicely design cabin look even smarter. The more noticeable additions come in the form of upgraded upholstery consisting of part leather and a kind of Alcantara suede material. That is topped off with contrasting red stitching around the seat edges and headrests, as well as on the multifunction steering wheel and gear gaiter. The air vents also get a red surround that makes the dashboard look more interesting. The latter is dominated by a large touchscreen infotainment system that includes satnav on this model, as well as the usual smartphone connectivity systems, such as Android Auto and Apple Car Play. It all works very well, with a screen that is very responsive to inputs and features useful touches such as an auto-zoom function for the satnav when you're approaching junctions.
Some potential buyers may see the lack of a diesel engine option for the Vitara S as a turn-off, but the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder Boosterjet petrol unit is frugal and punchy. When matched with the six-speed automatic transmission, it moves the Vitara S along with minimal fuss. Even when you do push it that bit harder, it never feels unrefined. If you find yourself doing mainly low-speed driving in urban environs then you'll like how easily the transmission slips between gears; it's certainly one of the better automatic options out there. There are also steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters should you want to flip between gears manually, in which case it does change cogs quickly enough.
Out of town, whether on the motorway or more rural main roads, the ride quality of the Vitara S feels good. The suspension soaks up the vast majority of rough stuff without then subjecting you to a lot of body lean when you get to a corner. As standard, traction is bolstered by the Suzuki AllGrip four-wheel drive system, which adds to its surefooted feeling, distributing power to the wheels with the most grip. Previously this system has only been offered with the diesel engine. Different modes can also be activated via a simple rotary dial to best suit the road conditions, including a lock function that sends equal amounts of power to both axles.
Suzuki has really upped its game to the point where the Vitara is now a genuine rival for the likes of better-known crossovers such as the Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008. The added styling features of Vitara S do make it an even better-looking crossover than the regular version, and with a good engine and transmission setup makes for one of the more appealing compact crossovers on sale today.