AN EXTENSIVE redesign has given the Suzuki Vitara a contemporary look and there is plenty of substance to back up the style.

The sharp-looking Vitara is a likeable mid-sized soft-roader, with a four-wheel drive system and a variety of luxury features.

The Grand Vitara had been looking a little tired in recent years, so its replacement feels like a great step forward.

The all-new vehicle, arriving with hopes of riding the current wave of popularity for crossovers, is more compact than its predecessor, hence the 'Grand' moniker disappearing.

The Vitara, built in Magyar, Hungary, has a new chassis and is a similar size to Suzuki's own SX4 S-Cross, but is shorter, wider and taller.

One of the more appealing features is the panoramic sliding sunroof, which allowed the light to flood in to the cabin during Bradford's surprisingly sunny September.

In terms of looks, the Vitara is a chunky vehicle with a distinctive front end, rising shoulder line and sloping roof. If you want to personalise it, you can opt for one of the two-tone paint jobs that are available.

In many ways, it has a premium appearance. In a world where most things seem to be getting bigger, the Vitara goes against that trend with a reduction in dimensions. However, it is still bigger than sector rivals such as the Nissan Juke or the Renault Captur.

Comfort is just as crucial as style for a family SUV, and there's no question that many elements of the Vitara are more focussed on the lifestyle market.

Once behind the wheel, the driver is treated to a driving position high up above the ground, with a commanding view of the road. There's also a huge range of adjustment when trying to find the perfect driving position, so comfort is one of the Vitara's major plus-points.

The only draw-back is that a taller driver will have to push their seat back to a point that starts to restrict back-seat leg-room. That said, my children seemed to have no complaints about the space in the back.

The interior is plush and there are also some personalisation options. A pleasing feature was the splash of colour from the exterior paintwork that had been weaved in with the dashboard.

A big analogue clock sits between central air vents, while the gauges viewed through the steering wheel are easy to read.

Meanwhile, the large media screen in the centre is pretty user-friendly.

In terms of performance, the 4 cylinder 1.6-litre petrol engine is strong and spritely. The alternative is an economical 1.6-litre diesel.

The petrol unit was up to the task in most situations, although I found myself having to keep the revs high to get the most out of it.

The Vitara seemed to behave pretty well in the corners, handling with reasonable precision. My test vehicle also boasted Suzuki's clever Allgrip 4x4 system, which only sends power to the rear wheels when the fronts start to lose grip, reducing fuel consumption under normal use but bringing enough capability in slippery conditions.

This all adds up to produce a ride that is both composed and controlled.

Other features include a rear parking camera, an engine auto stop-start system, adaptive cruise control and steering wheel audio controls.

People with less need for outright boot space and more desire for style without sacrificing all-weather driving stability will be attracted by this vehicle.


Suzuki Vitara 1.6 Allgrip SZ5

Price: £20,599

Engine: 120ps, 1,586cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Performance: Max speed of112mph and 0-62mph in 12 seconds

Combined MPG: 50.4

Insurance Group: 11

C02 emissions:130g/km

Warranty:3yrs/62,000 miles

Will's ratings