A full used buyer’s guide on the Suzuki Vitara covering the Vitara Mk4 that has been on sale since 2015
As Suzuki’s biggest-selling car, getting the Vitara right was crucial to the firm’s success, and it’s fair to say that this was achieved. We ran a Vitara 1.6 DDSiS for 10 months and over 11,000 miles in 2016 and we loved it, even if the diesel engine was a bit agricultural. But the space, comfort and wealth of standard equipment soon won us over. When we pitted a Vitara S against a Mazda CX-3, it was the Suzuki that won, and it also beat the SsangYong Tivoli. But the SEAT Arona and Dacia Duster both won their respective twin tests against the Vitara. So while there’s a lot to like about the Vitara, it’s no class leader. Lots of owners love theirs, but we’d advise checking out some alternatives before committing.
The Toyota RAV4 is often credited with launching the compact SUV segment. But that car didn’t arrive until 1994, which was six years after Suzuki had introduced the Escudo in its home market in Japan.
Within months of its launch, the Escudo arrived in the UK as the Vitara, the first road-biased mini-4×4 to be sold here. Despite becoming a fashion icon, its tough separate chassis made it the ‘real deal’ off road.
Car group tests
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- Long-term test review: Suzuki Vitara
- New Suzuki Vitara Full Hybrid 2022 review
- New Suzuki Vitara facelift 2019 review
- Suzuki Vitara S 1.4 turbo petrol review
An all-new Vitara arrived after a decade, then a third generation followed in 2005, using a new unitary platform for the first time, in a bid to improve refinement.
By the time the Mk4 Vitara was launched in 2015, Suzuki was in a groove with its big-selling small SUV, and while the model had a lot more competition by then, it was more desirable and competent than ever.
The fourth-generation Suzuki Vitara went on sale in the UK in April 2015, with 1.6-litre petrol or diesel engines, the latter marketed as the DDiS. Both were rated at 119bhp, but the diesel unit had much more torque (235lb ft vs 115lb ft) and better economy.
By January 2016 the Vitara S was on sale, with a 138bhp turbo 1.4-litre petrol engine (dubbed Boosterjet) and six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, along with a choice of front or four-wheel-drive transmissions.
A 110bhp 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine arrived in September 2019 and the 1.6-litre petrol unit retired. The Vitara’s nose and dash were also redesigned. By spring 2022, the only engine offered was a 1.4 Boosterjet mild hybrid. This was superseded in 2022 by a 138bhp 1.5-litre full-hybrid powertrain.
Which one should I buy?
We’d only opt for a Suzuki Vitara with a turbocharged engine, whether that’s a petrol or a diesel. The latter is well suited to towing and motorway drives, but the hybrids are impressive with their 50mpg capability in everyday use. The non-turbo 1.6-litre engine is okay if you’re in no hurry, but it lacks the punch of the turbo units.
No Vitara is spartan, with even the entry-level SZ4 featuring 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth and a multi-function steering wheel. The mid-range SZ-T adds privacy glass, navigation, a rear parking camera, 17-inch wheels and a DAB radio.
The range-topping SZ5 also comes with LED headlights, a panoramic opening glass roof, keyless go, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, plus adaptive cruise control.
Alternatives to the Suzuki Vitara
There are lots of compact SUVs to choose from, but if you want one with hybrid power, the choice is much more limited. The front runner is Toyota’s C-HR, which looks sharp and is very reliable, but its hybrid powertrain can be noisy. The SEAT Arona looks good and has a user-friendly cabin, plus it’s well made and it comes with some impressive engines; it’s related to the Volkswagen T-Cross and Skoda Kamiq, both of which share the same traits.
Also closely related to one another are the Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona, which are good value, much like the Ford Puma, which is also excellent to drive. Other contenders to consider include the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008, along with the Mazda CX-3, the Nissan Juke and the Dacia Duster.
What to look for
Suzuki offered an intelligent four-wheel-drive set-up with every engine, but never with the SZ4 trim. It was marketed as the Allgrip.
The SZ5 came with a raft of safety systems, including blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
A full-size spare wheel fits under the boot floor. Continental tyres are fitted as standard, but some owners switched to Michelin Cross Climates.
The maximum towing capacity is 1,200kg for most Vitara models. The only exception is the 1.6 DDiS manual version, which is rated at 1,500kg.
In the 2022 Driver Power new-car survey, 12.8 per cent of Vitara owners reported a fault of some description. About 20 per cent of these related to the exterior paint and trim issues, while 80 per cent pertained to miscellaneous categories.
You shouldn’t struggle to get comfortable in the Vitara, whether you’re sitting in the first row or the second. There’s lots of room, but less impressive is the quality of some of the cabin materials used. Avoid the entry-level SZ4 and there’s contrasting stitching for the seat trim that lifts things, while the dash is clearly laid out on all models.
Boot space is okay, at 375 litres with the back seats in place (1,160 with them down), but the full hybrid’s 298-litre capacity is disappointing. The SZ4 has DAB, a CD player and Bluetooth. The SZ-T and SZ5 models add touchscreen infotainment and nav. The SZ5 has a better-quality stereo, too.
All Vitaras have to be serviced every 12 months or 12,500 miles, whichever comes first, with the first three check-ups priced at £185, £245 and £215. The schedule then settles into a routine of Minor, Interim and Major maintenance, costing £129, £199 and £279 respectively.
Brake fluid needs to be replaced every two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, but the cost of this is taken into account within the standard maintenance schedule. The use of long-life coolant in the Vitara means the first replacement isn’t due until 100,000 miles or eight years, whichever comes first, and then every 50,000 miles or four years after that.
Thanks to the fitment of timing chains on all Vitara engines, there are no cambelts to replace at any point.
The Vitara Mk4 has been recalled just twice so far, with the first campaign launched in August 2015. This affected Vitaras built between January and May 2015, which left the factory with faulty software. The result was an adaptive cruise control system that could brake unnecessarily, potentially leading to a collision. The solution was to reprogramme the cruise control ECU.
The second recall came in March 2016 and affected Vitaras, Swifts and S-Crosses built between October and December 2015. The problem was sub-standard bolts being used within the rear axle. These could work loose or break, leading to the transmission locking up.
In March 2017 and March 2020, Suzuki launched two other recalls for the Vitara, but these were for the previous third-generation model.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The Mk4 Vitara made its Driver Power new-car debut in 2019, coming 46th out of 75. It finished 54th in 2020, 47th in 2021 and 52nd in the 2022 poll. The Suzuki didn’t shine in any one area; its only top-20 scores were for braking, acceleration and all-round visibility. Its lowest scores were for connectivity, infotainment displays, the amount of standard safety kit, the boot size, interior design and the lack of seating versatility.
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