A quick count shows there are 14 small crossovers currently on sale in the UK. That’s a lot of choice. And yet there’s so little joy to be found among them. The Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet S is a little ray of hope in a sea of indifference.
Its Tonka Toy styling is a good start and the interior is pleasant enough, even if some of the materials do betray the Vitara’s budget origins. Generous equipment including radar cruise control, DAB radio and satnav in an easy-to-use infotainment system compensates.
Rear legroom is a bit pinched, otherwise interior space is more than acceptable and the boot is bigger than most in the class. But enough of the sensible stuff, because this Vitara is a right giggle to drive.
Its 1.4-litre, turbocharged engine serves up 140bhp and 162lb/ft and is a bundle of energy. Performance feels much livelier than the 0-62mph time of 10.2secs suggests, despite a moment or two of turbo lag. But it’s easy to keep the motor on the boil as it loves being wrung out.
Rowing around the six-speed manual gearbox isn’t exactly a pleasure, but neither is it a chore.
At 1210kg, the Vitara is conspicuously light for the class and that shows in the handling. Oddly inconsistent steering weight discourages flinging it into bends, but smooth inputs reveal excellent body control and tenacious grip from the standard ALLGRIP four-wheel-drive. Get into a rhythm and maintain momentum and it’s possible to make surprisingly swift cross-country progress.
Around town, the ride is pliable and the Vitara is a doddle to operate.
The Vitara S isn’t as engaging to drive as the Mazda CX-3, but it’s better value and significantly more practical. As an all-rounder, it’s my favourite small crossover.
Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Boosterjet S ALLGRIP
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual; four-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 140bhp; 162lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 52.3mpg; 127g/km
Top speed: 124mph
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By Only Motors