The Suzuki Vitara was a 90s staple, a fixture in driveways everywhere before the small SUV boom that defines the motoring scene today really took hold.
Chances are if you’re of a certain generation, the either you, or someone close to you, had one. Or their friend. Or their friend’s friend. You get the point.
Now, after a 17-year gap, the badge returns, and it’s doing so in a major way. The rather funky, boxy little crossover you see here is destined to be the most important Suzuki in the local range after the evergreen Swift.
One of the reasons for this car’s expected success is the design which, for conservative little Suzuki, is quite out there. All models get 17-inch wheels and DRLs. The boxy lines and the bonnet styling hark to the original, though unlike that car, there’s no three-door or soft-top option. Such are the times we live in.
Echoing the exterior, there are some elements inside the cabin that give it a little kick. These plastic inserts can be swapped for brighter colours when the mood takes you.
A welcome touch is this excellent infotainment system, comprising a large touchscreen with a simple-to-operate home menu. All variants get sat-nav and an excellent voice control system, which is outstanding for a $22K car.
More importantly, you get the slightly elevated driving position that lures people to this type of vehicle to begin with. One the downside, some of these plastics feel a little hard and cheap, though everything is well screwed together.
Like the S-Cross, the Vitara is fairly well-packaged. There’s ample legroom, though the sunroof on our top-spec RT-X version hurts headroom. The design affords you good outward visibility, while there are also a pair of outboard ISOFIX anchors. As usual we bemoan the lack of vents.
With the rear seats up, you have about 375L of space, a little short of the super-capacious Nissan Qashqai or Honda HR-V. Under the floor is a space-saver spare wheel.
Powering Australian models is the 1.6-litre petrol engine from the S-Cross, in this application matched to a sportier six-speed automatic gearbox rather than a slurring CVT.
This factor, plus its 1100kg-ish kerb weight — that’s featherweight for this class — makes it sprightly enough and responsive in urban surrounds particularly.
Nevertheless, we’re talking pretty low engine outputs here, and under harder driving or with a full load, you’ll have to work it.
This low kerb weight and the light and direct steering (sync with taking corner) make the Vitara zippy and fun to drive in the environment it was designed for — the city. It’s also a breeze to park.
It feels stable and planted at higher speeds, like the highway you’ll take to your weekend getaway, though there’s a surplus on tyre noise that echoes into the cabin.
The vast majority of Vitaras sold will be the front-drive RT-S, though the 4WD RT-X gets an on-demand, multi-mode system that alters the distribution of torque to each axle. There’s no low-range, though it has more ground clearance than some rivals.
There’s actually a lot to like about the reborn Vitara. Between this and the recently relaunched Honda HR-V, it’s a bit like the 90s never ended.
It’s good to see a modern Suzuki with a little design flair, and a cabin with both some welcome edge and a thoroughly modern infotainment system.
Couple that with zippy handling, decent interior space and surefire reliability, and you have a winner. It’s a little underpowered, sure — the Euro-market diesel would be nice — but don’t let that stop you having a look in this direction.