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Less than a year after the launch of the next-generation Vitara, Suzuki has introduced a new sportier model to the range.
Fitted with the firms new petrol engine and featuring additional sporty styling touches, off-road capabilities and impressive running cost figures, the Vitara S looks well-placed to challenge crossover rivals like the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka.
The four-cylinder 1.4-litre petrol unit under the bonnet of our test car - named Boosterjet - is available exclusively to the Vitara S and there's 138hp and 220Nm of torque on offer. It's the most powerful engine in the range, despite being the smallest, and can sprint the car from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds, the quickest Vitara you can currently get your hands on.
There's plenty of grip on offer thanks to the firms standard Allgrip four-wheel drive system, torque is distributed to the wheels that have the most traction and the S offers a suprising amount of confidence when tackling a corner at speed.
It's no sports car of course and the engine is not as smooth or refined as offerings from Nissan and Renault, but its characterful drive and lack of bodyroll makes it a competent all-rounder and the car feels quicker than the figures suggest on the road. Mated to the engine is a six-speed manual and you've got a choice of four driver modes; Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock, the latter is for off-road which enables you to use the hill descent control system for particularly tricky declines.
In the city the Vitara S proves easy to drive thanks to its light steering, compact dimensions and 10m turning circle. Select Sport mode and the throttle sharpens up and the steering gets more weight and feedback, something which is lacking in Auto mode.
Value for money
The Vitara is currently one of the cheapest SUVs you can buy with the range starting at just £13,999.
If you've got your eye on the S model here, though, you're looking at a P11D value of £20,844. Although that sounds pricey, this car does include the Allgrip four-wheel drive system and plenty of kit for the price.
Highlights from the standard specification include a reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and start, LED lights and sat-nav, which is impressive when you compare against its rivals.
Wholelife costs also stand-up well against powerful 4WD versions of the Juke and Skoda Yeti costing 49.87p verses 53.32p and 59.71 respectfully, a residual value of 32.62% is on par with the competition too.
Running costs better the 1.6-litre petrol available in the standard Vitara range with an official combined fuel economy of 52.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 127g/km, meaning a 22 BIK tax band for the current 2016/17 year.
To help the S standout from its Vitara family there's a few unique styling touches introduced inside and out. Among the highlights are eye-catching 17-inch black alloy wheels, silver door mirrors, LED lights with red projector covers and a subtle rear spoiler. In the cabin there's some additional red stitching around the seats and red casing around the retro clock and air vents.
The end result is good; the Vitara S is a quirky and eye-catching alternative to its mainstream rivals and the cabin is characterful and cheerful. There are a few cheap plastics lurking, though, and some of the tech like the keyless entry, infotainment system and adaptive cruise control can be a little clunky to operate at times. The Radar Brake Support system which alerts you if it believes a collision is likely and will even apply the brakes if you fail to do so in a timely manner, can be very oversensitive at times too.
Shorter than its big brother, the S Cross, yet taller and wider, the Vitara S is bigger than the Juke and Captur too.
So in the practicality stakes, the Vitara S performs very well. There's lots of head and legroom on offer and 375 litres of boot space available, expanding to 710 litres if the rear seats are folded. The boot floor is also double height, which proves ideal if you need to secure more fragile items.
The key stats at a glance
P11D price: £20,844
Engine: 1.4-litre petrol
Residual value (3yrs 60,000mls): 32.62%
Cost per mile: 49.87p
Combined fuel economy: 52.3mpg
CO2 emissions (BIK band): 127g/km (22%)
BIK 20/40%: £76/£153
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
The Vitara was already a great all-rounder and excellent value for money, add to that an improved performance on the road, running costs which better the 1.6-litre available in the standard car and a more distinctive design, and the S is the best Vitara yet. It's a little rough around the edges, but has bags of character, strong wholelife costs verses its rivals and genuine off-road capabilities.