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Our Fleet Test Drive: Suzuki Vitara - Final report

Date: 24 February 2016   |   Author: David Motton

Why we're running it: To see if a petrol crossover can make sense as a business car, despite having higher emissions than the equivalent diesel.
Equipment: Seven airbags, satnav, DAB radio, double-sliding panoramic sunroof, climate control, front foglamps, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, Radar Brake Support, keyless entry and start, 17-inch alloy wheels, suede and leather upholstery
Options: Rugged pack, which adds front and rear skid plates and a boot protector (£500), metallic paint (£430), detachable tow bar (£351)

We set out running the Vitara more than six months ago with a question: could a petrol crossover make a better business car than its diesel equivalent?

With the Suzuki's odometer now showing just shy of 7000 miles, the answer has to be 'yes', certainly for a low-mileage driver.

KwikCarcost's numbers show the financial case stacks up well. Our 1.6 SZ5 has a P11D value of £18,444, undercutting the diesel equivalent by £1500. As you'd expect the diesel has lower carbon dioxide emissions (106g/km rather than 123g/km), but both cars are in the 19% BIK bracket. A higher-rate taxpayer will pay £117 per month for the petrol, and £126 for the diesel.

It's not just the driver who will be better off. The numbers add up for employers, too. The petrol beats the diesel in terms of depreciation (at least in cost terms if not as a percentage of the original price) as well as SMR and employer NI.

The diesel claws back some of that disadvantage in fuel and VED, but tot up all running costs and the petrol still has the lower cost-per-mile of 43.0p, according to KwikCarcost, just half a pence less than the diesel. And our real-world figure was 43.4p thanks to 43.1mpg over the 7000miles.

Numbers on a spreadsheet don't tell the whole story, though. From the driver's seat there are definite pros and cons to the Vitara petrol.

Suzuki's official figures show the petrol and diesel to have an identical 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds, but the petrol car only really starts to shift if you rev the engine without mercy. The diesel has a lot more get-up-and-go in the middle of the rev range, and feels quicker in most situations. With the petrol engine the gearbox needs to be worked hard.

Even so, on balance I'm happy to have been running the petrol rather than the diesel. The petrol engine is much more refined (road noise is more of an issue than engine noise), and for town driving and short journeys the fairly tame performance didn't bother me.

Instead, I enjoyed some of the qualities that the petrol and diesel both share. The first is a spot-on driving position. I really appreciated this on a round-trip from Surrey to Yorkshire, which finished without any aches and pains.

Another plus to choosing the Vitara over other small crossovers is the ride comfort, which is very good for a car with such a short wheelbase. Then there's the big-car level of standard kit, including leather and Alcantara upholstery, a touchscreen satnav/infotainment system [1], autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and a panoramic sunroof [2].

Yes, some of the plastics are a bit hard and shiny, and rear legroom and boot space [3] are acceptable rather than class-leading, but whichever pump it drinks from, I think the Vitara is one of the best-value small crossovers on sale.

Mileage 6803
Official consumption 53.3mpg
Our average consumption 43.1mpg
Forecast/actual CPM 43.0p/43.4p
P11D price £18,444
Model price range £13,944-£22,194
Residual value 34.6%
Depreciation cost £12,069
Fuel £5220
Service, maintenance and repair £2017
Vehicle Excise Duty £220
National Insurance £1604
CO2 (BIK band) 123g/km (19%)
BIK 20/40% per month £58/£117

Verdict


  • Ride
  • Comfortable driving position
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Some hard plastics
  • Road noise on the motorway

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