The Suzuki Vitara is a good looking car, in a great colour, and I was won over by its retro, boxy styling! Let's find out how this old-school looking car measures up as a BabyDrive…
There are some good points to the Vitara; the seats are all comfortable and the rear ones are generously sized and flat, which meant they surprisingly held three child seats at a squeeze! I could install the Britax Unity infant capsule and Britax Graphene both rear facing in the outer two seats and the Britax Maxi Guard Pro forward facing in the central seat.
There are ISO Fix in both outer rear seats and top tether in the seatbacks of all three, which are easily accessible through the boot.
With rear-facing child seats installed, the legroom in the front is also surprisingly good and enough to fit a 186cm driver in!
The boot floor is removable, which gains an extra few centimetres of storage depth that I found made a difference when measuring the boot capacity, especially for fitting strollers into the boot. The extra depth allowed strollers to stack on top of each other rather than filling the floor space.
From empty, I could get 11 shopping bags in the boot and with the Britax Flexx tandem stroller, four shopping bags. The Britax Flexx single stroller left room for five shopping bags and I got nine shopping bags in with the Britax Holiday basic stroller.
Storage in the cabin was not so good! There was not a central console storage box and no cup holders in the back!? The cup holders in the front were square and there was no glasses case in the ceiling!
The interior felt very cheap and plasticky; it felt very much like the base model (and it was)!! I felt like the cabin storage and interior quality and finish really let the Vitara down.
The cruise control was easy to use but shockingly bad at sticking to the set speed, especially at 60km on undulating roads.
The air-conditioning had to work hard to cool the whole cab with its four small, round dash-mounted vents. Their noise, coupled with the exterior traffic noise, did make for a loud journey!
The reversing camera was quite clear. The media screen is quite small but easy to navigate and the Vitara has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Suzuki Vitara scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2015.
In the front, there are two strange-sized, square cup holders in the central console. They will hold a disposable and reusable coffee cup but they aren't well shaped for anything in particular. Either side of these are plastic storage wells; the larger of the two is behind them where an armrest storage box would normally be.
In front of the gear lever is another storage area with two shelves, which I found was a good place for my phone as the USB and 12V sockets are in there too.
The glove box is a good size and held my wallet and iPad. Same with the door bins, which are well sized to hold my wallet, iPad and my larger reusable water bottle as well.
There is nowhere really in the Vitara for 600ml disposable water bottles (which is good for the environment!!) They rattle around in the cup holders and door bins.
There are little storage wells in the door handles of the Vitara.
I find these really handy for keys or little things my daughter has in her hands when I'm putting her in and out of the car.
There is no glasses case in the ceiling of the Vitara and storage really is limited in the front and in the back. People in the rear seats have no cup holders at all!
The back door pockets are big enough to hold a large refillable water bottle but nothing else and there is only one map pocket on the back of the passenger's seat. It is solid and will hold an iPad, but isn't big enough to conceal it.
The boot floor in the Vitara is flush with the boot edge, but you can remove it and create a deeper boot, which I found gave greater flexibility when testing the boot capacity. There is nowhere to store the boot floor panel so you would need to leave that at home.
The boot space and its functionality are really important. I like to have a big boot space and little side wells or areas I can divide things into. So something I don’t want to move around while I’m driving such as Tulsi’s lunch bag or her wet swimming gear can be sectioned off in a little well where it’s not going to spill or get squashed by the rest of the things in the boot.
Hooks for securing shopping bags to are also favourites of mine, I like being able to secure the bag containing more fragile things like eggs so they don’t move around on the journey.
I measure the boot space in freezer shopping bags, prams and dogs. Not because I think all there is to a mum’s life is food shopping, prams and dogs. (Although it can feel like it sometimes!!) But because these are visually mesurable items we can all associate with. For me, the car company boot measurement of litres is not an amount I can easily visualise and 400L in one car may differ in usability to that in another due to the configuration or shape of the space.
With the boot floor removed to create maximum capacity, I could fit 11 shopping bags from empty.
The Mountain Buggy Duet twin stroller fitted really well in the sunken boot floor with two shopping bags and there was plenty of room on top of it to store other things too.
The Britax Flexx double stroller fitted really well widthways in the boot when the boot floor is lowered because the deeper space allows the two seats and seat bars etc to all sit neatly on top of the stroller's frame, leaving the rest of the boot space to hold four shopping bags.
When the Britax Flexx single stroller is in the boot, it fits really well lengthways (provided the boot floor is removed) and you can fit five shopping bags next to it.
The Britax Holiday compact stroller fits in the boot with nine shopping bags beside it. There are little wells behind the wheel arches on both sides of the boot that have removable dividers. With them removed, the Holiday stroller would partially slide into that section to allow more storage room.
The Vitara's parcel shelf is solid and you can store it on the boot floor when it's removed. With the parcel shelf removed you could put a medium sized dog in the boot.
Baby can definitely lie down for an emergency nappy change in the boot. With the main floor in place, it is not as far to bend but with it removed it would definitely be a back-bender!
I drove the base model Suzuki Vitara, the GL+, which did not have front or rear sensors so I can't comment on the verbosity or muting of those!
Becoming a parent I soon realised there are some noises and sounds I feel are unnecessary and I could happily live without if it meant my baby stayed asleep!!
That often the distraction of my screaming, distressed baby is more dangerous when driving than not having a lane departure warning for example.
If it is the lane departure warning beeping that creates distress with my baby then which is safest?
It’s where I think we need to be able to strike a balance and choose when we can mute the warnings or swap them to a vibration in the steering wheel or flashing light perhaps?
A lot of these noises come with the increase in technology and especially linked to safety features and alerts. For me these all have their place.
Another thing I have realised is I spend my time in a lot more places where small children roam, parks, beaches, play gyms, swimming lessons, daycare centre etc. I have become more aware that when I’m reversing or manouvering in the car parks I have to tripple check for small children running around behind me or being in my blind spot when reversing. For this I LOVE reversing cameras, I just don’t like their beeping sounds!!
I have become so much more aware of safety and potential accidents or hazards since having a child and so I love the peace of mind that I get from the cameras and sensors combined with my own vision from windows and mirrors as I don’t trust cameras alone.
The indicators in the Vitara were nice and quiet, they are not adjustable but I don't think they would disturb a sleeping child.
I couldn't quickly mute the sat nav voice from the touch screen in the Vitara, I had to go into the sat nav settings to do it. You can, however, press on the screen where it looks like you would be able to mute the voice and it actually repeats the last instruction which I think is a FANTASTIC BabyDrive feature because I will often not hear the instruction or there will be chaos in the car so I can't hear it properly. To be able to repeat it is gold!
I find on most journeys when I use sat nav I only need directions for the last part of the journey. I know how to get to the area I am going and then it’s just the exact address I need help with. Because I need to input the address before I head off I found myself on most occasions when you can’t mute the sat nav voice having to listen to all the directions, which disturbs your concentration, any conversation in the car at the time or more importantly my sleeping baby! So being able to mute the sat nav voice until you reach the part where you actually need it is gold!
The Vitara has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which is great too. I found it easy to connect my phone to it.
The mechanism of the windows is relatively loud and it does have a real thump to close the windows though, which I think would wake my daughter when she's sleeping!
The doors in the Vitara are not baby waking!
With baby asleep you want to be able to get in and out without worrying the doors will be too noisy and wake Bub up!
The road and engine noise in the Vitara was not too bad but I could really hear a lot of external traffic noise, as if the doors and windows of the Vitara were thin and not insulated in the same way as other cars?
When you are going up hills at low speeds the engine does have a definite revving noise too, it but it was nothing too disturbing for passengers.
The seatbelt removal alarm sounds loudly if any seatbelts are removed while driving.
I could come to a stop in the Vitara, with the engine running, remove my seatbelt and get out without any alarms or beeeeeeeps sounding and waking a sleeping baby!!
Since becoming a mum I spend A LOT of time parked up somewhere with a nice view while my daughter is asleep in the back! If it's hot I need to leave the engine running and the aircon on but I do like to get out and drink my cuppa tea in the fresh air while enjoying the fact my limbs are free from said dangling child!!
SO this is a very important test as I have found that sometimes I have been held hostage by a cars BEEEEPING alarms when I have taken off my seatbelt or opened the door while the engine is still running!! (I only stand outside the car, I am not abandoning my child!!)
There are three top tether points on the back of the Vitara's rear seats. They are easily reached through the boot or by bringing the seatbacks forward.
The ISO Fix are in both of the outer rear seats and they also have plastic guides around them, making them easy to connect as well.
One thing I did notice when installing the child seats was that the parcel shelf is solid and there is no gap between it and the seatbacks, so I could not pass the top tether strap through to the boot without bringing the seatbacks forward slightly. This wasn't a huge problem, more of an inconvenience really!
I could squeeze three child seats into the back row of seats, but it was not a perfect fit, and the child seats felt higgledy-piggledy. I fitted the rear-facing Britax Unity infant capsule, the Britax Graphene (rear facing) and the Britax MaxiGuard Pro (forward facing) in the middle seat. I had to use the seatbelt for all three seats rather than the two outer ISO Fix because I needed to move the child seats out to the edges of the seat base.
If you only need to install two child seats then you can do so really comfortably in the back outer seats using the ISO Fix. I fitted a rear-facing Britax Graphine and a Britax Unity infant capsule using the ISO Fix connectors really easily. But I could not sit between the two seats as there was not enough room.
The rear row of seats does not slide or adjust, but we actually found legroom to be quite good in the Vitara.
With rear-facing child seats installed, the front passenger has about 21cm of knee-room. It is actually not too bad and feels more spacious inside than the Suzuki S-Cross and we also found a 186cm driver can sit front of a rear-facing child seat quite comfortably.
I found posting Bub in and out of child seats was okay too in the Vitara. The ceiling gave plenty of interior space and the door opening was a good size for posting in from outside the car.
Australia being a country of weather extremes blazing sun and torrential rain means you may find it easier to put bub into their seat from inside the car. If it’s hot you can get the aircon going, cool the car down and not stand out in the heat with the door open while you fasten them in or shelter from the rain and not get soaked yourself whilst you’re doing it. So it is important to test whether bub can be easily installed from either direction.
The front seats in the Vitara are quite comfortable, the seats are made of firm foam, adjusted with plastic handles on the side of the seats that do feel rather cheap and plasticky! I couldn't have a ponytail in the front seats though, which was very annoying!!
I had spent hours styling my hair this morning to get it just right too… said no new mum ever!!!
The seats in the models I drove were upholstered in a woven fabric that would not be the most practical with children as it would soak up spills and crumbs easily and not be easily wiped clean.
For the first year of Tulsi's life when we would go out as a family, if I wasn’t driving, I would travel in the back with Tulsi, I know many other mums that do too, so it’s important to check the comfort of the back seats as you may be spending a lot of time in them! They were never something I gave any thought to before but I definitely notice a good or bad back seat now!
The rear seats are quite comfortable too, but they feel just as if you have been to Clark Rubber and are sitting on a piece of foam!! The central seat is more comfortable than most cars as it doesn't have a fold-down armrest jutting in your back!
The central seatbelt comes from the ceiling, which would affect the visibility out of the back for the driver, especially with child seats installed too.
The steering wheel is fully adjustable in the Vitara in/out and up/down.
The air-con vents in the front of the dashboard are small and round, aeroplane style and the plastic feels really cheap. There are two in the centre of the dashboard and one at either end. That is all you get for the whole car, which is surprising as these are small vents!
The air-con controls are below the media screen, and are very simple to use.
The air-conditioning in the Vitara actually proved to be quite good. Even thought there was only the four small vents I could cool the cab on a Queensland summer's day;, it just had to huff loudly to do it!
There are handles above both back doors which are well positioned for holding a child's toy.
There is a 12V socket in front of the gear lever and one in the boot.
The Vitara's interior is very shiny, plastic and cheap feeling, especially as I had the base model. The same woven seat fabric has been used on the door panelling too and the gear lever was clunky. In higher-spec model, wiith contrast colours used on the interior trims, they look a lot more stylish but the quality is the same.
At least both front passengers have lit vanity mirrors in their sun visors!
But there were no floor mats in the model I tested.
The media screen in the Vitara was actually quite good to use, simple to navigate and easy to connect my phone to.
The cruise control was simple to use but it was not good at keeping to the set speed at all. Especially at 60km/h on undulating roads, where it completely ran away with itself and would drive up to 10km/h either direction of the set speed.
Visibility out of the rear side windows in the Vitara is quite limited, especially with child seats installed and with the central seatbelt in use, visibility out of the back is bad. Especially for reverse parking.
One thing I have noticed since being a mum is I hate it when I reach a destination or get home from being out and Tulsi has either done really well in the car or she is screaming her head off and I have done really well to keep it together for the entire journey (usually the latter!!) and it takes 10 minutes to park the car! It can be really stressful. Usually I dread when we drive big cars and utes as they take longer in our tight apartment block carpark, but the Vitara was fine in terms of size and to drive and to park!
The front interior lights are press on and the rear lights are in the ceiling between the two front seats so they are reachable by the driver.
The Suzuki Vitara scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2015.
It got an overall score of 35.79 out of 37. Getting 14.79 out of 16 for frontal offset test, 16 out of 16 for side impact and pedestrian protection was rated good.
The Vitara comes seven airbags as standard, dual frontal, front side and driver knee airbag and (head protecting) curtain airbags for front and rear side passengers.
As standard the Vitara comes with antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD) and electronic stability control (ESC) and LED daytime running lights.