It hasn’t been a major player in the baby SUV scene for some time, but a quarter of a century ago, the Suzuki Vitara was one of the segment’s pioneers.

It arrived on the scene way back in 1988, which means the Vitara badge is even older than Toyota’s RAV4, which arrived in Australia six years later.

By Alex Forrest

This latest, completely new Vitara was launched into the ultra-competitive small SUV segment in September 2015. This segment was one of the few that grew in Western Australia during 2015.

With competition such as the Ford Ecosport, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Renault Captur, the Vitara has its work cut out.

There are only two models in the range, being the front wheel drive RT-S, and the all-wheel drive RT-X. Pricing starts at a very sharp $22,990 drive away for the manual RT-S. That’s less than some small cars. From there it’s a big jump to the all-wheel drive RT-X, at $33,990.

A reversing camera is standard, as is sat nav, which is excellent on a small SUV at that starting price.

The new Vitara is based on the same platform as the S-Cross, meaning the Vitara gets its 1.6-litre, 86kW engine and suspension design.

This also means the Vitara isn’t as capable off road as its 25-year old namesake, which had a fully manual four-wheel drive system and live rear axle. In contrast, the new Vitara has on-demand, electronically controlled system and torsion beam rear end.

However, Suzuki’s new baby SUV is far better equipped to compete with the current crop of city-focused crossovers. Further evidence of the Vitara’s city-slicker leanings is its space saver spare tyre.

Among the Vitara’s detracting features is the level of engine noise that comes into the cabin. It’s OK at low speeds, but given its relatively low power and torque outputs, the engine needs to work hard to keep the Vitara up with traffic.

The interior compliments the outside of the vehicle well and there’s the option of adding body-coloured interior trim, but hard plastics abound.

The Vitara has some excellent safety kit for its price but hadn’t been rated by ANCAP at the time of writing.

Specifications 2015 Suzuki Vitara

Price: From $22,990 drive away
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power: 86kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 156Nm @ 4400rpm
Claimed fuel economy: 5.8L/100km (2WD Man), 6.0L/100km (2WD Auto), 6.3L/100km (AWD Auto)
ANCAP Rating: Not rated
CO2 Emissions: 147g/km (AWD Auto)