The SUV market generally has taken chunks out of the more traditional sectors like small estates and MPVs, and these three show what a different offering you can get for £18,000. They look different, practical, with just a hint that they might get you safely away after the Zombie Apocalypse when the roads are clogged.
Renault Captur TCe 120 Dynamique Nav
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 113mph
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
But, despite giving away 400cc to the Suzuki, it’s the Vauxhall Crossland X that looks like it will be the quickest to get away from the axes and knives. With 128bhp it has a power advantage, yet somehow all three seem to produce about the same performance, something supported by how they feel.
But while the Vitara has the biggest engine it lacks the turbocharger fitted to the 1.2-litre engine in the two rivals. It also lacks a gear compared to their six-speed manuals, so it takes a while to haul itself up to decent speed if you’re looking for flexible in-gear drive.
You have to really nail it to go hard, which isn’t such a chore as it is in the Crossland X which sounds quite rough and has some vibration patches – the Captur is notably smoother and quieter than either of them.
The Renault makes a good cruiser, and has a soft and compliant ride. Big bumps can upset it a bit, but it’s a pretty comfy SUV. The Vitara shows what good damping can do, offering better bump absorption at the expense of a slightly firmer ride. The Vauxhall is as soft as the Renault but just doesn’t have even its compliance, so you’ll get jolted about on rough roads and it never truly settles even on a motorway cruise.
Turn onto smaller roads and the Crossland X gets very fidgety, darting about with over-quick steering, sliding the rear on occasion and losing the front end without much warning. The Captur manages very respectable handling given the soft ride, with some body roll which is decently controlled, and a steady performance that is never going to surprise you. For most drivers that would clearly be preferable.
The Suzuki has the sportiest handling with minimal body roll and remarkable levels of front end grip. If you want some sporty handling with your small SUV then the Vitara has the other two beaten.
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ-T
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 112mph
CO2 emissions: 123g/km
You’ll sit comfortable and high up in the Vitara’s cabin, but that’s about as good as it gets. It feels solidly built but, compared to the competition here, it feels dated and rather low end. Wherever the budget was spent, it wasn’t in the cabin.
The Vauxhall at first feels much better, with some soft-touch materials and decent trim, but that’s balanced by some controls, like heater knobs, which feel ridiculously flimsy.
The Renault shows the others how it’s done, with an upmarket cabin that is a long way from earlier models. It comes complete with a seven-inch touchscreen in this Dynamique Nav form, with sat nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio as standard.
The Suzuki also has a seven-inch touchscreen and there’s decent connectivity although it’s not the most logical of systems to use. The Vauxhall meanwhile actually gets a Peugeot system for its eight-inch touchscreen, complete with sat nav with European mapping, Bluetooth and a USB connection. It redeems the cabin somewhat.
And the Vitara redeems itself somewhat when you look at the space on offer. It has the widest boot of the trio and and offers the largest amount of rear space. In fact all three are surprisingly spacious given their external dimensions, with the Vauxhall just edging the others in terms of actual boot volume.
Vauxhall Crossland X 1.2 Turbo 130 Tech Line Nav
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Top speed: 128mph
CO2 emissions: 116g/km
Disappointingly, the Vauxhall Crossland X works out the most expensive to buy, and it will also use more fuel, cost more to insure and is the most expensive on a PCP deal or a lease deal. The rather handsome Renault works out the cheapest to buy but heavy depreciation sees its costs rise over three years.
That’s enough for the Suzuki Vitara to sneak in as the cheapest to run over three years. It’s the cheapest on PCP and will be cheaper for BIK tax for company car drivers than the other two.
Much of that puts the Renault Captur in the middle but when it comes to finding a winner it sits there out the front. It feels classy and spacious in the cabin, rides and handles well, and it seems a definite upgrade on what came before.
The Suzuki Vitara was let down by its cabin, but not by much else. It handles well, has great interior space and should be very reliable. The fact that it’s the cheapest to run means it might have won if it hadn’t be for that pesky cabin.
In the rear is the Vauxhall Crossland X. It looks smart but is too expensive to buy and run for what is a poor-riding SUV with some rather wayward tendencies when pushed. Your £18,000 budget would be better spent elsewhere here.