If you’re in the market for a compact SUV, there is certainly no shortage of choice, with just about every mainstream manufacturer producing models in this sector, picking the right one can be a challenge.
However, if you’re looking for one that will be durable and dependable, and doesn’t favour style over functionality, that significantly narrows down the number of choices. And two of the best possible options are the award-winning Dacia Duster and Suzuki Vitara.
Here we pitch the two models head-to-head.
The Vitara and Duster have similar on-road manners, as each offers excellent comfort, while they also feel surprisingly balanced through the corners – not offering the body roll that you might expect to find from a high-riding model.
Another positive about these two cars is that they’re some of the few in their class that are available with four-wheel-drive. It’s the Duster that impresses the most here though, as it seems to be able to head further off the beaten track than the Vitara can manage.
When it comes to engine choice, the Duster offers a far more comprehensive line-up than the Vitara. For example, with the Suzuki, you can choose between a 109bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit or a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine.
Whereas with the Duster, there are four engines on offer. The range starts with the 99bhp 1.0-litre turbocharged engine followed by a 1.3-litre unit, which is offered with outputs of either 128bhp or 148bhp – the latter impresses the most. Unlike the Suzuki, the Duster is available with a more efficient diesel engine too – a 113bhp 1.5-litre unit that easily eclipses the Vitara’s powertrains for efficiency, offering claimed fuel economy figures up to 64mpg, with low CO2 emissions of 111g/km.
Both the Duster and Vitara are fantastic at offering the roughtie toughtie styling that many buyers are looking for when it comes to crossovers. While a car’s styling will always be subjective, we think the Duster is the more appealing model in its class – offering chunky styling from its big wheelarches, rugged-looking roof bars and underbody protection.
That said, the facelift Vitara, which debuted at the end of 2018 adopts a new grille, new LED lights and revised bumpers giving the model a far more stylish look.
Practicality is another area where both the Vitara and Duster excel, with each offering a fuss-free approach to the crossover formula. It might sound obvious, but too many firms value style above functionality.
Regardless of whether you choose the Suzuki or the Dacia, you’ll be impressed by the spacious cabins of both models, as they’re equally ideal as family cars. However, it’s the Duster that just manages to have the edge here thanks to its larger boot. The Duster’s boot measures up at 445 litres, whereas the Vitara offers a smaller 375 litres.
If you know anything about Dacia, you’ll know all about how this Renault-owned firm offers some of the best value models around. The Duster clearly shows this, as it’s Britain’s most affordable SUV, with prices starting from just £10,995 MRRP. Admittedly that gets you quite a sparse model, but compare it to the Vitara, which starts from £17,599, and you’ll quickly realise what superb value the Duster represents.
To put this into perspective, a mid-spec ‘Comfort’ grade Duster (costing from £13,995) is closest to the kit levels of the entry-level Vitara, which makes the Dacia more than £3,500 cheaper than the Suzuki. Those kinds of savings are hard to ignore.
Both the Suzuki Vitara and Dacia Duster are fantastically versatile small SUVs, which make excellent choices if you’re looking for a new crossover.
While the Duster is perhaps not quite as well-mannered on the road as the Suzuki, it soon makes up for that with its more spacious interior and rugged styling. But the fundamental thing that makes the Duster stand out next to its rival here is price – at more than £3,500 more affordable than a comparable Vitara, savings like that just can’t be ignored. That’s why the Duster is our favourite of these two models.