First things first, a confession. When I first laid eyes on the Maruti Vitara Brezza at its unveiling at the 2016 Auto Expo, I didn’t like it. I found the exterior safe and uninspired, I found the interior bland, I felt the build quality was too light, I thought it wasn’t different enough from every other Maruti, and I scoffed at its one, measly 90hp engine option. Second confession – this opinion may be a little biased, because I have, for the longest time, been daily-driving this car’s main rival, a Ford EcoSport, which I absolutely adore. So comparisons were bound to be made, and my mind kept playing the Ford’s strengths against the Maruti’s weaknesses. When I first drove the new Brezza, my view was still tinged with negativity, but the compact SUV soon started proving itself. The space was incredible, I couldn’t find fault with the vast equipment list, and despite the 1.3 Multijet diesel engine’s usual shortcomings – mainly lots of turbo lag, it was hard to argue that the Brezza was quite agreeable to drive. But no, I was not completely sold on it.
Now, driven and determined to form an unbiased opinion, I’ve welcomed the Brezza into my home with open arms for a nice long stint. Well, as long as I can manage anyway, because everyone seems to want to get their hands on it – right now, I can’t imagine why they would. I mean, come on, that paint – it’s called Fiery Yellow, but it’s really more ‘supermarket’s self-branded mustard’ in colour. Thank goodness for the relief that comes from the contrast-painted roof and wing mirrors, and the smart, gunmetal grey alloy wheels. Sure, it gets a lot of second glances out on the road, but I’d have much preferred a black or a red. Okay, focus; I’m supposed to try and like this car.
One of the things the Vitara has that the EcoSport doesn’t is a touchscreen – and those have become all the rage in the last year or two. I, personally, am not a fan of touchscreens in general – having no tactile physical buttons means you have to take your eyes off the road to use them – but I have to admit, Maruti’s SmartPlay system is one of the better ones out there. It’s cleanly and logically designed and it works pretty smoothly, but of course, I still managed to find a problem. The most important thing to me on any drive is my iPod and, well, SmartPlay doesn’t play nice with it. It doesn’t stick to the playlist or artist I’ve selected, it keeps reverting to ‘shuffle’ mode, and it sometimes stops playback inexplicably. Granted, my iPod is little old, but I’ve never had an issue in any other car, including a certain Ford. When it does work, though, it’s pretty good – the sound from the six-speaker setup is pleasant for most listening needs, but again – and I hate to keep doing this – but the Ford’s four-speaker setup simply sounds more robust.
And that’s the general sense I get from the Vitara Brezza on the whole. Maruti has read the brief and got the job done; it ticks all the right boxes, it’s a great overall package, but it doesn’t really do anything exceptionally well, and nothing about it makes you go ‘wow’. It’s like a kid who went to music classes because his parents forced him to; he can play the guitar if you ask him to, but he’ll never be Jimmy Page.
However, it’s still early days and I’ve yet to really throw the worst I can at the Brezza. Credit where it’s due, it does some things really well – it’s really fuel efficient and it’s got loads of space, whether for passengers or luggage. It’s even got a cool parcel tray that lets you access luggage both from the boot opening or the back seat; shame that it makes a racket over every bump. And since we’re just getting into what seems to be a pretty horrendous monsoon, I’m happy to have an SUV in my parking lot, rather than a sedan or a hatchback. There’s lots more I have to learn about the new Vitara Brezza, and I’m looking forward to doing just that over the next few months. If I can hold on to the keys long enough.