The new Maruti Suzuki Brezza is just round the corner, with its price announcement slated for June 30. When Maruti Suzuki first debuted the Vitara Brezza nameplate at the 2016 Auto Expo, it took the market by storm. The compact SUV segment was still in its nascent years, and with a product so suited to Indian tastes, Maruti was greatly able to capitalise on a growing trend at the right time.
The story of the sub-4m SUV category actually begins with Ford and its Ecosport. Launched in mid 2013, the Ecosport practically gave birth to the segment and clicked with the Indian buyers almost immediately. The only other model in this segment around that time was the Mahindra TUV300. Its super-aggressive pricing, rugged SUV looks, compact size and frugal engines meant that the Ecosport dominated the sales charts between 2014 and 2016. It was even able to pull in buyers from the premium hatchback and midsize sedan segments. But when the Vitara Brezza hit the market in 2016, it didn’t take long for it to eclipse the success of the Ecosport.
The 2022 Maruti Suzuki Brezza, however, will have its work cut out. The compact SUV segment is now a lot more evolved, with almost every mass market carmaker having a share in the pie. More are, in fact, yet to join. Models such as the Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet have also moved the segment up in terms of price and positioning, which means the Brezza will face a very diverse competition.
What the Vitara Brezza got right
Seeing the success of the Ecosport, Maruti was, of course, quick to realise the potential of the segment and the body style. The Vitara Brezza was conceptualised, designed and styled in India, so it had all the right elements to make it a winning formula. Launched at a competitive starting price of Rs 6.99 lakh (ex-showroom), the Vitara Brezza made for a very well-rounded package. It had class-leading space, a great driving position, and, having arrived three years after the Ecosport, it was also more contemporary. It also offered a feature that was a huge draw for buyers at that time – a touchscreen infotainment system, something the Ford missed out on.
The Vitara Brezza was powered by a sole Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel engine at launch, and only came with a manual gearbox. Despite the Ecosport's automatic gearbox and petrol engine option, the frugality of Vitara Brezza’s diesel engine struck the right chord with the Indian car buyer. With just a sole powertrain, the Vitara Brezza achieved its 1 lakh sales milestone in just 12 months, much quicker than the Ecosport.
The fact that it was a Maruti also helped its case with unmatched accessibility and after sales services.
Evolving to meet the need of the hour
The Vitara Brezza continued to be big on sales; in 2018, Maruti introduced an AMT auto gearbox. By this time, Tata Nexon had also entered the segment, while Hyundai followed behind with the Venue in 2019. However, the Vitara Brezza stood its ground. By January 2020, the Vitara Brezza had clocked over half a million sales in the domestic market.
With the onset of the BS6 era, Maruti Suzuki saw a major turning point and decided to completely drop diesel engines from its line-up. The Vitara Brezza went from being diesel-only to petrol-only with a new 1.5-litre petrol engine with mild-hybrid tech. Crucially, it also received a mid-life facelift. Using a larger 1.5-litre engine, however, meant that it no longer qualified for excise duty benefits extended to models measuring under 4 metres in length, and that, of course, had an impact on its price. Petrol-powered top-end models were considerably more expensive than the highest-spec Brezza diesel.
Despite concerns whether the petrol-powered model would be able to emulate the success of its diesel counterpart, the Vitara Brezza soldiered on. Although sales numbers weren’t quite as high as the diesel model, it was still ahead of the competition. It was also helped by the fact that the Brezza petrol got a new torque converter automatic gearbox, which was much better than the previous diesel-AMT powertrain. Despite the shift to petrol, the Brezza remained a no-nonsense, reliable choice. By December 2021, Maruti Suzuki had sold over 7 lakh units of the Vitara Brezza in India.
2022 Maruti Brezza to step up its features
The new Brezza, however, is entering the most crowded of all car segments today. The sub-compact SUV category has diversified and also expanded in both directions – the likes of Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger have brought down the entry points, while the duo of Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet have moved it up the price ladder.
In fact, the Nexon, Venue and Sonet have really made niceties such as sunroofs, ventilated seats, premium sound systems, connected technology and large digital screens a lot more accessible in this segment. Additionally, the Nexon and Mahindra XUV300 also brag of 5-star GNCAP safety ratings. In essence, Tata, Hyundai and Kia have now taken the game ahead of Maruti, just as Maruti had done it from Ford. No doubt, the new Brezza is likely to see a significant step up in quality and equipment, but it will still have to fight it out in what is one of the most competitive of all segments.
The other limiting factor for the new Brezza will be on the powertrain front. While many carmakers in the segment offer a turbo-petrol engine option, and the Sonet and Venue offer multiple automatic gearbox options – and some carmakers still offer diesels – the new Brezza will continue to have a sole 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with mild hybrid tech, albeit in an updated K15C guise.
Meanwhile, the Tata Nexon has branched out to also include an electric variant, and has been successful at that. In fact, the Nexon has consistently been outselling the Vitara Brezza on a monthly basis, and has currently seized the crown of the bestselling model in the segment.
Maruti is expected to step up with the new Brezza, at least in terms of premium-ness, features, safety and also positioning. But will that be enough for the Brezza to regain the top crown? It perhaps will come down to its pricing, and Maruti can certainly surprise with that.
Do you think the new Maruti Suzuki Brezza will once again be able to disrupt the segment? Let us know in the comments below.
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