What is it?
Maruti may be king in the small car space, but what the carmaker's line-up lacked was a compact SUV model. This all-new Vitara Brezza plugs that gap in India’s largest car manufacturer’s product mix. It’s an important product for another reason too – it is the first Maruti to be designed and developed entirely in India. Maruti insiders reiterate this is a model made in India, for India, and the 98 percent localisation level further underlines the point. The overwhelming initial interest in the car suggests Maruti has a winner on its hands, but let’s just zoom in a bit and see the Vitara Brezza for what it is.
Built on Suzuki’s global C platform, the Vitara Brezza measures just under 4m in length. Like chief rival, the Ford EcoSport, the monocoque-bodied Vitara Brezza places its engine transversally and will be a front-wheel drive only; there is no provision for an all-wheel-drive system. While the last bit is unlikely to be a deterrent for buyers, what is sure to find universal appeal is the Vitara Brezza’s safe but robust design. Maruti designers wanted to capture the upright stance and look of a proper SUV within the small footprint and it must be said, they’ve succeeded to that end.
The short overhangs, squared-out wheel arches and mildly raked tail do give the Brezza the look of a scaled-down SUV. Styling isn’t flamboyant, but the lines are clean and it won’t divide opinion like the EcoSport’s appearance can. That’s not to say the Brezza’s not got its share of interesting bits. The front is characterised by a high-set, chrome-rich grille flanked by neat headlights that, on top-end versions, get projector units. Seen head on, the Vitara Brezza’s LED running lights are also styled to resemble a bull’s horns.
The bumper with its split air dam under the grille, blacked-out fog lamp enclosures and scuff plate low down also adds sufficient bulk to the design. There’s a neat shoulder line and cladding at the base of the doors too, but it’s the tapering glasshouse that really gives the Vitara Brezza its unique look here. In a bid to give the Vitara Brezza a ‘floating roof’ look, the A-, B- and C-pillars come finished in black, while the roof and D-pillar are painted in the body colour and can also be had in a contrasting shade of black or white. Further, Maruti will offer three accessory packages, namely Glamour, Sporty and Urban, to let buyers personalise their car's appearance.
Styling at the rear is not radical, but the split tail-lights replete with the 'Bull Horn' light guides, the chrome bar with 'Vitara Brezza' embossed on it and the bumper with plastic cladding and a scuff plate do give this Maruti some personality. From the rear, the Vitara Brezza does bear resemblance to the S-Cross. Practicality is also good thanks to the tailgate that is wide and extends low, allowing good access to the well-shaped 328-litre boot. Boot space can be extended by lifting the rear seat base and folding the 60:40 split seat backs forward to create a completely flat luggage space.
What’s it like on the inside?
The Brezza isn’t a very tall SUV, but the cabin is set at a comfortable height so getting in and out is easy. The seats are well shaped but the cushioning is a touch too soft and this can be uncomfortable over long distances. Up front, you get a excellent view out thanks to the low-set dashboard that is smart in its own right. The centre portion (that hosts the infotainment system) is nicely framed with a piano black plastic surround, which is a neat styling element. The silver highlights and glossy black plastics on the dash do add some colour, and what’s more, the instrument cluster also gets selectable colours for the backlighting. The dashboard is practical too and comes with twin gloveboxes (the upper one being cooled), and there's a generous storage area in the console between the seats. Unlike the Baleno, the USB port is quite accessible (though still not lit) for iPhone users to connect to CarPlay.
There are, however, lots of bits shared with other Marutis, like the steering and power window switches from the first-generation Swift (our perennial beef with Maruti). The air con buttons are all new, but aren’t uniformly sized and curiously, the largest button here is that of the Auto AC mode.
The overall cabin quality is good, but not great. Some of the plastics are nicely textured, but in the lower areas, the finish could have been better. What lifts the cabin to a good extent is the woven roof lining and plush seat fabrics that deliver an ambience that is more premium than other compact SUVs.
Maruti designers we spoke to revealed balancing adequate boot space and a roomy cabin was a challenge. What’s nice is that space in the back is sufficient enough to seat three, and offers adequate knee room and plenty of headroom. The cabin width too is surprisingly good. Rear seat comfort is good and the inclusion of a fold-out centre armrest also helps here. And there’s a coat hook too.
The Brezza is available in six variants with top-end ZDi+ cars offered with Maruti’s SmartPlay touchscreen infotainment unit. The system supports Apple CarPlay, while Android compatibility is being worked on. Top-spec cars also get push button start, reverse camera, cruise control, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, power folding mirrors and dual airbags and ABS. A driver-side airbag is standard fit on the base LDi and VDi models, but buyers have the option to purchase a safety package that brings with it passenger-side airbag and anti-lock brakes. Commendably, the Brezza is already certified for offset and side impact norms that come into effect in India in 2017. However, the build quality feels a bit light. We would have preferred a bit more heft in the way the doors open and shut.
What’s it like to drive?
The Brezza has been launched with a single engine option – the ubiquitous DDiS200 unit. The Fiat-sourced four-cylinder, 1.3-litre turbo-diesel engine produces 89bhp and a strong 20.4kgm. First impressions are that it is adequately powered with a nice, beefy mid-range; a well-known characteristic of this engine. It’s surprisingly quick too – the 1,197kg Vitara Brezza sprints to 100kph from rest in under 13 seconds, making it quicker than the 1,290kg Ford EcoSport. The Vitara Brezza’s strong mid-range is best experienced in the 40-100kph dash in fourth gear which is dismissed in 15.2 seconds; quicker than the EcoSport's time for the same increment!
However, this engine is also known for its sluggishness at low revs which continues to be its weak link. Though Maruti has worked to minimise the turbo lag in successive models using this same motor, in the Vitara Brezza too, you can’t miss the fact that below 2,000rpm the engine isn’t quite awake. Although this compact SUV, which comes with reworked gear ratios will amble along quite happily on a part throttle to keep up with the flow of traffic, it’s when you mash your right foot down hard that the engine gets bogged down, especially in the relatively tall third gear. Cross the 2,000rpm mark and there’s a sudden rush of power which doesn’t abate until 5,000rpm. In fact, this engine maxes out at a remarkably high (for a diesel) 5,300rpm, which encourages you to make good use of the strong mid-range and top end. As a result, the Vitara Brezza is a comfortable highway cruiser with ample reserve for overtaking. However, a more linear power delivery and more torque deeper down would have made the Vitara Brezza more entertaining to drive. Hence, to get the most out of this engine you need be in the right gear at all times and this leads us to the gearshift, which again is nothing to write home about. It’s accurate but a touch sticky and lacks the crispness we have now come to expect from most cars in this price bracket. The clutch though is fairly light with good progression, which take the sting out of stop-start driving.
Where the Vitara Brezza impressed us was with its refinement. Sure, there’s no escaping the characteristic drone of the Fiat diesel that filters into the cabin at higher revs, but the Vitara Brezza does feel nicely hushed when driven in a relaxed manner, with road and wind noise well contained.
The Vitara Brezza’s suspension comprises front MacPherson struts and a torsion beam at the rear, but what’s noteworthy is that ground clearance is at an impressive 198mm. Base and middle-spec versions get 16-inch tyres while top-end models get 215/60 R16 tyres as standard. Our ZDi+ version came with the bigger 16-inch wheels and did a good job of smothering potholes and bigger ruts in true SUV fashion. However, the suspension is on the firmer side and the thud from sharper edges filter through. Also, on uneven surfaces the ride feels a tad lumpy, but never to the point of being uncomfortable. In fact, the Vitara Brezza does a good overall job of isolating passengers from the road and copes admirably with rough surfaces. The fat Apollo Tyres on our ZDi+ car no doubt soaking up a lot of the shocks.
The steering, like most Suzukis, has a bit of a dead zone around the straight ahead position but otherwise is pretty accurate and fairly quick too. In fact, compared to the Baleno, the Vitara Brezza’s steering feels more precise and body roll is well contained too, thanks to the relatively stiffer setup.
How quick is it?
|Acceleration||Maruti Vitara Brezza||Ford Ecosport|
|20-80 (3rd) ||11.8s||12.0s|
Should I buy one?
The Vitara Brezza comes across as a well-rounded package but stands out most for its spacious and well-equipped cabin with best-in-class features. It’s not particularly exciting to drive and lacks a bit of emotion, but for practicality and as an everyday family transport, it’s hard to beat. What seals the deal is the very attractive introductory pricing which starts at Rs 6.99 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the base LDi version, undercutting the Ford EcoSport diesel by a sizeable margin. Even the fully loaded ZDi+ trim, priced at Rs 9.68 lakh, seems to offer good value for the money. The Vitara Brezza ticks all the boxes and puts forward all that a compact SUV buyer would be looking for and more. In fact, the Vitara Brezza caters to a wide audience ranging from not just SUV buyers, but also to those on the lookout for a hatchback and sedan too. Finally, Maruti has an SUV to take the market by storm.