If there’s one thing that automotive history has taught us, it’s that catering to all segments of the market well is really difficult. Even for a powerhouse like Maruti Suzuki, which has been at the top of the small car hill for a long time, things have gone awry, and there have been a few failed attempts to recreate their success stories in the lucrative crossover market (Read: S-Cross and Grand Vitara).
Not wanting to fall behind in what has become a true volume game, Maruti Suzuki has increased its strides to catch up to their global competitors and introduced the new Vitara Brezza, Maruti’s first product designed and produced wholly in India.
The VitaraBrezza, which made its debut at the Auto Expo last month, is now available for purchase and neatly fills the gap between Maruti’s conventional hatchbacks and a couple of sedans. Will it, however, be able to make up for the S-Cross’ lacklustre performance in the crossover space and establish itself against some stiff competition?
The VitaraBrezza appears to be a lot less flashy at first glance, especially when compared to Maruti Suzuki’s recent debuts. Clearly, the brand is aiming to please everyone with a simple yet stunning design that will ideally appeal to a larger range of potential customers. The VitaraBrezza, on the other hand, doesn’t dazzle you with angular lines and creases, opting instead to create a lasting impression with its safe and durable design characteristics. For starters, thanks to its high-riding stance and a sufficiently long bonnet for a balanced appearance, it appears well-proportioned from all angles.
Front-end features include projector headlights with bull-horn shaped DRLs, an aggressive looking bumper with a big blacked out air dam, and a silver skid plate on this top-spec ZDi+ model. The two-tone colour scheme, which includes a contrasting roof and squared wheel arches, helps to set the Brezza apart from the competition. The rear-end design, which is far from spectacular, and the thick chrome bar with VitaraBrezza embossing, which ends up appearing tacky rather than adding flair to the design, are both disappointments. Maruti Suzuki also appears to have rummaged through their history to design the Brezza in certain locations. How else to explain the cockpit’s slanting glasshouse or the wing mirrors that look like they came from an ancient Swift? Overall, while the VitaraBrezza isn’t as flashy as the Ford EcoSport, it looks quietly appealing in its own right and is sure to appeal to a wide range of purchasers.
Despite the excessive use of black and tints of silver here and there, the interior is nice to look at, as we have come to expect from Maruti Suzuki of late. The layout in here doesn’t feel very ‘fresh’ after spending time in the S-Cross and the Baleno, but everything is there and the ergonomics are excellent. The piano black central console appears to have been built as a’shrine’ for the touchscreen infotainment system. The funky appearing side air-con vents, square-shaped dials for the instrument console, and tiny air-con controls are among the other all-new design elements. The door pads and seat adjustment controls, for example, have some flimsy plastics, but they don’t detract from the overall experience.
Returning to the ergonomics, the Brezza isn’t as tall as, say, an EcoSport, but the seating position is close to ideal. Thanks to the low-set dashboard and window-line, the view out of the windscreen and front windows is now clear and heaps better than in the EcoSport, despite the seats being set a little low. As you proceed to the back seat, things improve since the Brezza is surprisingly roomy for its size, and the rear bench provides ample support in all the right spots. Knee room, headroom, and thigh support are all available. You could even get away with three passengers in the back if the middle one isn’t particularly large.
The top-spec ZDi+ trim comes with a long list of standard features, including cruise control, a reverse parking camera, Apple CarPlay compatibility for the infotainment system, projector headlights, and electrically foldable mirrors. Automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and climate control are among the optional options. While the driver-side airbag is standard on all models, the front passenger airbag and ABS with EBD are available as options starting with the base model. Unfortunately, Maruti could have done a lot more in this area by standardising ABS and twin airbags across the entire lineup.
Driven by Results
The VitaraBrezza is best described as ‘good enough’ on the road. It doesn’t do anything wrong, but it also doesn’t shine in any single area. Under the hood lies a familiar engine – the Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre turbo diesel engine, but in DDiS200 form. This engine produces 89bhp and 200Nm of torque in the VitaraBrezza. In other words, it’s a small engine, but it’s got a lot of power because the car it’s powering is only 1170kg. To put things in context, the Brezza is over 100kg lighter than the EcoSport, and it is this innate lightness that makes it ideal for city commuting. Sure, there’s some turbo lag below 2000 rpm, but once past that, the VitaraBrezza rushes ahead aggressively, even on part throttle, as it rides the torque wave into the mid-range.
The power tapers off at 4,000rpm, and what follows is the distinctly loud drone of the Fiat motor. Keeping the throttle pedal pushed to the floor, on the other hand, doesn’t bring anything to the table. Although Maruti has attempted to reduce overall NVH levels, there is no denying that this DDiS motor is showing its age and will need to be replaced soon. The 5-speed manual transmission, on the other hand, performs admirably under normal driving situations, with seamless shifts and a light clutch, but we wish it would row through the gears more smoothly when spiritedly employed.
This engine may not be the most powerful or sophisticated of the bunch, but the cost of all of this wholegrain mediocrity is efficiency, and a lot of it. In reality, Maruti Suzuki claims a 24.3kmpl ARAI-certified fuel efficiency, and considering the VitaraBrezza’s low kerb weight, long gearing, and low rolling-resistance tyres, the VitaraBrezza may just breach the 20kmpl mark with careful driving.
The term ‘car-like’ is one of our industry’s most overused clichés, but it’s appropriate here: the VitaraBrezza rides and handles like a hatchback, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It seemed nimble and manoeuvrable on Pune’s chaotic streets. At low speeds, the steering is light (but lacking in feel), and vision from behind the wheel is great. The Vitara, as we all know, will spend the majority of its time in the city, and it does so admirably. It feels relatively well grounded and quiet for the class on the highway, if only Maruti could find a way to tune the engine.
In terms of disadvantages, the low-speed ride can be a little jiggly for rear-seat occupants. When compared to something like an EcoSport, the VitaraBrezza’s rear-end bounces over large undulations, but the Ford glides over similar terrain.
The Vitara Brezza is a vehicle that divides opinion. It’s perhaps the easiest small crossover to drive and park in congested areas, and thanks to a big cabin, it’s also surprisingly pleasant. However, that diesel engine is beginning to show its age and is a disappointment, especially in light of more powerful and noticeably refined rivals. Although, in the end, the VitaraBrezza’s disadvantages do not exceed its advantages. It’s a Maruti Suzuki, so it’s a real contender in the compact crossover sector, and at ex-showroom prices starting just shy of Rs 7 lakh, it’s well worth your consideration. Meanwhile, the ZDi+ trim shown above costs roughly Rs 9.50 lakh, making it less expensive than the EcoSport trim with a diesel engine. What’s particularly intriguing here is that the EcoSport has recently seen a significant price reduction, yet it still commands a premium over the VitaraBrezza. Simply because of Maruti’s aggressive pricing strategy, this latest addition to the compact crossover army is bound to shake up the segment in the future.