Maruti Suzuki is late to the small SUV party. Blame it on the fact that maybe this is because it is just too big a company, or there are too many shareholders sitting in different countries. But all these things don’t matter anymore because its newest offering – the Vitara Brezza – is everything it set out to be. It is small, it is SUV-ish and surprisingly, it goes well. Really well!
Now, we’ve all seen and know what it looks like. Maruti has systematically drawn all veils from the vehicle, first by unveiling it at the Auto Expo and recently by announcing its price. Knowingly, or unknowingly, it has kept the best for last – the actual road test. Under the hood is the tried-and-tested DDiS engine. Yes, it’s the same diesel unit we see in the smaller Swift and bigger S-Cross. And that’s the only powertrain on offer right now.
But it seems like an almost perfect fit for the car. It may sound a bit too loud and coarse at times, especially when under stress, but it does the torque and power delivery bit rather sweetly. 200Nm of torque starting from as low as 1750rpm means downshifting of cogs isn’t always a necessity. For most urban driving situations, the Brezza could just be trundling along at 2000rpm or racing past at twice of it. Yes, that is when power is at its maximum.
The one dynamic ability of the Brezza that’s most striking is its ability to not be unsettled. Despite the sub-4 metre length, it is absolutely planted to the road at serious 3-digit speeds. The steering weighs up, not much feedback, but enough to not let your confidence waver. Of course, shove it around and the body roll may unsettle those at the rear, but you will have to try something incredibly stupid to get it out of line. Surprising for a tall big hatch that it is.
Ride is the other big news here. You may argue that it doesn’t look the part of a butch SUV, but it offers a ride quality that knocks on the doors of big, burly SUVs. It is firm, yet supple, and it can absorb bad roads as easily as most of us can gobble ice-cream on a hot summer day. Again, without getting unsettled, even when you take it at high speeds. And the compact proportions help because you can easily get it in line with some steering corrections like you could with a big hatchback. This quality is most appreciated when under panic braking. The Apollo tyres on the test cars felt comfortable but squeal at the slightest provocation.
Of course, not everything can be just perfect, can it? So, on the not-so-bright side, the gearshift feel could be smoother. You get a sense as if it is stuck in its slot and you really need to use you might to shove it through the gates. Inherent diesel gearbox nature some might say, but it really spoils the fun when you take it up a twisty hilly section or want to show some urgency.
Also, Maruti may want to offer a bigger diesel or a more powerful diesel and/or petrol options with the little Vitara simply because it can take it. A figure of 88bhp at the top-end sounds like a lot but the Brezza is capable of handling more. At the limit, you feel like it could do better than what it can manage now.
While the Brezza looks good, to say the least, it is a subtle design, which means it lacks that striking look to stop traffic. See it in isolation and you will appreciate the masculine wedge-shaped haunches, large wheels, a high-set profile with some clever paint jugglery and a busy front end with LED guidelines and skid-plate. But mind you, all this only comes in the top variants. Even inside, the nicer bits like Apple CarPlay infotainment system – which has sat-nav, music and telephone – is only available in the top ZDi+ variant. Not even in the second-highest trim. Climate control, however, is and together they give a modern look to the dashboard. The lower trims get dash-integrated music system as in other Maruti cars.
The Brezza will be sold through Maruti Suzuki’s regular network, not Nexa. Which means it is clear where in the hierarchy it stands in Maruti’s portfolio. So, for someone looking for a sub-Rs 10 lakh compact SUV, the Vitara Brezza is easy picking as it looks the part and drives quite well too.
1248cc, 4cyl, diesel, 5M, FWD, 88bhp, 200Nm, 24.3kpl (claimed), top speed: 180kph (estimated), boot space: 328 litres, 1195kg,
Rs 9.68 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Be prepared to shell out more for a feature-rich experience if that is what you are looking for. But let it not be a deal-breaker because the Vitara Brezza is the most versatile SUV in its class right now.