Well, we could thank the millennials for breaking our two decade old fascination of upgrading to a ‘car with a boot’. Today ‘a car with muscle’ has actually emerged as a choice for many a first car buyer and for those who wish to upgrade to a more practical alternative that gives them the characteristics of a bigger car at the price of a hatchback.
The early years saw the Renault Duster and Ford EcoSport open up the market for compact SUVs in India. In 2015 the Hyundai Creta was launched and it shook up the market at the premium end to take the top spot. Mahindra, the undisputed leader of UVs in India launched its TUV500 followed by the KUV100 and very soon every manufacturer had a product in the segment – either in the form of a crossover, a mini SUV or a compact SUV. Except for Maruti Suzuki, which was kind of late to the party.
But the entry of Vitara Brezza has changed it all. Maruti first showcased the Vitara Brezza at the Delhi Auto Expo 2016 where it generated quite a bit of buzz. It was finally launched in March 2016 and ever since it has swiftly sliced through competition to blaze ahead and become the hottest vehicle in the segment. It has stunned the market with its success and is today the top selling UV, with a waiting period of anywhere between six to nine months.
So what really makes the Vitara Brezza such a success? Many factors, actually. The branding itself is a masterstroke. Vitara already has premium connotations and gives the buyer an impression of stepping into high-end territory. The vehicle itself is an able all rounder, striking a neat balance between looks, performance, efficiency and price. Not to mention a strong country wide network of sales & service points, low cost of ownership of Maruti vehicles and the inherent trust in the mother brand. We drove the top end ZDi+ variant for a week and our only disappointment was not having it in the dishy dual tone colours that we had ours eyes on. But the granite grey option wasn’t too bad either.
With the Vitara Brezza, Maruti has really cracked the code as far as styling a sub-4 metre vehicle goes. The fact that it has been completely designed and engineered in India makes it even more commendable. It is stylish, sporty, well-balanced and proportionate, with the highlight of the exterior being the floating roof in contrasting colour for the top variant. It instantly ups the glam quotient, making it unmissable on the streets. Take that away, and the Brezza still comes across as a good looking stud – not strikingly powerful or overly stylish, but with oodles of confidence. The dominant horizontal slated chrome grille, the oversized muscular bumper with integrated fog lamps, faux skid plate in matte silver and signature bull horn LED daytime running lights add to the muscular build and give it a dose of ruggedness and a sporty outdoorsy appearance.
The side profile too has a nice sloping roofline and cladding at the bottom that gives it a bit of an Evoque-ish persona. Not quite as edgy though, but the inspiration is evident. The Brezza has unique square wheel arches and sits on 16″ alloys with a decent ground clearance of 198mm. A 2,500mm wheelbase and short overhangs combine well with the overall dimensions of 3995mm (l) x 1,790mm (w) x 1,640mm (h) to make an admirable profile. Just for comparison sake, the Brezza is 4mm shorter than the Ford EcoSport but 15mm wider, which makes a huge difference. In terms of height it is a good 68mm lower, although it doesn’t make it look awkwardly squat, nor is there any dearth of head room inside.
The rear design is reminiscent of the S-Cross but has been given a pronounced SUV touch with additional cladding, faux skid plate and a chunky chrome piece horizontally aligned with the lights that has the branding engraved. The overall fit and finish looks premium and although the Brezza is not revolutionary in its styling, it does get the pitch right.
The interior however is a bit staid and unadventurous. The dashboard is reminiscent of the Baleno and S-Cross with a mix of glossy and matte black textured finish, a splash of faux silver and bits of chrome thrown in. Not as stylish as the Baleno and a bit boxy for our liking, but very functional nevertheless. A bit more chrome and fluidity to the design would have been nicer. The top variant comes with mood lighting (there are five colours to choose from) that illuminates the speedometer and tachometer in the instrument cluster.
The central console has the AC vents and touchscreen infotainment system integrated in the main unit, with the climate control buttons sitting below. If you have experienced the Ciaz, Baleno or the S-Cross, the infotainment system would be familiar. Features on the Brezza include a smart key with keyless entry and push start, SMARTPLAY Infotainment System with Apple CarPlay support and satellite navigation, reverse camera with parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlamps, rain sensing wipers and auto folding ORVMs. The sound system is quite impressive and the climate control cools the cabin effectively even though there aren’t any rear AC vents.
Ingress and egress is easy and one doesn’t have to climb up to get in, like most SUVs. The front sports seats are comfortable and offer good side support to keep you going on those long drives without a hint of fatigue. There is a sliding armrest that can be adjusted according to your seat position and the driving position is excellent with wide viewing angles that give a good grip over the proceedings. The steering wheel offers tilt adjustment (not telescopic) and comes with mounted controls for phone, voice commands, audio and cruise control settings.
The cabin is spacious and well thought out, with several storage options that are both practical and convenient. The dual glove box in the front, and the bag hanger behind the driver’s seat are particularly useful. There is enough room for five adults in the Vitara Brezza, and despite the sloping roofline headroom at the back is not compromised. The rear bench comes with a foldable armrest with cup holders and can be turned into a full flat cargo carrier, if required. The boot space of 328 litres isn’t the most spacious in the segment, but the low loading floor gives it more depth, making up for the lack of space.
If we had a bone to pick about the interiors, it would be the lack of leather. Cloth seats in the top variant and a steering wheel without leather wrap are party poopers. The interiors would have looked a lot nicer with some leather and contrast stitching adding a dash of glamor and sportiness.
The Vitara Brezza comes with the same 1.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine we have seen in the Ciaz and Baleno. The engine is tuned to offer a peak power of 89bhp and 200Nm of torque for the relatively heavier Brezza. There is no petrol version as yet.
If you are hungry for raw power, this isn’t really your drive, as it feels a bit sluggish at take off. About a 100bhp would have packed a punch. While the engine is silent at idle, there is a fair amount of engine noise that finds its way into the cabin as you rev harder. The turbo kicks in at 2000 rpm and there is a hint of lag which is not unexpected. Power delivery is relatively smooth and while it doesn’t lunge forward, it does manage to cope up with your foot on the pedal if you downshift right. There is also adequate low end torque to ensure that one gets around stop & go city traffic without changing gears too often. The 5-speed manual gearbox isn’t the smoothest though, and gear shifts need a wee bit of extra effort. But once you get the drift of things, it’s all good. An automatic gear shift (AMT) version should be in the pipeline and that would make things more relaxed.
The Vitara Brezza is built for the concrete jungle and not the wild, making it a good everyday drive for the urban explorer. If you are at peace behind the wheel and not too hung up on power, you would find it an enjoyable drive. Highway driving doesn’t throw any surprises and in a way is quite predictable. It handles well, feels solid and remains stable and planted at high speeds. There is a bit of body roll but that’s expected. The suspension is on the firmer side yet overall ride quality is commendable, with vibrations, potholes and road irregularities well under control. Safety features in the ZDi+ trim include dual airbags, ABS and EBD, and driver side airbag comes as standard across all variants.
Overall, the Vitara Brezza strikes a solid first impression, but what makes it a winner is its stellar real world performance. We drove it for over 500 kms and got a fuel economy of 20.4 km/l, which for most would be the deal clincher. This is by far, the most fuel efficient compact SUV on Indian roads. With its stylish design, comfortable and well equipped cabin, reasonably good performance and stellar fuel economy, the Vitara Brezza checks all the right boxes for the Indian customer. And when you top that with aggressive pricing, a verdict in its favour is a no brainer.
The Vitara Brezza is available in six variants – LDi, LDi (O), VDi, VDi (O), ZDi and ZDi+; with the ZDi+ offering the dual tone colour options. After a recent price hike, the range currently starts at INR 7.19 lacs and tops out at INR 9.88 lacs (ex-showroom Delhi). The ZDi and ZDi+ are the best buys amongst the lot as they come loaded with all bells & whistles.
The Vitara Brezza is an important product – both for the company and the consumer. It makes a strong case for itself in the sub-10 lac price bracket and will certainly have a breezy run over the next year or so, even with more competition coming its way in 2017. With the introduction of petrol options, AMT and perhaps a more powerful variant, it can seal its position at the top of the heap in the foreseeable future.
But more importantly, it could well be the defining product that changes Maruti Suzuki’s perception of being ‘massy’ to ‘classy’ in the market, and shape its future product strategy. Interestingly, the NEXA brand experience was introduced by Maruti as a flanking strategy to achieve that objective, but it seems the Vitara Brezza as a product may end up doing a better job of it.
All images shot on the LeEco LeMax2 Superphone provided by Le Ecosystem Technology India Pvt. Ltd.