Fort Nalagarh with the Vitara #Brezza. Powered by #LeEco

The Vitara Brezza is back in our garage. A month after our extensive in-city review, we took Maruti Suzuki’s sensational compact SUV out for a long drive this time, as there was still some juice to be extracted out of this one.

Our road trip started from Delhi to Chandigarh via NH44. After an overnight halt we drove onward to Fort Nalagarh via Baddi, spending some time in between to explore different terrains nearby – hill roads, soft roads, tractor trails, alleys, steep inclines and such. Finally we drove back to Delhi via Chandigarh, having covered 1000 kms over 4 days in our Cerulean Blue and Pearl Arctic White ZDi+ variant, which is the top-end model equipped with all bells and whistles.

With its dual tone combination and contrasting floating roof, the Brezza makes a pretty picture and significantly ups the game as far as glamour & style is concerned. It looks delicious and its on-road presence is impressive. For a sub-4 metre compact vehicle to hold its own in SUV territory is a remarkable feat. Its proportions are spot on, with the right dose of muscle and cladding. Build quality is pretty good, though it falls short of the solid European cars. The paint job is admirable though, with a noticeable sheen that glitters against the sunlight.

Once you step inside, the Brezza has a comforting familiarity which envelopes you. The focus is more towards in-cabin comfort and less on style, which is quite in contrast with the exterior. No unnecessary frills that try too hard to impress, nor is there an overdose of tech. It’s all seemingly middle class. You may not give it full marks for design and aesthetics but it is practical with brilliant ergonomics, and instantly puts you at ease. In a matter of minutes you are good to go.

Syncing the phone took just a few nano seconds and with our Apple Music playlist figured out, things were quite sorted. The roomy cabin with its commanding drive position and great all round view had some nifty storage options that are tailor made for a road trip. The boot comfortably accommodated one big strolley and two full size duffel bags for our 4 day journey. Inside, there is space for 1 litre bottles on all four doors, a bag hanger behind the driver’s seat and a split glove box with a cooled upper section that has a flat base. The last one was immensely handy to keep butter refrigerated, which came along with the paranthas we picked from Amrik Sukhdev on the way.

The drive on NH44 was quite a breeze. The highway is in great shape and the elevated road across Panipat considerably cuts down the drive time. No bottle necks, no congestion, just a clear wide stretch that gave us ample opportunity to play around with the car.

The Brezza is powered by the 1.3L 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine, with a peak power of 89 bhp and 200Nm of torque. If you are a speed addict, this is not likely to give you the thrills. But if you are happy to cruise along without eyeing the needle too often, things work. This one is more suitable for a relaxed weekend drive-out with friends and family, without much aggression behind the wheel. While the low end torque helps get around stop and go traffic with ease, highway acceleration is a bit sluggish. Things improve as the turbo kicks in at around 2000 rpm and the mid range is where it performs the best. The engine is noisy at take off, but calms down as you pick up speed. Considering that the Brezza is heavier than rivals, perhaps a 100 bhp version would be a lot more fun to drive. For a fair bit we engaged the cruise control on clear stretches, but an AMT gearbox instead of the 5-speed manual would have been nicer, and made the drive even more pleasurable.

The Brezza cabin is built around driver and passenger comfort. Even after five hours behind the wheel at a stretch, we encountered no sign of fatigue. The front seats are well contoured with enough cushioning for a snug fit and the adjustable sliding central armrest is a boon for long drives. The suspension is well sorted and the ride quality is excellent. Bad patches and broken roads aren’t much of a bother and the 198mm ground clearance is more than adequate to tackle mild challenges. At the rear you don’t encounter any bounce or jerks and it is all very comfortable. Stability at high speeds is fantastic and the vehicle feels planted and solid. Quick manoeuvres don’t throw you around, and while some amount of body roll is expected, it is quite minimal. One does feel the engine strain beyond 100 km/h and a fair amount of road and wind noise creeps into the cabin. While overtaking, one tends to be a bit tentative and conscious of the lack of power throw. The effort has to be timed well, and on a few occasions a quick downshift is the last resort. A few things that were noticeably missed were rear vents for the climate control and a charging point at the rear. That apart, the Brezza was quite a breeze.

We drove up to Fort Nalagarh on time for lunch. This place was built sometime in the 15th century by Raja Bikram Chand and is now a heritage resort with 35 rooms. It falls within the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh. The first impression is not like a grand fort that you would imagine, but more like a private palace. Surprisingly, it is spread over 20 acres and you get a sense of the space only once you explore around.

The fort sits on top of a small hillock about 20 kms ahead of Baddi, and is easily accessed via NH21. The approach is steep and a bit patchy but the place has a warm and cosy vibe. The staff is friendly and the suites and rooms are done up beautifully to retain much of the old world charm. Several sit out areas at different levels offer panoramic views of the Shivalik range. The resort is one of the closest getaways from Chandigarh and has all the modern facilities you would expect, including an outdoor pool, gym, badminton courts, pool room, restaurant and a well stocked bar.

The place seems to be the favourite backdrop for the Chandigarh and Ludhiana crowd. We were greeted by a boisterous production crew who had literally taken over one level to shoot a wedding sequence for a Punjabi music video. In another corner, a crew was shooting a young couple’s pre-wedding video. Was fun to watch the proceedings on a balmy afternoon, and we weren’t really complaining.

The highlight of Fort Nalagarh has to be the food. Chuck the a la carte menu and ask the chef to make their special Muglai Chicken and Tamatar wali Dal. The generous portions with some raita on the side and fresh rotis from the tandoor is a combination to die for. Absolute bliss.

Fort Nalagarh also has a few trek routes around which can be organized on request. You could explore the nature walk trails within the property or take a guided tour to check out some local handicraft, small industries & other havelis.

An overnight stay here is worth it, if you are around the region. As a gateway to Himachal Pradesh, there are several places like Solan, Parwanoo, Kasauli and Barog to be explored; each within driving distance.

Our route back from Nalagarh took us to Chandigarh once again and onward to Delhi. The drive back was quicker and sweeter, thanks to a stopover at Burfiwala, Murthal. Their outlets are sprinkled along this route and we were curious to know more. And it turned out to be a delightful discovery. Go for their assortment of sweets like milk cakes, khoya barfi and besan ke laddoo, all made from fresh cow milk. They also serve some splendid kadhi chawal and kulhar kheer which is quite a hit with travellers on this route.

The Brezza turned out to be an able ally during the trip, putting up a spirited performance along expected lines. Granted, it isn’t the fastest and most powerful in its segment, but it more than makes up on every other front. It is stylish, handles well, feels safe & solid, and is extremely comfortable and frugal with its fuel consumption. We got a mileage of 20.1 km/l during the trip with the AC on, which is quite an exceptional figure. There is no compromise on safety either, with the ZDi+ variant equipped with dual airbags, ABS and EBD.

Like a stellar all-rounder, the Brezza shows tremendous versatility and performs above par on most fronts. It makes for a perfect vehicle for short road trips like this, and is well suited for the urban family who love their weekends and enjoy long drives apart from their weekday city commute. On such trips comfort, economy and safety are more important than raw power. And the Brezza puts together the best combination of style, comfort and economy in its segment. With a bunch of cool features and equipment thrown in for effect.

The Vitara Brezza comes in six variants – LDi, LDi (O), VDi, VDi (O), ZDi and ZDi+. Price ranges from INR 7.19 lacs and tops out at INR 9.88 lacs (ex-showroom Delhi). We would say go for the ZDi+ variant. It’s the best value for money, and comes with the dual colour advantage and an extensive equipment list.

And finally, here’s the thing about road trips. If you haven’t taken one, you really haven’t lived. No matter where you are, road trips remain one of the best ways to explore and experience local culture, cuisine, heritage and more. The spontaneity and flexibility it allows is unparalleled and you can enjoy the simple joys of life in the most uncomplicated way. Stop by at a scenic location, take a detour, catch up with your music playlist or bond with your co-travellers; it makes the journey more exciting than the destination. And if you have a vehicle that takes the stress out of it, there’s nothing like it.

So go ahead and get tripping. While we figure out our next.

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    December 5, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    I needed to thank you for this extraordinary read. I certainly appreciating each and every piece of it I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post. 2016 porsche panamera edition

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