Grand Vitara Intelligent Hybrid Drive Review. The mid-size SUV that goes the extra mile

We first drove the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara Smart Hybrid late last year, and we were left rather impressed by a compelling package that stands as a testament to the strides that India’s biggest car maker has made in recent years. Maruti Suzuki’s foray into a more premium market segment has come after years of the brand being synonymous with budget offerings, and has been further bolstered by its strong partnership with Toyota which promises the best of both worlds; Maruti’s affordability and strong cross-country network, and Toyota’s legendary reliability and efficiency. Emblematic of this synergy is the Grand Vitara Intelligent Hybrid, which embraces the evolving landscape of hybrid technology and promises an unparalleled value package that puts efficiency before all else. In an era where EVs are the talk of the town, the Grand Vitara Intelligent Hybrid provides a feasible and viable alternative to buyers who prioritise sustainability and fuel efficiency, but may be wary of diving head-on into the EV world.

Grand Vitara retails through Maruti Suzuki’s premium NEXA network. We’ve talked a lot about its exterior design in our review of the Smart Hybrid variant earlier, and things remain virtually unchanged in the Intelligent Hybrid version. Which is great, because the Grand Vitara is one of the best looking offerings to come out of the Maruti stable. Up front, the split headlamp design works in tandem with the big grille (and lots of chrome) to give the car an imposing front end that looks menacing in the rear view mirror. The squared off front and rear overhangs give the Grand Vitara a butch stance, and the overall design is very well proportioned, although we would’ve loved to see some wheels to fill the excess space in the wheel arches. Towards the rear, the connected tail lamps give the Grand Vitara a premium feel and provide a distinct road presence, rounding off a mature and well specified exterior design that makes the car look more expensive than it actually is.

Maruti Suzuki has been steadily getting better when it comes to cabin interiors, and the Grand Vitara is no exception. The all-black interiors make the cabin feel rather plush, and the champagne gold accents are a nice touch as well. We especially loved the diamond-quilted pattern on the ventilated front seats, and the contrasting white stitching on the dashboard adds a tonne of character to the overall cabin experience. The huge panoramic sunroof floods the cabin with sunlight, and makes the interior feel airy and spacious. Our test car, which was the top of the line Intelligent Hybrid variant, also came with a long list of features, including the SmartPlay Pro+ infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an Arkamys sound system with two tweeters, a 360 degree camera with front and rear parking sensors, climate control, auto headlamps and rain sensing wipers, along with keyless entry with a push (power) button. Additionally, the Intelligent Hybrid’s top-end variants also get added features such as ventilated front seats, wireless charging, a head-up display (HUD) and a digital instrument display, adding to the overall value proposition of the car. While the interior looks great and the quality of materials has improved significantly over the last few years, Maruti Suzuki still has some strides to take before it can be compared to some of its competition as far as build quality is concerned. Poor door closure mechanism, hard and hollow plastic trims in the cabin, flimsy-to-feel switchgear are still present in the Grand Vitara, and the quality of features like the sound system has a lot of scope for improvement.

Where it scores big is on comfort and space, with well bolstered seats in the front which provide ample support even on longer drives. Space at the back is good as well, with loads of legroom, headroom, and more than enough space for two adults. A third adult may struggle for some shoulder room considering the narrow-ish cabin, but it isn’t too stressful either. However, boot space takes a massive hit on the Intelligent Hybrid variant, due to the batteries being stored under the boot floor. As a result, the Intelligent Hybrid provides a paltry 255 litres of boot space, an abysmal figure considering the segment that it is competing in.

In terms of safety, the Grand Vitara comes with dual airbags as standard on all models, six airbags on the higher end versions, ESP, Hill Hold Assist on all models and Hill Descent Control on the 4WD variant.

At the heart of the Grand Vitara Intelligent Hybrid is Toyota’s tried and tested hybrid setup, which combines a 1.5 litre 3-cylinder petrol motor with an electric motor to put out a total of 115 bhp and 122 Nm of torque. While the power numbers coming out of the hybrid powertrain are a bit low, where the Grand Vitara Intelligent Hybrid excels is in seamlessly integrating an internal combustion engine with an electric motor to prioritise efficiency through and through. The car has been tuned to start up and set off in pure EV mode, and the Grand Vitara continues in EV mode until you put your foot down, which is when the petrol motor comes to life. The hybrid system operates in harmony with the petrol unit, allowing the vehicle to run on electric power alone during low-speed urban driving, contributing to reduced fuel consumption and emissions. The battery is also recharged continuously by the petrol motor while the car is running in engine mode, in addition to being recharged through regenerative braking. The transition between the two power sources is more or less seamless as well, although the hybrid powertrain could do with a bit more refinement, especially when you put your foot down and the petrol motor revs unnecessarily until the e-CVT transmission finds a balance and settles the car down.

While the Grand Vitara has been tuned for efficiency, the performance coming out of the hybrid setup would seem to be adequate for most users. Initial acceleration is aided by the instant torque boost from the electric motors, making the Grand Vitara’s Intelligent Hybrid variants feel more agile than their purely ICE counterparts. Performance does get more subdued as you gain speed, and the punch of the initial acceleration is replaced by a steady thrust, although the Grand Vitara starts to feel out of breath above 100 km/h. The slightly oversized steering, in typical Maruti Suzuki fashion, feels light and easy to use in city driving, and while it does gain some weight as you speed up, the Grand Vitara doesn’t necessarily love being pushed to its limits. The suspension itself is well-tuned, and the car feels pliant and stable out on windy roads. In terms of comfort, the Grand Vitara feels extremely stable out on the highway, and the suspension does a great job at ironing out irregularities at high speeds, although low-speed bumps do tend to rattle the car sometimes. But performance is hardly a priority for most Grand Vitara buyers, and the car’s biggest plus point is its incredible efficiency and low cost of running. During our test run of close to 800 km, the Grand Vitara clocked 25.8 km/l, an astonishingly high figure considering it’s build and size. Efficiency is the cornerstone of the Grand Vitara Intelligent Hybrid’s design, and the integration of the hybrid powertrain not only contributes to lower fuel consumption but also reduces the SUV’s environmental footprint. The ability to operate in electric-only mode during short trips and in stop-and-go traffic enhances fuel efficiency, making it an ideal choice for eco-conscious consumers.

Ticking all the boxes for a practical mass-premium mid-size family SUV, and retailing through the premium NEXA network positions Grand Vitara as a stellar product in its category. The Intelligent Hybrid variant aces the game when it comes to efficiency and cost of ownership, and is a viable alternative for those who are yet to embrace pure electric for their mobility needs. Priced at INR 18.33 lacs ex-showroom for the Zeta+ variant and INR 19.83 lacs ex-showroom for the top of the line Alpha+ variant, the Grand Vitara Intelligent Hybrid is a great value proposition for eco-conscious buyers who prioritise efficiency above all, and pick space, comfort, and tech features over full-on all-terrain SUV handling and performance. With its good looks, impressive stance and street presence, Grand Vitara makes for a fine addition to the family garage and remains a logical choice within its segment. By miles.

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