Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara 2022 Driven! Is it a safe or an exciting choice?
We got to experience the Grand Vitara briefly at Maruti Suzuki’s test track in Rohtak. Is it exciting to drive?
There is a lot riding on the Grand Vitara’s shoulders as It is Maruti Suzuki’s flagship product and is the Japanese manufacturer's entry in the highly competitive compact SUV segment. On paper the biggest calling card for the Vitara is the AWD variant and the Strong Hybrid powertrain. We got to experience both of these variants on Maruti Suzuki’s test track and here are our first impressions. On an open test track it is hard to judge a motor vehicle, as cars with upwards of even 300PS of power can feel slow. So we had to be very careful while assessing the Grand Vitara.
How does the Smart Hybrid variant drive?
The Smart Hybrid variant uses the same 1.5-litre four cylinder petrol motor as the recently launched Brezza, XL6 and Ertiga. So it comes as no great surprise that it behaves very similarly. Out on the open track at high speeds it did feel short on power but as soon as you slow things down, the motor feels tractable and easy to drive.
We got to experience both the manual AWD as well as the 6-speed torque converter version. Unsurprisingly the manual variant felt more peppy despite the extra weight of the AWD hardware and the gearbox too had positive throws and the clutch was light enough for everyday use. If you want more convenience the auto gearbox should be your choice. Both upshifts and downshifts on the auto are buttery smooth. However, the gearbox shift speed leans more towards smoothness than being rapid. The engine too feels refined at low engine speeds and gets quite vocal when worked hard. As a result this engine and auto gearbox combo feels best when driven in a sedate manner. Overall the 1.5 Dualjet motor is good for everyday or city usage but lacks the outright punch or excitement of a turbo petrol offered by rival cars.
What about the Intelligent Hybrid?
One place where the strong hybrid version of the Grand Vitara really shines is at low speeds. On the city drive experience track this powertrain felt right at home with the electric motor giving a good low end punch at the same time having smooth acceleration. When the battery is sufficiently charged the Grand Vitara Intelligent hybrid runs in pure EV mode because of which it definitely has best in class refinement at low speeds. Of course the small battery means it runs out of charge quickly and this is when the three cylinder Atkinson cycle 1.5-litre motor comes to life to charge the lithium ion battery. The good thing is this hybrid system works seamlessly and that really is no great surprise. This Hybrid powertrain is sourced from Toyota who have been making strong Hybrids for more than 25 years, and their expertise really shows.
But it is on the high speed bowl at the Rohtak test facility that you realize, just like the Smart Hybrid, the Intelligent Hybrid too is more adept at tackling city traffic than open roads. Unlike the City hybrid we recently drove, the Grand Vitara’s electric motor isn’t as powerful and as a result at highway speeds the petrol motor comes into use a lot more. It also doesn’t feel quick or exciting and going by our feel, the Grand Vitara should clock 0-100kmph in around 12 seconds which is quite a bit down on the City Hybrid and even Turbo petrol rivals in the compact SUV segment. The three cylinder motor too gets vibey and noisy at higher engine speeds which takes away a bit of fun from the overall drive experience.
If the drive experience is not exciting, the strong hybrid’s fuel efficiency will definitely bring a smile on your face. With a segment leading ARAI fuel efficiency figure of 27.97kmpl, the Intelligent Hybrid will light on your wallet.
How does it look?
In the flesh the Grand Vitara looks handsome with great proportions and thanks to the boxy lines it commands attention too. The signature Maruti Suzuki Nexa LED DRLs and large hexagonal grille makes the front look fresh and modern.
At the rear, the slim LED tail lamps and the chiseled bumper looks stylish. The Brand Vitara is based on Suzuki’s global platform which also underpins the Brezza which has scored well in the past as far as safety rating is concerned.
What about the cabin?
On the inside, the Grand Vitara feels like a Maruti Suzuki flagship. Material quality in general is good and you get soft touch materials on the dash and all the touch points. Dash top uses hard plastic but the graining looks premium enough and as far as overall quality is concerned it right up there with the very best in the segment.
The Vitara’s cabin is spacious too with more than enough knee room and headroom for front as well rear passengers. The front seats offer good support and in the top variant you also get seat ventilation which works well. The rear seats are comfy as well though a bit more underthigh support would have been welcomed.
The boot in the Smart Hybrid version is big enough and is at par with the competition but in the Smart Hybrid the loading bay is quite shallow because of the extra batteries.
What about features?
The Grand Vitara comes well loaded when it comes to features. You get a panoramic sunroof, 9 inch infotainment system with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a wireless phone charger, ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, connected car tech, 360 degree camera, head up display and automatic climate control.
In the brief drive on Maruti Suzuki’s test track one thing is very clear, be it the mild or the strong hybrid the Grand Vitara is not something that you can call exciting. It feels easy to drive, has a premium feeling, spacious interior and looks stylish. Cars like the Kia Seltos, Volkswagen Taigun with their powerful turbo petrol motors feel a lot more exciting but obviously they won’t be able to match Vitara’s efficiency.
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