Maruti Grand Vitara: First Drive Review
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In the first look, Grand Vitara seems to have all the makings of a perfect family car. But under a more detailed inspection, can it meet the expectations of all members of the family
Our expectation from compact SUVs keeps on growing from every new model that is launched in the market. From being spacious and high-ground-clearance city runabouts, today we expect them to pack every feature imaginable while being efficient, comfortable and practical. Maruti has had a lot of time studying all of these expectations as they are last to the compact SUV party with the Grand Vitara. And at least on paper, they seem to have gotten the formula right. Time to find out if it delivers in the real world.
The Grand Vitara meets the expectations we have from SUVs. The front face is bold with a large grille and chrome surround. The LED DRLs are mounted high and the LED projector headlamps are lower down in the bumper for a more intimidating look. If you differentiate the strong hybrid from the mild-hybrid, the latter gets a silver skid plate and regular chrome as opposed to the gunmetal gray skid plate and dark chrome on former.
From the side, the Grand Vitara is the longest car in the segment and this shows. The sloping roofline and the size helps it look sporty and the 17-inch alloy wheels look well proportioned. This is a subtle use of chrome as well on the beltline. From this angle as well, you can differentiate between the mild and strong-hybrid as the latter has gloss black cladding while the former gets matt black.
At the back, it's the connected tail lamps that steal the show at night. The other lights placed in the corner help it look wide as well. Overall, the Grand Vitara is one of the better looking SUVs in the segment and commands a good presence on the road.
After decades of budget cars, we have started to expect a plasticy quality of interior from Maruti cars. However, they have managed to change that around completely with the Grand Vitara. The dashboard, door pads and the steering wheel feature soft touch leatherette which feel premium to touch. Dial in the contrast stitching, quilted leatherette seats and the champagne gold accents and the cars feel quite upmarket. However, the best part about this interior has to be the build quality. Everything feels solid and well put together and overall, this is certainly the best ever in a Maruti.
Moving on to the features, and there is good news here as well. And not just the amount of features, but the quality and usability is great as well. You get a 9-inch infotainment system which is lag free to use and gets a good display. It features wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 6-speaker sound system and a lot of vehicle information with good animations.
The car also features automatic climate control and a massive panoramic sunroof which can open really wide. In fact, it is the widest-opening sunroof in the segment. However, the sunroof curtain is rather light and allows a lot of heat and light into the carbon, which becomes a bother on hot summer days.
Some premium features are limited to the Strong Hybrid though. The 7-inch digital instrument comes with plenty of information with clear graphics. The heads-up display gets battery information and navigation as well and the ventilated front seats are powerful too. All of these features should have been included in the mild-hybrid top variant as well.
Cabin practicality however, could have been better. The Grand Vitara gets all the basics right with two cup holders, under-armrest storage and large door pockets. However, the centre console only gets a wireless charger and now a separate mobile storage. Plus, there is only a USB port and a 12V socket for charging. A type-C is a must in this age.
At the back as well, the large seats keep you comfortable. The recline angle is comfortable and the seat base angle keeps you tucked in. And while the legroom and knee room is ample, the headroom for six footers can feel a bit narrow. And while it can seat three, they would be comfortable for small journeys only.
The rear occupants are also treated well with ample features. AC vents with blower control, phone holder, seat back pockets, armrest with cupholders, adjustable headrests and a 2-step reclining backrest. The only thing missing here are window shades which could have really been the icing on the cake.
Boot Space: Mild Hybrid Vs Strong Hybrid
While Maruti has not revealed boot space figures, the mild-hybrid SUV can pack large suitcases with ease and offers a flat floor when the rear seats are folded. However, the strong-hybrid gets a battery back hidden in the boot and that eats a lot into the space. As a result, you can keep smaller suitcases and wont get a flat boot floor for larger items.
The mild-hybrid Grand Vitara is available in the regular 4 variants: Sigma, Delta, Zeta and Alpha. The AWD is only available with the Alpha variant. However, the strong-hybrid has two special variants: Zeta+ and Alpha+. Most of the headline features are only available in the Alpha+ variant.
The Grand Vitara is based on the Brezza’s platform which has scored four stars in the Global NCAP crash test. That is why we expect at least four stars from the Grand Vitara as well. Plus, you get six airbags, 360 view camera, tyre pressure monitoring system, electronic stability program, hill hold assist and ISOFIX child seat anchorages.
Engine And Performance
The Grand Vitara is available with two engine options. The most popular is going to be the 103.06PS / 136.8Nm 1.5L petrol with a mild-hybrid system. Also, with the manual, you can have Suzuki’s AllGrip AWD system. The other is an all-new strong-hybrid.
Maruti’s clear focus here has been to extract as much mileage as possible. And the claimed figures show that, with 21.11kmpl (MT), 20.58kmpl (AT) and 19.38kmpl (AWD MT). However, to get this, they have had to compromise on performance. Inside the city, the Vitara offers a relaxed drive experience and can commute calmly. In fact, the refinement and gear shifts are impressive.
However, what it lacks is the ability to accelerate quickly. Overtakes take time and you often have to use quite a bit of throttle to get a quick move on. Even on the highways, it can cruise calmly but overtakes need advance planning. And while doing so, the engine holds on to high rpms which makes it feel stressed. This engine is best for laid-back commuting but lacks the versatility we expect for an SUV of this class.
The AWD is a welcome addition and for someone who takes the S in the SUV seriously. It can tackle rough terrains with ease and offers impressive traction on slippery surfaces. And while it is not an outright off-road-capable SUV with a missing low ratio gear and strong torque, it is still the most capable one in the segment alongside the Toyota Hyryder.
The Grand Vitara comes with a strong-hybrid system which uses a 115.56PS, 1.5L three-cylinder engine alongside an electric motor to drive the car. It can run on pure electric in the city and even cruise close to 100kmpl on pure electric - given the batteries have charge. And when they deplete, the engine comes on to charge them and power the SUV. This transition of power source is seamless and you get used to it quite easily.
When on pure EV drive, the Grand Vitara feels very quiet and premium to drive. It has ample zip to feel quick and responsive for overtakes and once the engine comes on, you can also execute quick overtakes. And while it is not a sporty or exciting SUV, it still feels very effortless to drive. Between the two, the strong hybrid is definitely the SUV to pick.
Ride And Handling
The Grand Vitara stands true to its name in this department. The long-travel suspension keeps you well cushioned over bumps and and the SUV even feels confident going over potholes and level changes. Inside the city, you will appreciate the comfort and out on the highway, the stability is the highlight. Another aspect which you tend to appreciate over longer journeys is that the suspension is quiet. Club that with the impressive cabin insulation and the Grand Vitara really becomes a mile-munching machine.
The Grand Vitara offers a lot to the Indian families with very little compromise. However, that little compromise is a big one: performance. The mild-hybrid engine is only good for city commutes and relaxed cruising, and will feel inadequate for someone expecting more. As for the strong hybrid, the boot space is the limiting factor. But if these two aspects are not on your priority, the Grand Vitara really delivers where it counts. It's spacious, comfortable, loaded with features, efficient and a very likable family SUV.
Finally, the price. We expect the mild hybrid will top out at Rs 17 lakh and the strong hybrid Alpha+ will come close to Rs 19 lakh ex-showroom. And with that knowledge, the strong-hybrid Grand Vitara is the SUV to pick as it offers a more premium experience.