Without a doubt, the compact SUV segment is one of the most difficult to crack. To start off with, manufacturers have to work on a chassis which is shorter than four metres, yet it should look macho enough to pass off as an SUV and should have enough cabin space to please the ever sceptical Indian car buyer. As you can get sedans for the same money, performance shouldn't be lacking too. Now that is a hell lot of demand from a segment which has loads of restrictions.
But if there is one manufacturer that can fully exploit this segment, it has to be India's largest car maker. Maruti Suzuki has been on an unprecedented run for the past decade and almost every segment they have touched, have turned to gold. With immense experience and customer understanding, it is next to impossible that Maruti will get it wrong (S-Cross is an exception). Meet the Vitara Brezza, a grounds up SUV developed in India for India. The Brezza is already a huge success with Maruti picking up massive 40,000 plus bookings in just over a month's time. That figure is even more staggering considering the Vitara Brezza comes only in diesel manual guise.
As far as looks are concerned the Vitara Brezza, tries hard to pass off as an SUV. The boxy door panels, long bonnet, large 16 inch wheels, near vertical front windshield and the floating roof design shouts SUV. In the top ZDi+ you can opt for dual tone exterior colour too. Maruti has chosen colour combinations quite wisely with the blue and yellow shades getting a white roof while the red comes with a black one. The large front grille, front bumper with large air intakes and stylish projector headlamps gives it an in your face look. Unlike the Ford EcoSport, Brezza's spare wheel is neatly tucked away in the boot so from the rear it looks more like a jacked up hatchback. The ruggedness comes from the black cladding that hugs the lower portions of the bumper.
The Brezza is based on Suzuki's global C-platform which also underpins the European Vitara. Its wheelbase of 2500mm is identical to its European cousin and that's where the similarities end. Where the European car comes with AWD, the Indian Vitara is designed to be a front-wheel-drive only. So there are no intrusions inside the cabin from the transmission tunnel and you get a flat floor at the rear. Maruti has been at the forefront of making light cars and the Brezza is no exception. At 1170kg it is more than 100kg lighter than the EcoSport which contributes to the exceptional fuel efficiency which we will come to later.
On the inside the Vitara Brezza might fool you into thinking that you are sitting inside a conventional hatchback. After the busy exterior, the interior paints quite a calm picture.The dashboard looks minimalistic and we wish Maruti employed some chunky knobs or other bits to compliment the exterior. Like in all modern Maruti's the CarPlay enabled touchscreen infotainment system takes centrestage and the high quality display feels very modern. Plastic quality and fit and finish are at par and it does feel slightly better than its chief rival the EcoSport. Lower down and on the door pads it's apparent that Maruti has cut corners and plastics feel hard and shiny. In pursuit of saving weight the Brezza also doesn't feel as solid as it should. The light doors shut with a shallow thunk and it lacks the solidity of the EcoSport. There are many bits shared with the cheaper Swift too, like the power window switches, steering wheel, stalks etc
Considering Brezza's compact footprint, Maruti has done a commendable job of generating maximum cabin space. The engineers have cleverly used vertical space and unlike an SUV you sit quite low in the Brezza. This means getting in and out through the large doors is extremely easy. The front seats are big and have acres of legroom. But, the Brezza really surprises as far as rear space is concerned. There is enough kneeroom for an average sized adult and even headroom is generous. The backrest is set quite upright and there is enough thigh support to make you comfortable. On the downside, the seat cushioning is too soft which makes long drives a bit uncomfortable. The boot at 328 litre, though slightly smaller than the EcoSport's, feels much more convenient thanks to the hatch opening and well-shaped bay. You also get 60:40 split seats for added convenience.
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