Why would I buy it?
- Premium Feel
- Excellent ride quality
- Off-road capability
Why would I avoid it?
- Lacks punch
- Misses out on important features
What is it?
The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara isn’t a new name. We have already seen two previous generations of it in India before, and even though they were fantastic products, neither managed to taste success. The new Grand Vitara has spawned after Maruti Suzuki’s collaboration with Toyota. So while Toyota launched its Hyryder SUV, Maruti Suzuki got the Grand Vitara. While essentially the same product, there are enough design changes to differentiate between the two. So what is the Grand Vitara like? Let’s take a look.
How is it on the outside?
Marui Suzuki says that the Grand Vitara is all about premium appeal, but is it premium to look at? Well, it is. Starting from the front, the grille isn’t your typically imposing SUV grille. You get glossy black design elements in the centre with a chrome outline and even more chrome in the form of a fat bar at the top. The cool touch is offered by the three-point LED DRLs that really look nice. And then, you have the LED headlamps positioned below. We also liked the bash plate design, which juts out and gives the Grand Vitara a strong jawline. Moving to the side, you get a not-so-prominent side cladding, but we like this strong shoulder line running across, which gives it a very muscular stance.
The 17-inch wheels boast a nice design that compliments the side profile. The rear is just as stylish. Starting from the top, you get this nice spoiler, and the main element, the tail lamps. Again you get the three-point tail lamps which are slim and almost run across the car's width. What is a nice design touch are these shrouds which house the reversing lamps but add a muscular vent-like touch at the rear. Overall we think the Grand Vitara looks fantastic. It looks premium, it’s got presence, and it’s sure to turn heads.
What about the interior and features?
The premium exteriors follow on the inside too. The dual-tone dash looks and feels very good, thanks to soft-touch materials and the bronze inserts. The nine-inch infotainment screen is the same as in the Baleno and fits well in the Grand Vitara too. The driver’s seats are pretty comfortable and offer good support all around, however, all the adjustments are manual. Moving to the rear bench, there is ample legroom and headroom, and the Vitara is wide enough to seat three people comfortably, however, we did wish for better under-thigh support.
On the features front, the Grand Vitara gets a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, digital multi-information display, wireless charger (only in hybrid variant), 40 plus connected car features, nine-inch touch screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, paddle shifters (only in the petrol AT variant), ventilated seats and more. On the safety front, the Grand Vitara comes with six airbags, disc brakes for rear wheels, ABS with EBD, TPMS, rear sensors, three-pointed seat belts for all passengers, hill assist, 360-degree camera and hill descent control. Now that’s a pretty impressive list. What we need to see is how well the Grand Vitara will score in the global NCAP crash test. However, while the strong hybrid variant comes with a decent amount of kit, the other variants miss out on it. Features like wireless charging, powered driver seats, electric parking brake and ventilated seats are available in cars in lower segments and these lacking in a premium offering like the Grand Vitara is glaring.
Engine and Performance
Off late, Maruti Suzuki usually just has one petrol engine in its cars along with either an AMT or a torque converter gearbox, but with the Grand Vitara, Maruti Suzuki has gone all out. So you get the 1.5-litre K15 petrol engine, basically, the same one that you also get in the new Brezza. And paired with that, you either get a five-speed manual or the six-speed AT. And then, with the same engine, you also get the AllGrip variant all-wheel drive, but only with a manual gearbox. And then you have the big daddy, which is the Electric Hybrid which only gets an e-CVT gearbox.
Two-wheel drive manual
First up, we drove the 2WD manual variant. Almost immediately, you notice how refined the engine feels. But it’s a very familiar feel with the Grand Vitara. The clutch is light but devoid of any feel, the steering feels great, and the gearshifts are extremely short and positive. With 101bhp and 137Nm of torque, acceleration is linear, and one does not really need too many revs. All the power is concentrated towards the bottom end, so even in third gear, the Grand Vitara potters comfortably below 40kmph. Maruti Suzuki claims a very impressive mileage of 21.11kmpl, but that’s something we need to verify.
In a bid to show the AllGrip variant’s capability, Maruti Suzuki had curated a special off-road course that had various kinds of obstacles. The electronically controlled four-wheel drive system with selectable driving mode uses a simple push-and-turn dial so one can control the driving style depending on the road surfaces or conditions. The AllGrip Select lets you choose from four driving modes – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. In Auto mode, the vehicle prioritises fuel economy and switches between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive depending on the road surface and driving conditions. In Sport mode, by regulating traction control and throttle input, the dynamics are optimised for sporty driving, such as on winding roads. In Snow mode, stability is maximised to make driving through snow, unpaved, or other slippery surfaces easier. In Lock mode, the rear wheels are allocated power pre-emptively and torque is distributed to all four wheels equally to maximise traction when driving on tough surfaces.
Driving through the course, the Grand Vitara came across as an extremely capable SUV, and while it may not possess the capability of something like a Jeep Compass, it is certainly very capable of getting out of difficult situations or enough for you to explore a little unknown.
Intelligent Electric Hybrid
So while the other petrol variants come with the regular Smart Hybrid technology, this here is the real deal, the strong hybrid variant. The engine is a 1.5-litre NA three-cylinder which we also see in the Toyota Hyryder. It produces 91bhp and 122Nm. Paired to the engine is a 59kW (around 80bhp)/141Nm electric motor fed through a lithium-ion battery pack. The total system output is 115bhp. And when cranking up, the system starts in EV mode only. The switch between the electric motor and the petrol engine is extremely seamless. The only thing is, after the eerie silence of the EV motor, when the petrol motor comes on, it sounds a little noisy. What amplifies the noise is the CVT gearbox which keeps the revs up.
Performance is adequate for most situations and can easily cruise at triple-digit speeds but is left wanting when more performance is needed. But according to Maruti, this engine’s forte is efficiency. According to Maruti’s claim, the hybrid variant can do a whopping 1200km on its 45-litre tank; now, that’s a challenge we’d definitely like to try. However, there is a fly in the ointment. While the K15 motor feels adequate in the Brezza, it feels lacking in something like the Grand Vitara. It just does not have the punch expected from a car in this segment. While its performance is adequate in the city, it’s just not enough when comparing it to the Hyundai Creta or Kia Seltos’ 1.4-litre turbo unit. Volkswagen’s 1.5-litre TSI engine, meanwhile, sits in a different league altogether.
Ride and Handling
Another one of the things that really impressed us about the Grand Vitara is the ride quality, which is a crucial parameter for an SUV. The Grand Vitara boasts an incredibly pliant ride and is comfortable over most surfaces. It absorbs bad road surfaces with good poise, while the large speed breakers or broken surfaces are rounded off with absolute ease. The steering has a good weight to it and is quick to respond, and it also weighs up nicely at highway speeds. While it’s not sporty to drive, it’s not dull either.
Maruti Suzuki’s Grand Vitara comes across as a premium SUV with a lot to offer. It looks great, comes with a range of powertrain options, including the important Hybrid and does not mind getting its boots dirty thanks to the AWD option. The Grand Vitara will go up against the likes of the Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, MG Astor, Taigun/Kushaq’s and its very own cousin, the Toyota Hyryder. While it may not have an advantage in features and performance, it does have the advantage of being the only one apart from the Toyota to offer AWD and, more importantly, a very efficient Hybrid option. And If Maruti manages to price it better than what Toyota has managed, the new Grand Vitara will finally taste the success that has eluded its predecessors.
Pictures by Kapil Angane