We take the Brezz to Rajaji National Park.
“I think your car will easily climb the rocky path that leads to the forest rest house,” the petrol pump attendant near Chilla—a wilderness area and part of the Rajaji National Park—tells me. Crouching, he checks out the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza’s ground clearance that we have driven from Delhi to this elephant reserve in Uttarakhand.
“A poor cousin of the Jim Corbett National Park as far as tourist inflows are concerned, Rajaji has, of late, started attracting a lot of visitors,” a forest officer says.
Interestingly, he appears to be more interested in the Brezza than I am in the elephants. “Which SUV is this,” he asks, “It looks like a baby elephant.”
Measuring a shade under 4 metres in length, the Brezza’s high ground clearance (198mm) and a tallish bonnet do lead to some similarities with a small pachyderm. The officer, indeed, has a great sense of humour.
Delhi to Rajaji is a 250-odd-km journey and takes about 6 hours, via Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Haridwar. The construction work on the planned Delhi-Meerut Expressway has begun in parts, so to avoid traffic, one must leave Delhi early morning.
Driving the Brezza within city limits is a good experience. You sit higher than hatchback drivers and the handling is agile. The power source is the 1.3-litre DDiS 200 diesel engine (89bhp; 200Nm). At a low RPM, the engine is noisy.
On the highway, and as the engine warms up, the cabin turns quieter. Maruti engineers have done a commendable job of insulating the cabin from engine sound and wind noise. However, its body is not as aerodynamic as, say, the Baleno’s. So, at high speeds, air appears to strongly press against the windshield.
Stability is good. The Meerut to Muzaffarnagar highway is a well-laid tarmac, and the Muzaffarnagar to Haridwar road is broken in parts. On both sections, the Brezza moved sticking to the road, even at speeds above 100kph.
The cabin feels well put together. Even on broken roads, there is no clatter from any body part. There are ample storage spaces—even for one-litre bottles—and the ZDi trim gets a cooled glovebox.
However, while the driving position is upright—you don’t have to stretch to hold the steering wheel or reach the gearlever—there is something amiss. On long drives, the front seats are not the most supportive in this segment.
Moreover, there is no lumbar support. So, after, say, an hour’s drive, you may have to adjust your back if you start to feel uncomfortable.
If driven at moderate, uniform speeds, the Brezza returns very good fuel-efficiency. On cruise control and under 100kph, we managed to achieve 25kpl.
Because it is a new launch, the Brezza gets its share of attention. We drove the top-end ZDi+ variant—which comes in a dual-tone shade (roof and body have different colour shades)—and were waved at by people now and then, many of them shooting the car with their camera phones.
A few kilometres before Rishikesh, just after you cross the bridge on river Song, you have to take a left towards Rajaji. The road is good, but there are some dry riverbed crossings—a perfect setting to check how much of an SUV the Brezza is. A ground clearance of 198mm proves its worth, and lets us traverse most such riverbeds.
There are a number of hotels and resorts around Rajaji, yet the park isn’t as commercialised as Jim Corbett.
Moreover, unlike Jim Corbett, you can drive through some gates inside Rajaji in your own vehicle, and till a point, provided you have a permit. The paths inside are such that only an SUV can be driven. The Brezza just about manages to, and proves its SUV credentials.
Watch the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza review:
Clearly, if you go by the technical definition of an SUV—all-wheel drive, traction control, hill descent control—the Brezza is a pretender. But it comes across as a good pretender.
Although we are unable to see any wild elephants during our short stay, we take heart in our own ‘baby elephant’, and discover that even thought the Brezza is not a perfect vehicle to go off-roading, with some careful manoeuvring it can serve the purpose.
(Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is a sub-compact SUV, and competes with Ford EcoSport and Mahindra TUV300. It is priced from Rs 6.99 lakh to Rs 9.68 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, and is currently available only in a diesel engine variant; a petrol might be introduced later this year)
In this series—Destination India—we drive different cars to different parts of the country, telling you in brief both about the places and the wheels we take to explore these