26.9! That’s how many kilometres the Grand Vitara hybrid electric SUV covered in a litre of petrol during my recent 300-km road trip across the cities and highways of Rajasthan.
Mass-market hybrid cars are late to the Indian market, but these have arrived. Earlier this year Honda launched the City e:HEV, then Toyota drove in the Urban Cruiser Hyryder, and now Maruti Suzuki the Grand Vitara.
What is the Grand Vitara?
It’s the biggest car made by Maruti Suzuki, and is available in a full hybrid option (1490cc petrol engine with an electric motor) and a mild-hybrid variant (called the Smart Hybrid, with a 1462cc petrol engine).
(The Grand Vitara and Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder are similar cars, co-developed by Maruti Suzuki and Toyota.)
What defines its design?
It’s got a strong road presence, is a head-turner (people generally don’t expect to see a big-size Maruti Suzuki car), and looks marginally bolder than the Urban Cruiser Hyryder.
How spacious is it?
Along with the Urban Cruiser Hyryder, the Grand Vitara is the most spacious SUV in its segment, and the longest. The rear seating space is so big that tall adults can easily sit cross-legged. The boot space of the full hybrid variant, however, is small because the battery has taken up space under the floor of the boot.
The most noticeable thing inside the cabin can’t be seen, and is barely heard—the cabin, most of the time, is eerily quiet.
How does it drive?
Full hybrid: When you start driving slowly, there is no sound, because it drives only on electric motor. If you floor the accelerator, both the engine and the electric motor start powering the wheels. As you approach a traffic signal and apply brakes, the regenerative braking turns the car’s kinetic energy into electric energy and charges the battery. On a complete stop, the petrol engine shuts down but the electric motor remains on, ensuring the AC is running, without the unnecessary fuel consumption and emissions associated with idling.
Mild hybrid: It gets features such as torque assist, brake energy regeneration, idle engine stop-start and gear-shift indicator, all of which lead to a claimed fuel efficiency of about 20 km/litre.
Both the variants offer good steering feedback—mechanical signals that the front tyres send to the steering wheel—and you will feel every bump and dip on the road via the steering wheel. Both are a delight to drive on the highways and winding roads. There is a bit of body roll when you take sharp turns, but the Grand Vitara doesn’t feel clumsy.
The Suzuki AllGrip technology (all-wheel drive) is available only in the Smart Hybrid manual gearbox variant.
What is the real fuel efficiency?
Full hybrid: The claimed is 27.97 km/litre, and the real-world fuel efficiency is almost as good. Driving in a mix of highway and city traffic, my test car returned 26.9 km/litre (as indicated by the tripmeter), but I drove without unnecessary acceleration and braking.
Mild hybrid: The test car returned 16.5 km/litre, driven mostly on the highway.
Which is the best variant?
The full hybrid variants are priced from Rs 17.99 lakh to Rs 19.65 lakh, and the mild hybrid from Rs 10.45 lakh to Rs 17.05 lakh.
Full hybrid: While the Grand Vitara is a better deal than cars such as the City e:HEV (Rs 19.89 lakh), Toyota offers a more affordable full hybrid option—the Hyryder S 2WD variant at Rs 15.11 lakh. The Grand Vitara full hybrid is also a worthy competitor to Hyundai Creta’s diesel automatic variants (Rs 18.09 lakh onwards).
Mild hybrid: Here, the Grand Vitara possibly has an edge over all other non-hybrid petrol SUVs in the segment, especially in terms of cabin space and fuel efficiency.
Overall, along with the Urban Cruiser Hyryder, the Grand Vitara has emerged as possibly the best buy in the Rs 10-20 lakh SUV segment.
Engine: 1,462cc petrol
Power: 75.8 kW (103 PS)
Torque: 136.8 Nm
Manual transmission: 5-speed
Automatic transmission: 6-speed
Fuel efficiency (manual): 21.11 km/litre
Fuel efficiency (automatic): 20.58 km/litre
Price: Rs 10.45-17.05 lakh
Engine: 1,490cc petrol
Power: 68 kW (92 PS)
Torque: 122 Nm
Battery power: 59 kW
Total power: 85 kW (116 PS)
Manual transmission: NA
Automatic transmission: e-CVT
Fuel efficiency (e-CVT): 27.97 km/litre
Price: Rs 17.99-19.65 lakh