“Big results require big ambitions” is a famous quote by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, which seems to be something Maruti Suzuki has taken to their hearts when it comes to the SUV segments. They have already retained the numero uno position in the compact SUV class with the recently launched Brezza and are now going all guns blazing in the mid-size SUV segment with the Grand Vitara.
Watch Video | Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara AWD Off-Road First Drive Review:
India’s number one automobile manufacturer is looking to break the hoodoo of the mid-size SUV category as it has only been a recipe for disaster for them. History hasn’t been kind to Maruti Suzuki in this segment whether it was the two versions of the Grand Vitara and later the S-Cross as none fared well in the market. Fast forward to the present, the company is throwing the kitchen sink as the new Grand Vitara will be available in two 1.5-litre engines, multiple transmission options and the first vehicle in its category that will be equipped with an all-wheel-drive-system and a full hybrid technology.
We spent some time with both the Smart Hybrid automatic and the Full Hybrid or Intelligent Electric Hybrid and highlighted six things that stood out about the Grand Vitara.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: The new normal
Let’s start with the tech-savvy variant, the full hybrid Grand Vitara. The engine and the hybrid technology are from the Toyota stable thanks to the two companies’ global partnership. This is also the reason why the Grand Vitara will be manufactured in Toyota’s Bidadi plant near Bengaluru.
So, how does it stack up against the segment leader, Hyundai Creta? The figures may not come across as earth-shattering with a total output of 114bhp, but that’s where the technology comes in. As it is powered by both a 91bhp 1.5-litre internal combustion engine and a 79bhp electric motor, the driving experience and the performance is quite impressive. As the Grand Vitara initially runs on EV mode, there is no lag and it picks up speed effortlessly. Mated to an eCVT and based on the throttle input, it automatically and seamlessly changes drive modes from electric to hybrid and only the petrol engine. It also is equipped with a regenerative braking system which helps in charging the battery.
Thanks to the hybrid technology, the Grand Vitara covers more than 50 per cent of urban commute distance in all-electric mode ensuring it is one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in its segment. If you are in a hurry and want to step on the gas then the SUV will switch to petrol mode. We suggest not going all lead foot because the Grand Vitara doesn’t respond well when it’s pushed around. Due to not having a strong midrange power range, it picks up pace in a linear fashion and once it’s revving high, the three-cylinder engine starts getting cacophonous. It is meant to be driven in a leisurely manner. The full hybrid Grand Vitara offers three driving modes — Sport, Normal and Eco. The sport does feel a bit more spirited but there’s a marginal difference between the latter two modes.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Mild hybrid etiquettes
The 1.5-litre smart hybrid engine is mated to two transmissions, the 5-speed manual and the 6-speed torque converter. We drove the latter. Like the full hybrid variant, this is also focused on fuel economy. Hence, according to Maruti Suzuki the manual standard returns 21.11 kmpl, 19.38 kmpl for the all-wheel-drive trim and 20.58 kmpl in the case of the automatic. Ever since the BS6 norms came into effect, the Brezza has lost a bit of its sting as the mid-range power is subdued.
In terms of refinement, both the engine and the torque converter automatic are smooth. Even though the power response is available in a controlled fashion, the mild hybrid automatic comes with paddle shifters which manage to wake up the engine and lets you escape from the clutches of the automatic’s tall gear ratios.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Styling
Maruti Suzuki’s new design language, Crafted Futurism, makes a strong statement and gives it a distinctive look. The automaker has gone with a split headlamp design with a thick chrome bar in between the three claw-like DRL LEDs. The front nose’s frame is chrome which is complemented with a contrasting black front grille and silver skid plate. The creases on the bonnet, around the headlights, on the front bumper and the Suzuki logo have all been crafted in such a way that gives the front profile a 3D look.
With a clean side profile and 17-inch dual-tone alloy wheels, this combination gives the Grand Vitara a subtle but robust stance. The rear design also makes quite a statement with its LED rear lamps running across the boot and stylish vertical light cluster.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Cabin comfort and features
Maruti Suzuki has tried to spruce up the Grand Vitara’s interiors, but there are still some rough edges that can be seen. The top section of the multilayer dashboard uses hard plastic, while the middle section is a leather finish panel with metal finish accents. The Smart Hybrid sports dual black-Bordeaux interiors with silver finish accents, while the strong hybrid has an all-black cabin with champagne gold accents and diamond stitch leatherette seat covers.
The Grand Vitara comes with all the bells and whistles and therefore the top trims come with a 9-inch infotainment system with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay while the mid-level variant gets a 7-inch touch screen. The full hybrid has a 7-inch all-digital driver’s console while the Smart Hybrid retains the Brezza’s analogue cluster with a 4.2-inch multi-information display.
The new Maruti Suzuki SUV is packed with a long list of equipment like a panoramic roof, wireless phone charger, over 40 connected features, cruise control, voice command, and our favourite, front ventilated seats.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Safety comes first
Safety norms have been doing the rounds and Maruti Suzuki like its competition is pulling out all the stops. The Grand Vitara will be equipped with a six airbag option from the mid-level trim, the Zeta onwards. It comes standard with rear parking sensors, electronic stability program (ESP), Hill Hold Assist, ISOFIX child seat anchorages and dual airbags. Based on the variant, it also offers Hill Descent Control, a 360-degree camera and tyre pressure monitoring system. As the Grand Vitara is based on Suzuki’s global TECT platform like the Brezza, it should score high in the Global NCAP crash test as the previous generation Brezza received an impressive four stars rating.
Maruti Suzuki continues to offer Head-up Display which is also available in the Baleno and the new Brezza. This feature is both a convenience and a safety feature as it reads out turn-by-turn navigation, speed, RPM, fuel economy, AC functions and warning notifications all in your line of sight.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Ride and handling
Maruti Suzuki has got the suspension set up spot on for Indian driving conditions. The ride quality is plush as it absorbs the thud while going over potholes and at the same time it doesn’t wallow either. This is very important for rear passengers’ comfort. On the other hand, the Grand Vitara remains steady at high speeds over the three-figure mark and makes you feel safe.
Being more for a practical family vehicle, the Grand Vitara doesn’t offer sharp knife-cutting handling characteristics, but that doesn’t mean it is a slouch either. It remains stable while taking corners with a hint of body roll, but in real-world driving conditions, this means absolutely nothing and one can’t really fault it.
The steering wheel on both the Grand Vitara trims offers an effortless driving experience as it is fairly light making it easy to manoeuvre in slow traffic. What was further surprising is that it remained stable at high speed ensuring the person behind the wheel is always in control.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Verdict
It’s an open secret that with the full hybrid Maruti Suzuki (and Toyota) are targeting diesel SUV customers by offering the characteristics and driving experience they are looking for with a technology that will offer the best in class fuel economy. No doubt, the company is sparing no effort to capture the mid-size SUV segment. Will the third time be a charm for Maruti, technically it’s the fourth time including the S-Cross? With 53,000 bookings for the new SUV and 22,000 for the full hybrid, Maruti Suzuki has started off on a positive note. Now it will remain whether buyers will sign on the dotted line for a premium-priced Maruti Suzuki vehicle.
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