2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Initial driving impressions review
This was a surprise! Maruti Suzuki invited us to their massive testing and validation facility in Rohtak, and what we thought to be a standard facility visit turned out to be our first experience of the all-new Grand Vitara as well! We got to experience every single drivetrain option of the Grand Vitara — the mild hybrid with AWD, the 2WD mild-hybrid with an automatic transmission and the strong hybrid. However, right at the offset I must mention that this was a brief experience — with one lap of the high speed track, and shorter experiences of the highway and city simulation tracks. Controlled conditions, butter smooth roads, zero traffic. This was enough to give me a first impression of what the SUV is like to drive, but is far from a full blown first drive evaluation in real world circumstances. I’m not going to bother with the styling, interiors and equipment levels because we have covered that elaborately in our video from the global unveil. Instead this will be about my impressions of spending a little bit of time with it from behind the wheel and in the passenger seat.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Mild hybrid engine and performance
The first engine I experienced was the AWD variant — it features the K15C motor along with a mild hybrid system, and a 5-speed manual transmission. This is a familiar engine, exactly the same as what the Brezza gets, but sans the AWD system. Does it feel familiar? Most definitely. It has the same creamy smooth levels of refinement, the same nat-asp characteristics where it needs to be revved out to get the most performance out of it, the same quietness at low revs. Performance is just about adequate for the application and will not be setting any benchmarks in the segment. It felt just about okay in the Brezza and this Grand Vitara weighs about 100kg more. It accelerates respectably at lower speeds as long as you’re wringing out in every gear. Things feel less rapid post 80kmph and this could possibly hinder quick overtaking manoeuvres on the highway.12
The AWD is only available with the manual transmission and the MT feels rather familiar again — slick shifting, a light clutch action, very enjoyable (and easy!) to operate. This should aid driveability and ease of use in the city. As for the AWD system, we got nowhere close to testing it. This system is primarily FWD and sends torque to the rear when slip is detected. However, we were driving on road, and on perfectly dry tarmac at all times.
The second variant we drove had the same engine with a six-speed automatic, without the AWD system — this is identical to the set up the Brezza has. In terms of outright acceleration performance, it feels pretty much identical to the manual. Any gulf in performance will be minute. The transmission is what is new here, and it is a neat bit of kit. A proper torque converter automatic, it has nice shift characteristics — smooth and well judged. The shifts aren’t DCT quick, but they’re par for the course with respect to a torque converter unit. It is a transmission that prioritises efficiency and shifts up quickly, though when you ask for a downshift, it obliges. You do have paddles to get manual control over the transmission. The combination of the quiet engine and the AT should make it a car that’s comfortable and easy to drive in the city, provided you aren’t asking too much of it on the performance front.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Strong hybrid engine and performance
The strong hybrid is the really interesting drivetrain — the first time we were experiencing this engine ever. It essentially has a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine running on the Atkinson cycle. This is combined with a small motor that acts as the starter motor and also the generator, along with a larger motor that provides drive to supplement the engine with torque.
In terms of the way it drives, I found it to be a mixed bag. The EV mode is very cool — if the battery has enough charge, you can set off completely on electric energy only. There’s an EV mode button to lock you in there for as long as possible too. In this mode, it is absolutely silent and rolls along comfortably. We saw it reach up to 50kmph on EV mode when the battery was sufficiently charged and we were gentle with the accelerator. That said, put a little bit of an urgent input in to the throttle and you will feel the engine kick in. Now with a total system output of 114bhp and torque figures of 122Nm and 141Nm for the engine and e-motor respectively, I didn’t expect performance to be rapid but it felt a bit more sluggish than I imagined. By no means is this a rival to the turbo-petrol rivals in the segment like the Creta Turbo or the 1.5 TSI-equipped Kushaq and Taigun in terms of performance. We didn’t have any testing equipment with us, but launching it off the line with a stop watch handy led me to conclude that 0-100kmph would take approximately 13 seconds. Mind you, this was with three people on board. Then there’s the fact that this is a three-cylinder engine and isn’t the most refined — it gets audible inside the cabin and there are very perceptible vibes on the floor, particularly on the co-driver’s side. The eCVT doesn’t feel particularly enthusing in terms of its characteristics as well.
What I liked about it is the novelty of it. It switches to EV mode at lower speeds and feels really futuristic when being driven like this. Maruti Suzuki expect it to be driven in EV mode 30-40 per cent of the time, which is a fair amount. It doesn’t feel as accomplished as the City Hybrid — the Honda can accept little more aggressive throttle inputs in EV mode before engine kicks in. But to be fair, that’s a whole different hybrid philosophy. The benefits to fuel economy will be very real as well, we didn’t have the time or the conditions to test this but the theory behind it is solid. There’s no denying the novelty of the hybrid drivetrain and the very real benefits that it brings with it, and I think that’s what the most appealing part of this drivetrain is.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Ride and handling
The Grand Vitara is based on the Global C platform — the same platform as the Brezza, albeit with a longer wheelbase. And I must say, I have come away impressed with the high speed manners of the car. Stability at 120-130kmph is excellent, it changes lanes confidently and there’s very little rolling in these conditions. The road we drove on was absolutely flat so there’s no way to tell how it would deal with the long-wave undulations that our highways are notorious for, but climbing on to and getting out of the banking on the high speed track was a drama free affair.
The steering was very nice — the nicest on a Maruti Suzuki yet. The mild hybrid’s felt a little light, but the strong hybrid felt a little heavier and therefore much nicer to use. The front end reacts positively to inputs and the rest of the car follows without drama. But the steering feels devoid of any sort of feel and feedback. It self-centers nicely as though, a bugbear on other Marutis. We took some long curves at around 70kmph — nowhere close to testing the limits of grip — but just about enough to infer that it does roll slightly, and it didn’t feel like a hinderance to the driving experience.
We didn’t get a chance to test much of the ride quality except for two speed breakers, and this was not enough for me to form a proper opinion. So I’m going to refrain from commenting on ride quality over bumps and bad roads — we’ll get an idea after the first drives.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Interior and comfort
Like I said at the start, I’m going to avoid regurgitating the spec sheet and am instead going to focus on impressions. And impressions of the cabin are very positive. Quality of materials feels good, everything feels solidly put together, the seats feel plush and it feels like an SUV that matches if not betters the competition on this front. The screen feels high quality and so do the buttons and controls on the dash.
The backseat offers plenty of kneeroom and headroom seemed good too. The seats are plush at the rear as well, but the bench is nearly flat and this limits lateral support around the thighs at the back. If the driver is pushing the car in the hills, you will slide around. I also felt like the seat back angle was a little too upright in the rear, despite the seat back having two positions.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Initial verdict
Overall, impressions are extremely positive. The engines may not be the most punchy ones around, but everything else makes it seem like a very competent SUV. It feels plush on the inside, stable, confidence inspiring, looks good and comes packed with features. The hybrid drivetrain and its headline 27+kmpl fuel economy figure will be welcomed in a market where fuel prices are constantly on the rise. The Grand Vitara feels like a car that will appeal to a large number of people. Much like the Brezza that arrived in 2016 and reshaped the entire compact SUV segment, the Grand Vitara has the potential to do the same. The competition today is a lot stiffer, there are more cars vying for the same piece of cake, but if anyone can make it happen, Maruti can. Stay tuned for our first drive reviews though – that’s when we will be able to give you a definitive verdict of what these SUVs are like to drive!