Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Hybrid SUV first drive review
If the excerpt doesn’t say it clearly, the Grand Vitara is a winner for Maruti. You don’t have to scroll through the conclusion for my verdict, so if you can’t spare a few minutes to read through why it should be a super hit, at least you have a takeaway. For those carrying on, here’s what you need to know.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara - All bases covered
I haven’t been on a media drive before with so many offerings to choose from, and returned impressed with every one of them. As you might already know, this Grand Vitara project is a collaboration with Toyota - the strong hybrid powertrain and the manufacturing facility near Bangalore being Toyota’s contribution, the rest of it taken care of by Maruti Suzuki. The good thing for Maruti Suzuki is that a hybrid aligns with their ‘kitna deti hai’ campaign so well that it will connect with everyone who considers buying a Maruti Suzuki. At least among early adopters, that seems to be the case. A couple of weeks into the booking process, they’ve already received 25,000 bookings for the strong hybrid out of a total of 53,000 bookings, with waiting periods extending to seven months already.
With the top-spec strong hybrid variant sorted, Maruti could focus on the rest of their variants, the 4-cylinder mild-hybrid which can be had with the automatic or the manual, with AWD only bring offered with the latter. Except for an automatic gearbox with the AWD – and no diesels, there’s something for everyone. From a product planning point of view, the Grand Vitara has a wide spec range. Not just that, the driving experience varies considerably between the variants to help them stand out on their own.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara design and interiors
It a handsome looking SUV. The Grand Vitara has good road presence with its strong shoulders and high set bonnet. The squared wheel arches and the lightly bulging rear bumper, all give the Grand Vitara a big car feel. Between the Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder and the Grand Vitara, I’d lean on the Vitara’s side. But then design is subjective so you can make your own conclusions here.
Move to the inside and the front seats feel very welcoming. The higher variants have nicer leatherette seats with seat cooling, a feature that has become standard on all cars in this segment. The manual Vitara doesn’t get these, and instead coming with seat covers that don’t grip you as well. The quality of the plastics aren’t to segment standards but on the features front, Maruti has thrown the kitchen sink. Everything from heads-up display to wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, TPMS, tilt and telescopic steering, digital instrument cluster on the top-spec variant, you get everything. The driver’s seat isn’t electronically adjustable if I had to nitpick, but that’s about it. The best feature is the massive double-opening sunroof, but it does come with a flimsy blind that will heat up the cabin in summer months. You notice these small things done as compromises to price the car well, so I’d assume the pleasant surprise is going to be the pricing when announced.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara powertrain
Let’s start with the mild-hybrid Maruti Suzuki unit since you’ve all read about the Toyota strong hybrid already. It’s the familiar K15C 4-cylinder nat-asp petrol with the mild hybrid tech that we have seen in the Ertiga, XL6 and Ciaz. With the recently introduced 6-speed auto box that we sampled earlier in the XL6, the Grand Vitara feels peppy. You can use the paddle shifters and hold gears till the redline and up until 80kmph, the Grand Vitara has a nice spring in its stride. It may make only 101.5bhp and 137Nm but you don’t judge a car by its spec sheet. At regular speeds you won’t find it to be slow. It’s only when you hit triple digits and need a quick overtake is when you miss a few extra horses. In most situations though, it will do just fine, and also return a respectable 13-14kmpl on regular basis. The ARAI number is 20.58kmpl for the automatic and 21.1kmpl for the manual.
In fact among the two, I’d pick the manual. The gearbox is slick, the clutch is light and the car feels nimble on its feet compared to the strong-hybrid, since it is 145kg lighter. I expect it to be priced aggressively as well so the manual should do very well for itself. The demand for automatics though is picking up, where the automatic on the mild-hybrid will aim to lure with pricing and the CVT on the strong-hybrid will aim to lure with tech and efficiency. And what a beautiful system it is.
The strong hybrid has an ARAI certified figure of almost 28kmpl, and in the real world with a mix of city and highway driving, I easily was scoring about 20kmpl. Nothing brings the efficiency down, and the longer you drive the better it gets because the engine gets that many more opportunities to charge the battery and let the e-motor kick in. Combined power of the Atkinson cycle 3-cylinder Toyota developed motor with the e-motor is 114bhp and torque from the engine is 122Nm while the e-motor makes 141Nm. When the battery has more than half charge, the e-motor will run the car on its own, so the more you drive the car, the more you use electricity. The system is smart and seamless, switching between petrol and electric or a combination of both, and the accelerator trains you quickly to drive the strong-hybrid differently when you have the energy flow display on the instrument cluster. It’s actually quite entertaining, to get the best efficiency out of the car.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara ride and handling
A huge thumbs up to Maruti Suzuki despite all the Japanese conservativeness to bring a mainstream AWD variant in the Grand Vitara. It has never been a popular choice but a fun one in this segment, and Maruti Suzuki promises to put in the effort to educate customers about the benefits of AWD with customer experience initiatives. At the track they had prepared with obstacles only all-wheel-drive equipped vehicles could do, the Grand Vitara AWD showcased good off-roading chops. It’s not a hardcore off-roader so everything from axle articulation to approach and departure angle displays were toned down but the whole point was to prove that the Grand Vitara AWD is for the explorer. These light AWDs are good in the slush and light snow, can do a bit of axle articulation and they feel solid while at it. There are modes for AWD – auto, snow, sport and lock, each with a tune to handle these surfaces. You turn the knob into snow and press lock and torque is spread between all four wheels all the time. The Grand Vitara is surprisingly capable and will fill the void left by the Duster AWD, only made better with Maruti’s marketing might. The AWD is the one you would want to start planning road trips with. The Grand Vitara also gets class leading ground clearance of 210mm compared to 190mm for the Hyundai Creta and 188mm for the Skoda Kushaq (similar figures for the Kia Seltos and Volkswagen Taigun).
Out on the road, the ride of the Grand Vitara is so sorted, it feels planted over poor surfaces allowing you to carry a lot more speed. The suspension tuning is just right for our roads, even when you go through large potholes, there is a poise in the Grand Vitara that feels properly European. It rides with the maturity of the Kushaq and Taigun. That sure-footedness makes the handling sharp too. The steering is well weighted as you turn into corners, roll is controlled and since the manual Grand Vitara is so light on its feet, you can carry very good momentum. The strong-hybrid feels heavier but still is very agile. The only issue is the CVT gearbox that slows the car down when you begin to hustle. The Grand Vitara may not match the turbo-petrol SUV in this segment in outright acceleration but with momentum, it will be able to keep pace with them. All while giving a massive 50-60 percent plus return in economy. A good hybrid does make a strong case for itself, not just compared to the turbo-petrols but even electric SUVs like the MG ZS EV and the Tata Nexon.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara Safety
The new generation of Maruti Suzukis are way better built than their successors. All the crash testing news has had its impact, pun intended, on Maruti Suzuki. The SUV feels well built, you lift the bonnet and it isn’t tinny and even when it rides, the car feels nimble but not light. The body panels though aren’t as solid as the European brands. Nevertheless, the Grand Vitara has gone through extensive crash testing and Maruti Suzuki is optimistic it will do well in tests. Except for the two base variants that get two airbags, every other variant comes with six airbags.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara price and verdict
Now that Toyota has revealed prices of the strong hybrid Hyryder, we can guess that a top-spec Grand Vitara will be priced around Rs 18.5 lakh ex-showroom. Base variants with the mild-hybrid should start around the Rs 10 lakh mark for the manual Grand Vitara.
I’ve got to doff my hat to both the product planners and the engineers on the Grand Vitara project. Each variant of the Grand Vitara stands out on its own as a capable car for its own audience. The SUV drives so well, it just feels like a crime not to have a few extra horsepower packed in. The ride, handling, stability is right up there with European marques and the efficiency is something you can only get from a Maruti Suzuki (and a Toyota). The strong-hybrid would be my pick for its efficiency and the AWD for its versatility. It’s hard to find many faults with the Grand Vitara, so expect this segment to be shaken up after the launch of the Grand Vitara.