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The Vitara Brezza gets a new engine, along with a host of other updates. We get behind the wheel to tell you what it is like
5 lakh cars. That’s how many Maruti Vitara Brezzas have sold over the last four years, making it the first SUV in the country to touch those numbers. Maruti Suzuki didn’t pioneer this segment — Ford did — but they certainly unlocked its full potential by reaching markets that no one else could. Two Auto Expos after the Brezza was first unveiled, we saw the compact SUV get its first refresh. It was the regular stuff you expect from a facelift — updated exteriors and a few more features on the interior. But the big change was under the hood. The Vitara Brezza now has a 1.5 petrol engine replacing the diesel.
Check out our Youtube video for the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza here below
Under the hood
It was only a matter of time before this happened. It was common knowledge that the FCA-sourced 1.3-litre turbo-diesel that the Vitara Brezza was exclusively available with all these years wasn’t going to meet BS6 emission norms. Maruti Suzuki had launched the Ciaz with a 1.5-litre diesel engine too, but that engine wasn’t being updated to the new emission standard either. Small car buyers are shifting from diesel to petrol, and Maruti doesn’t see sense in making the investment to meet BS6 just yet. So the engine you find under the hood of the facelifted Vitara Brezza is the 1.5-litre petrol that we have seen in the likes of the Ciaz, Ertiga and XL6. This is an engine that makes 103bhp and 138Nm of torque. It gets the same transmission options as these cars as well — a five-speed manual, and a four-speed torque convertor automatic. The automatic Brezza is now a mild-hybrid, with an integrated starter motor generator, and a lithium ion battery. However, in the interest of keeping the Brezza’s prices competitive, Maruti has chosen not to give the SHVS system to the manual Brezza. You see, the Vitara Brezza no longer qualifies for the tax breaks given to small cars. According to the rules, a car needs to be under 4 metres in length (which the Vitara Brezza is) and also have a petrol engine under 1200cc or diesel engine under 1500cc. Which, err, the new Brezza doesn’t.
Other updates seen on the Brezza include a tweaked face: it gets new headlamps with LED projectors and DRLs that double up as indicators. The grille has been changed and now gets more chrome, while the bumpers and the skid plates have been reprofiled. The new face, especially the headlamps, work well and do wonders to making the face of the Vitara Brezza more contemporary. On the side, not too much has changed — you get new 16-inch wheels, and from the rear you can tell the Brezza has new taillamps.
Even on the inside, the changes are as subtle as they are on the outside. In the automatic variant I drove, the biggest change you will see is the automatic gear selector. The facelifted Brezza gets the new SmartPlay Studio infotainment system that we’ve seen in a few recent launches from Maruti. There’s also a smaller, more subtle change on the automatic variant. The digital screen in the instrument cluster has been updated to hold a few new icons — for the battery, motor and wheels — to monitor what the hybrid system is up to. This SHVS system is an interesting one. The starter generator recharges the lithium-ion battery under deceleration. The battery works in conjunction with the start-stop system so the engine can stay off for longer, and also provides a little bit of torque fill to the wheels.
Behind the wheel
The engine is a familiar one. Being a naturally-aspirated motor, it doesn’t have the immediate kick that you get from a turbo-petrol, or even the turbo-diesel engine it replaces. What it is instead, is linear. Power builds up through the rev range and the real grunt is only after 3000rpm. I drove both, the automatic variant as well as the manual. With the automatic gearbox, I found the drivetrain suited more to a relaxed driving style. It shifts well — without the problems that plague AMTs like the head-toss effect. However, it just has four ratios and they are spaced apart a fair bit amplifying the lack of punch in the engine. This drivetrain is far more suited to urban conditions, an observation I had when I was living with the Ciaz automatic long-term car as well. Out on the highway, it can feel a little underwhelming when you want to make a quick overtake. The engine, though not unrefined, is fairly audible in the cabin at higher revs which is where this car needs to be to get a move on. I much preferred the manual gearbox. The ratios are closer and the engine feels punchier. Since you have complete control of what the engine is doing, it is far easier to keep in the power band and get the Brezza up to speed. The shift and throws of the manual gearbox are spot on — Maruti Suzuki really does know how to make a good manual. It feels slick and the gears slot in easily. The clutch is rather light too, and this makes it fairly easy to use even in urban conditions.
The rest of the Brezza’s driving experience remains pretty much the same. The steering is quick and the car turns in well, though there is a lack of feel at the steering wheel. Ride quality is set up on the softer side and it remains comfortable and composed, without really compromising handling. The Brezza has always been a sorted car dynamically, and this one is no different.
This petrol version of the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza is already on sale. Prices start at Rs 7.34 lakh for the base manual version, but the automatic we are driving costs Rs 11.4 lakh. These prices are a little higher than you would first think, but remember, the Brezza doesn’t get small car tax benefits any more and the additional taxes are passed on to the customer. That said, it remains on par with the competition for the most part. As to which variant you should get? I would recommend the automatic if you are restricting yourself to the city for the most part, and prioritise convenience over fun. However, if you enjoy driving or if you find yourself needing to do a lot of highway driving, the petrol manual is the one to go for.