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Change of course in the City of Lakes

A few weeks ago, I drove the Urban Cruiser Hyryder, the premium compact sport utility vehicle that Toyota co-developed with Suzuki. The two Japanese auto brands have joined forces to create twin versions of the vehicle that can deliver volumes in a segment in which the two companies are not currently present in the Indian market. And unlike the obviously designed Suzukis with Toyota logo badging, like the Baleno and Glanza, and Vitara Brezza and Urban Cruiser, the new vehicles attempt a deeper differentiation between versions of the two brands. However, under the skin, the twins are nearly identical. So how does the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara behave?

Design

The premium compact SUV segment has seen a flurry of newcomer and old-timer launches. It is one of the fastest growing segments even in the SUV body category. And Maruti Suzuki’s only offering in the category has really been the Vitara Brezza (now Vitara) subcompact SUV. So, for Maruti, the new Grand Vitara is a key addition to its portfolio. It’s a fairly large SUV, just over 4.3 meters long and around 1.8 meters wide. But, like other Marutis, the Grand Vitara isn’t too heavy, with an average curb weight (of trim variants) of around 1,250kg. This Maruti and its Toyota twin sport the same 2.6-meter wheelbase.

The vehicle’s rear design is easily the most attractive | Photo credit: BIJOY GHOSH

Being a vehicle co-developed by the two automakers from conception helped create a unique design and fairing for the twins, especially the exterior. There are body panels that are clearly shared by the two vehicles; this is also the reason why the side profile is identical. But the front and rear of the Hyryder and Grand Vitara are sufficiently differentiated. It’s good to see that Maruti has brought some design integrity and language to the front profile. The dark chrome frame of the grille and the design of the grille itself provide an exclusive look to the Grand Vitara while also giving the brand identity. Three-point LED daytime running lights connect this compact SUV to other NEXA vehicles. Both front and rear, the large fenders feature elements like fog lights and housings that are shared but have always been cleverly differentiated. The side profile is where cars from both brands look alike. This is also the angle where the length and size of the Grand Vitara really strikes me. The rather large overhangs and the classic upright position of SUVs make it a vehicle that is certainly out of the ordinary for Maruti. The 17-inch alloy wheels are unique to the Grand Vitara.

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The design of the rear of the vehicle is by far the most attractive. The wide center section and simple straight lines hint at spaciousness in the cabin and add to the Grand Vitara’s sense of size. The connected rear lights sit on the hips and give the rear design even more impact. Maruti’s trim strategy for the Grand Vitara calls for the “Smart Hybrid” (Maruti powertrain) to get four variants and two charged trim variants for the “Intelligent Hybrid” (Toyota hybrid powertrain).

Cabin

The interior of the top trim variants I’ve driven was totally different from any Maruti Suzuki vehicle we’ve seen in the past. The cabin quality of Maruti’s NEXA-branded vehicles has gradually improved, and yet the Grand Vitara feels much more premium. The two collaborating brands chose to feature premium stitched leather and two-tone interior trim for each of their powertrain variants. And while the cabin of the Hyryder hybrid variants wore a black and chocolate color theme, the cabin of the smart hybrid Grand Vitara sports a black and burgundy theme. The other strong point of the Grand Vitara (as of its twin) was the amount of space it offered to front and rear seat occupants.

The 7-inch digital MID (multi-information display) for the instrument cluster in the smart hybrid variants is very different from Maruti

The 7-inch digital MID (multi-info display) for the instrument cluster in the smart hybrid variants is very un-Maruti | Photo credit: BIJOY GHOSH

The materials used for the dash, IP and trim items are premium to look at and touch, although it’s obvious that most of them are ‘bogus’ replacements, like the upholstery leatherette seats and faux metal inserts. But, there are other features that are not at all like Maruti like ventilated seats, wireless charger, 7-inch digital MID (multi-info display) for the dashboard in smart hybrid variants and the panoramic sunroof. Many of these features will depend on the variants. After the Baleno and XL6, the Grand Vitara also gets the head-up display, which opens up and shows driving-related information, including turn-by-turn navigation. The 9-inch infotainment screen in the center console features Maruti’s latest SmartPlay Pro+ interface; connectivity includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto voice and wireless controls. There is also a suite of connected car features using the Suzuki Connect app.

Performance

The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara is offered with two engines and three gearbox options. These are the same options offered with the Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder. This is where the synergies of the two brands came into play. In the Grand Vitara, the “Intelligent Electric Hybrid” variants are those that sport the 1.5-litre TNGA (Toyota New Generation Architecture) 3-cylinder petrol engine. This Atkinson cycle engine is paired with an e-CVT (electronically controlled continuously variable transmission). It is a powerful self-charging hybrid, so in addition to the petrol engine there is also parallel and series assistance offered by an electric motor on the front axle. The motor is powered by charging a battery located under the floor and behind the rear occupants.

Although Maruti officials tell me the Grand Vitara can deliver a combined range of 1,200 km on a full tank of fuel, they also tell me that it’s impossible to accurately define battery-only electric range. This is because the battery is a relatively small lithium-ion cell pack, with a capacity of less than one kW. The self-charging system uses regenerative braking and uses a proprietary algorithm to decide the level of assist or even a range of pure EV mode based on parameters such as state of charge, vehicle speed, etc

This hybrid powertrain feels quite peppy on the go

This hybrid powertrain feels quite peppy on the go | Photo credit: BIJOY GHOSH

By combining the power of the 92.5hp 3-cylinder engine and the 80hp of the electric motor, the total power generated by the system is 115.6hp and a theoretical maximum torque of 163Nm during full parallel assistance. This hybrid powertrain feels quite peppy on the move, and while a bit of 3-cylinder character stands out on the outside, the cabin refinement is good.

The powertrain that Maruti has brought into the mix is ​​the next-generation K15C gasoline engine. This 1,462cc unit delivers 103bhp of peak power and 136.8Nm of torque. The engine is mated to either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed torque converter automatic. This power unit is also offered with the all-wheel-drive option (only with the MT). Its Suzuki AllGrip Select is an electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system, with a controller scroll button just below the gear lever allowing selection of four different modes: auto, sport, snow and lock. To showcase the AWD’s capabilities, Maruti had created an off-road course with medium-difficulty obstacles, and it was quite surprising to see a Maruti pull through all of them with ease. On the road, this engine feels faster during the initial acceleration cycle. It also sounds good when boiling. This engine is designed to deliver a mileage of around 20 km/h, while the one with the Toyota hybrid engine is designed to deliver around 28 km/h.

Conclusion

The new Grand Vitara is a whole new chapter for Maruti Suzuki. It allows the mass-market leader to enter a segment where it is new and faced with formidable competitors. The fact that the new SUV is packed with technology and features, and adds some novelty elements will certainly help to take on these competitors. It will also be the first and only potent hybrid on the market, currently adding to the appeal. But there’s still very little that sets the twins apart and it will eventually be brand loyalty and perhaps cutting strategies that lead customers to choose one over the other. I expect Maruti to price the Grand Vitara between ₹14 lakh and ₹18.5 lakh.

Published on

September 23, 2022