A facelift sans all the frills

The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza petrol is practical, easy to live with and makes for an all-round sensible buy

Selling over 5,00,000 units since its launch in 2016, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza has been a runaway hit. An upright SUV design, a practical cabin, and a punchy and economical diesel engine indicate that the Vitara Brezza had all the ingredients compact SUV buyers wanted. The Vitara’s styling has been refreshed for 2020 and the interior gets an equipment update too. However, the biggest change is under the hood; the old 1.3-litre diesel engine makes way for a BS-VI 1.5-litre petrol engine, effectively transforming the Brezza from a diesel-only model to a petrol-only one. We see what the petrol Brezza is like and if it has the same mass appeal as the older version.

First and foremost, how do you identify this as the 2020 Brezza? Maruti hasn’t made any sheet metal changes, but there are enough cosmetic changes to distinguish it from the older model. The front bumper is new, as is the grille which sports a new four-slat design and a generous helping of chrome too. The headlamps, while familiar, are now dual-projector LED units — first in the segment — and get new LED daytime running lights that double as indicators. LED fog lights are also part of the new lighting package.

New 16-inch alloy wheels, revised tail-lamps and a new rear bumper complete the makeover. There are also new colours to be had, along with the option of a contrast black-finished roof on the top ZXi+ trim. Furthermore, there are a lot of accessories to personalise your Vitara Brezza.

Inside, the changes aren’t as extensive. The dashboard has been retained, and the only real talking point is the incorporation of Maruti’s latest SmartPlay Studio touchscreen infotainment system. Touch responses are significantly better now, and the general layout of the menus is also easy. A unique detail on the automatic version is an infographic on the MID of the hybrid system at work.

As before, access to the Brezza’s cabin is convenient, while the relatively-high seating position and upright pillars give that all-important feel of driving an SUV. There is plenty of room at the back and passengers will like the view out of the large windows too. The boot is well-shaped and should you need more space, there is always the option to split the rear seat 60:40.

Powering the Brezza is Suzuki’s familiar 1.5-litre, naturally-aspirated petrol engine, which is also the sole engine of choice on the Ertiga, XL6 and Ciaz. The engine makes 105hp and 138Nm of torque, which aren’t shining figures for the compact SUV segment. However, in everyday driving, you won’t have reason to complain. The engine is smooth and quiet, there’s enough pep at low speeds and, though unexciting, there’s a pleasant build of speed. Overtaking traffic won’t pose much of a problem either, though you do miss that mid-range kick that you’d get on the older diesel. That being said, the Vitara Brezza petrol isn’t slow. In our preliminary tests, it did the 0-100kph dash in a brisk 11.89sec (a Venue turbo needs 11.4sec), 20-80kph in third gear in a class-best 11.40sec, and 40-100kph in fourth in a respectable 14.88sec.

The engine isn’t quick-revving and tops out at just over 6,000rpm. Still, keep your foot pinned down and you will like the way the engine winds in the top end of the rev band. The throaty note from the unit also adds some character.

The standard-fit 5-speed manual gearbox requires little effort, and the light clutch is also easy to live with in town. Coming to the automatic, the petrol motor comes paired with a 4-speed torque converter unit in place of the diesel’s AMT. The unit shifts smoothly between gears and works well in everyday scenarios. It’s only when you want immediate power that it tends to falter, taking a bit of time to get to the right gear.

Interestingly, the Brezza auto, with an ARAI-tested fuel economy of 18.76kpl, is more efficient than the manual, rated at 17.03kpl. Part of the reason is Suzuki’s SHVS mild-hybrid system that comprises an integrated starter generator and lithium-ion battery. It adds in mild motor assist under hard acceleration, energy recuperation on deceleration and auto start/stop functionality.

There is a change in ride and handling too. The steering is lighter and requires less effort to twirl, while low-speed bump absorption seems to have improved too. You don’t feel as much of the surface imperfections as before. On the flip side, the steering has lost some of the older Vitara’s directness, which takes away confidence at higher speeds. There’s also more vertical movement when you go faster.

Moving to the prices, the Vitara Brezza petrol-manual prices start at ₹7.34 lakh and top off at ₹9.98 lakh, while the automatic’s prices range from ₹9.75 lakh to ₹11.40 lakh. While these are on par with those of rivals, it’s not as competitive as it ought to have been. The reason? The Brezza’s 1,462cc engine means Maruti’s compact SUV does not qualify for small car excise sops available to models with length under 4m and petrol engines with displacement under 1,200cc.

What the updated Brezza also lacks is novelty value. Yes, the facelift helps, but there is a nagging feeling that Maruti missed a chance to up the cabin ambience and add in more features. It sticks too close to formula and doesn’t feel any more than the 2016 model rehashed for 2020.

Still, the Brezza petrol has its strengths. The engine is better than the power and torque numbers might lead you to believe, and refinement levels are far better than the noisy and clattery diesel’s. All said, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza petrol might not be a model that pulls at your heartstrings but it is practical, easy to live with and makes for an all-round sensible buy; all good reasons to be interested in one.

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