Maruti Suzuki Fronx SUV, first-drive review: Baleno on steroids
- Turbo BoosterJet engine
- Young body styling
- Feature loaded
- Suspensions are tad too stiff
- Uninspiring steering
- Cabin isn't uniqe
Maruti Suzuki, by its own admission, has come late to the SUV party in the Indian car market. And while the Brezza has been a stellar hit in the sub-compact SUV segment, it has only now been joined by the Grand Vitara in the mid-size SUV space. The country's largest car maker still sees a whole lot of space and in a brazen attempt to emerge as the largest SUV player by end of 2024, is now gearing up to launch the all-new Maruti Suzuki Fronx.
Fronx may be a weird name - short for ‘Frontier Next’, but the intention behind pushing the model to the fore may not be. Maruti Suzuki is positioning the model as an urban SUV that is targeted towards a younger buying audience. Based on the enormously popular Baleno hatchback, Fronx has some spirited ambitions - two engine options, three transmission choices, new-age and Nexa-inspired body styling and a well-kitted cabin.
There are questions aplenty still. How will Maruti price the Fronx? Why would a customer ditch the Baleno and opt for the Fronx? And what impact will Fronx's eventual fate have on the Brezza - both sub-four meter SUVs? We landed in Goa recently to test the vehicle on its own, pre-launch merit. Here is the first full-drive review of the Maruti Suzuki Fronx:
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Watch: Maruti Suzuki Fronx SUV: First Drive Review
Maruti Suzuki Fronx: How is it to drive?
Maruti Suzuki Fronx is offered in five variants - Sigma, Delta, Delta+, Zeta and Alpha. It also comes with two engine options, the first is a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated petrol motor that is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox as well as an AMT unit. This engine is offered in Sigma, Delta and Delta+ variants.
But Maruti seems to be betting really big on the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol Boosterjet engine, previously on the Baleno RS before being taken off from there owing to lukewarm response. On the Fronx, it could be an entirely different tale - all the test units made available to members of the press were the turbo engine versions. The turbo engine is made available on the Delta+, Zeta and Alpha of Fronx, mated to a manual gearbox and an AT.
The engine is quite responsive once you get a move, with throttle pushes enforcing the required momentum. Although the initial burst from standstill won't exactly blow you off your driver's seat - the pickup from stationery doesn't quite have the ‘turbo’ appeal, the power build up around 2,400 RPM mark is decent and the AT in our test unit slotted the appropriate numbers without batting an eyelid. For others looking to negate that initial hesitation, there are paddle sifters, of course.
Fronx also manages to climb its way to triple-digit speeds on open roads with a fair bit of ease and holds its straight lines well. Being pushed into tight corners at speed may not be its foray - some amount of body roll does make its effect felt, but the Fronx manages to keep a grip on engine and ambient noise coming into the cabin. And that high(er) ground clearance also helps it clear speed breakers even though the taut suspension could have been softened a tad because the ride can sometimes be quite jumpy. The steering too could have been more engaging, closer to the set up on the Baleno. What does stand out though is a turning radius of just 4.9 meters which makes it scrumptiously easy to make tight, full turns.
While we did not drive the engine with the manual gearbox, we expect it to be similar to the one new-age Maruti cars and hence, offering short throws and even better command through speed constructs.
Overall, there is nothing that is revolutionary in the way Fronx moves, apart from that turbo petrol motor. But in it may be its strength because it is a familiar motion machine in a new package.
Maruti Suzuki Fronx: What are the design highlights on the outside?
Being an entirely new model, it is in its exterior design that Fronx is looking to create the deepest chord with potential buyers. Here is a smartly-designed crossover-ish SUV that has the same length and wheelbase as the Baleno but stands taller and wider. Interestingly, Brezza is taller and wider, still.
But while the Brezza launched last year brought together its very own styling updates, the Fronx design is a confluence of elements already seen on fellow car models from the Nexa stable. It is like different ingredients have been brought together to create a new dish. Looks can be subjective but to us, the visual dish clicks. A large grille with a chrome bar on the face is flanked on either side by sleek three-part LED DRLs. The head light units sit just below the DRLs, much like on the Grand Vitara. The bumper gets faux skid plates in grey that adds a sporty touch.
The side profile appears similar to that of the Baleno although Fronx is more muscular and complete with a swooping roofline. The C-pillar gets a black insert and there is black cladding on the wheel arches above the 16-inch alloy wheels. And at the rear, the SUV gets a stretched LED light bar to connect the two LED tail lights, an integrated spoiler and the bumper has a muscular design to further underline the SUV credentials. And in terms of exterior body colour options, there are six single-tone hues - Nexa Blue, Arctic White, Grandeur Grey, Earthen Brown, Opulent Red, and Splendid Silver. There are also three dual-tone choices - Earthen Brown + Bluish Black, Opulent Red + Bluish Black and Splendid Silver + Bluish Black.
Maruti Suzuki Fronx: What is the cabin like?
Step inside and the Fronx cabin greets you in ways that would be very familiar to owners of newer Maruti cars. The dashboard layout has been taken straight out of the Baleno and planted here. This multi-layered dash, the nine-inch SmartPlay pro+ infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the controls for the air-conditioning, the driver display screen and the steering wheel design and layout are all carried forward. Not that any of these have inherent flaws but barring a higher ride height, it is nearly impossible to know if you are in a Baleno or the new Fronx.
The SUV offers comfortable seats and has decent space for four people. Fit in a fifth in the middle of the rear seats and it may be a tight squeeze. But leg space, knee room and head height are otherwise adequate. What's sorely missed is a sunroof and rear seat armrests.
The feature list, otherwise, is quite decent and includes a Head-up Display (HUD), 360-degree camera, wireless phone charging, push-button start, automatic climate control, cruise control and Suzuki telematics, among others. And to highlight the basic safety aspects, the Fronx gets six airbags, ABS with EBD, Hill-Hold Assist and ESP.
Maruti Suzuki Fronx: Verdict
The Fronx is a young SUV that expands Maruti Suzuki's ambitions of having a wider SUV portfolio. Bringing back that Turbo Boosterjet engine could pay rich dividends while the styling ought to also connect with the intended target audience.
But Fronx isn't an entirely excitable package because much of what it offers in terms of space, drive dynamics and feature list is already on offer on several other Maruti Suzuki models and the list of unique USPs are rather limited. There is, however, no denying though that it will benefit enormously from Maruti Suzuki's brand popularity, robust sales and post-sales network.