Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara SUV review: Drives clean, plays dirty, stands tall
- Solid SUV looks
- Strong Hybrid engine
- Premium cabin
- Suzuki AllGrip Select
- Compromised boot space
- Mild hybrid with MT misses several features
Once upon a time, Maruti Suzuki seemed quite content and satisfied in ruling the Indian car market through its offerings in the small, compact and hatchback segments. It made sense because these segments did - and largely still do, dominate over all others here. But while dreams of bigger vehicles were always carefully nurtured, the eventual outcome in reality was quite nightmare. The Vitara SUV failed for reasons much spoken about in the past while the Kizashi barely trickled much interest either. Thus far then, the Vitara Brezza - now called Brezza - was the largest SUV from the Maruti camp despite the mid-size SUV space expanding big-time since around 2015. Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Tata Harrier - the list is as long as it is credible. And by its own admission, Maruti Suzuki was missing out on a large chunk of the pie. Well, not anymore because in comes the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara SUV that may be late to the party but is now readying to up the decibel levels several notches higher.
In a field littered with established players that have proven their abilities and raced to impressive sales records, the Maruti Suzuki badge alone won't do much for the Grand Vitara. And memories of the sorry fate of the Vitara would linger on as well. “Maruti makes great small cars but should not go big," is something I have often heard many customers say. The Grand Vitara then has to fight off rivals as much as it has to fend off perceptions about large Maruti vehicles. Does the SUV jointly developed with Toyota then have what it would take to bat out of its skin?
Here's a first full-drive review of the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara SUV:
Also check these Cars
Grand Vitara exterior highlights: Dressed and decked for war
Half the battle is usually one if an SUV is able to become a talking point courtesy its looks alone. And the designers at the Maruti Suzuki camp may have struggled in this aspect in the past. But not anymore. While the recently-launched 2022 Brezza has received an overwhelmingly positive response based on its exterior styling cues alone, the Grand Vitara is looking to build on it further.
There will be comparisons to the recently-launched Toyota Urban Cruiser Hyryder and that's obvious because both vehicles have been jointly developed and would also be manufactured at the same plant - the Toyota facility in Karnataka's Bidadi. But while the Hyryder looks young and rather funky, the several Maruti touches to the Grand Vitara make it appear young and mature. Take the front grille for instance. It is the second-most noticeable highlight on the face of the vehicle, complete with chrome inserts and a single slat across it. The main highlight here is the three-pod LED DRLs on either side mounted high up to grand instant attention. The headlight units find a place lower down in a square casing while there is a grey finish on the lower bumper area.
Over at the side, the Grand Vitara isn't trying too hard to command attention but the large square wheel-arches, the dual-tone alloy design on the 17-inch wheels, large windows and an elongated character line towards the bottom of the two doors are good examples of sporty sophistication without going overboard.
Move to the rear and here is where the Grand Vitara is promising to grab maximum attention. Wraparound LED headlights, a twin-stretch LED light bar on the trunk door and the 'Grand Vitara' lettering lends the SUV a sporty and aggressive appeal. In fact, the ground clearance of the Grand Vitara is instantly evident from here and from the side with a road presence that's mighty impressive.
The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara is being offered in nine colour options - six in single tone and three in dual-tone choices.
Grand Vitara cabin highlights: Lock, stock and barrel
Whoever said that Maruti cars have one of the most mundane interiors clearly knows what he or she is talking about. Traditionally, the folks over at Maruti have not spent much time upping cabin quality and features but that's something that is clearly changing now owing to increased customer preference and diverse requirements, apart from the fact that rivals like Hyundai and Kia have always aced this game.
Step inside the Grand Vitara and this isn't a Maruti from yesteryears one bit. There are multiple variants under the mild and strong hybrid trims with the former offering a dual-tone colour scheme - Black plus Bordeaux - with silver accents, and the more premium strong hybrids offering an all-Black cabin with Champagne Gold accents on the dashboard and all four doors. The layered dashboard design in itself isn't exactly new but the generous use of soft-touch materials is a reaffirmation of how much Maruti wants to shed its mass-market brand tag, for this particular model at least.
While largely similar, if not identical to the cabin of the Hyryder, the Grand Vitara gets the same nine-inch SmartPlay Pro Plus infotainment system which has become a common sight on newer models from the brand. The free-standing screen still occupies quite a chunk of visual real estate but is as intuitive to use as on all models. There is support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay while Suzuki Connect on mobile and smartwatches enables over 40 features like letting you track the car, turn on or adjust air-conditioning remotely, unlock doors, get safety alerts, check vehicle status and run diagnostics.
There also is a 4.2-inch driver screen but while the all-digital display on the strong hybrid variants is cutting-edge and contemporary, Maruti Suzuki ought to have had this for the mild-hybrid auto and manual variants as well. Unfortunately, these trims will continue getting an analogue screen that's very yesterday.
The SUV, generally, is loaded with features but pay close attention to what you will get on the trim and variant you eventually choose. Front ventilated seats and a premium sound system are reserved for only the top variant of the strong hybrid trim - Alpha+, Head-Up Display (HUD) and wireless phone charging is not offered on the mild hybrid trim at all and neither is the gorgeous panoramic sunroof on top.
The basics, however, are sorted with all variants and trims come with rear AC vents, multiple charging points, reclining rear seats, and electric ORVMs. Keyless entry and push-button start/stop is also standard across the range.
What is also standard across the board, obviously, is the generous space on offer inside. There is adequate space for feet, legs and good under-thigh support. Headroom too is just about okay but a slight hump on the floor bed means that the passenger in the middle isn't likely to be too comfortable on long rides. The cabin still does benefit big-time from the large windows and even larger sunroof, making for a pleasant experience inside. The boot space, however, is a sore point on the strong hybrid version and at around 370 litres, is significantly less than non-hybrid rivals which don't need to pack in a battery within. As for the mild-hybrid variants, the space at the absolute back is about par for the course.
Grand Vitara cabin highlights: Driving a mean distance
Now here is where the Grand Vitara really has several aces up its sleeves. As mentioned previously, it comes in mild and strong hybrid trims. The strong hybrid technology is taken straight from Toyota and is the same as the one on the Hyryder. Therefore, these two are the only two mid-size SUVs in the market at present to offer a strong and credible hybrid option with a claimed fuel efficiency of around 28 kmpl. In our test drives on both vehicles, we observed a fuel efficiency of around 23 kmpl - impressive considering the amount of heavy throttling, screech braking and standstill video shoots we did over at least five hours.
A real-world mileage of over 23 kmpl is also impressive considering that the Grand Vitara is powered by a 1.5-litre engine which has a combined output of 114 bhp and offers 122 Nm of torque. It isn't nearly as exciting to drive as the turbo engine-powered Korean SUVs but then again, it seems it isn't trying to be either. Paired with an e-CVT transmission, the Maruti SUV has a familiarly reassuring aura on the move with a well-weighted steering, good straight-line stability and a suspension that is always famished enough to gobble all that comes its way. On the flip side, the SUV isn't very eager when thrown into corners and body roll is palpable in the back seats.
While the strong hybrid engine is mated only to that well-tuned e-CVT unit, the mild-hybrid variants come with an option to choose between a five-speed manual and a six-speed torque converter unit. We briefly tested both of these.
The power output and torque on offer on the mild hybrid variant are at 101 bhp and 136.8 Nm. In the real world, the difference in power output isn't very evident although the bump up in torque does help make matters, especially when looking at strategizing overtakes. The MT is on tried and tested lines with relatively short throws and the addition of paddle shifters help matters further. On open roads though, I missed not having an additional sixth gear to further elevate the refinement on offer. As for the automatic, I have always kept my expectations low but on the Grand Vitara, its tuning is vastly superior than ever before. If on a budget and yet desiring an AT, the balancing act of the mild-hybrid motor with this auto unit is a job well done.
Overall, Grand Vitara offers is going in head-on as an all-rounder with something for everyone, with the addition of Suzuki AllGrip Select for the first time ever for some downright dirty moves!
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Let's talk dirty!
The Grand Vitara is the first Maruti Suzuki model to come equipped with Suzuki AllGrip Select technology which underlines its AWD (All-Wheel Drive) abilities. The technology is only available on the mild-hybrid variants with manual transmission.
The SUV comes with four drive modes - Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock, and while it isn't exactly meant to play in treacherous terrain, it can be capable enough to take you out of tricky situations like broken roads, slush and over and above steep inclines.
Broadly, the Grand Vitara with AllGrip Select drives on the front two wheels at all times but the driver has the option of rotating the knob on the centre console to gain more traction when required. In case of slippery conditions, power is sent to the rear wheels through an electronic coupling to help the vehicle out. How much power is sent to the rear wheels depends on the mode selected and the mode selected would depend on what terrain the Grand Vitara is on. During our off-road experience, we encountered a variety of challenges - barring snow - and the SUV managed to pull forward each time.
Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Verdict
Try and try till you succeed - this message is surely plastered somewhere on the walls of Maruti Suzuki's mid-size SUV division if it has one that is. The Grand Vitara is a manifestation of observing the ever-evolving SUV market and the ever-demanding, ever-aspirational customer base. It packs almost everything that a buyer in the mid-size SUV space is looking for, and then some more - strong hybrid tech, solid looks, quite a premium cabin, plenty of features and moderate off-road capabilities as well. Unlike its much smaller siblings, it truly deserves to be called an SUV.
The Grand Vitara also packs in six airbags and a number of other safety highlights like Hill-Descent Control, 360-degree view camera, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TMPS), among others. Now if it manages a strong crash safety rating, it could slam the door shut on critics of the brand once and for all.