The Maruti Suzuki Brezza gets a shot in the arm in order to become the best-seller in the compact-SUV segment once again. So, does it have what it takes to rule the sales chart?
If you’re in the business of manufacturing and selling small cars in India, you’re always going to play the second fiddle to Maruti Suzuki. That’s right! Nobody has cracked the small-car code quite like the Japanese carmaker in the country, yet. They can be the last ones to enter a segment and still become the bestseller in no time. A case in point, the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza.
Soon after its launch in 2016, the Vitara Brezza quickly displaced its rivals from the top spot and became the king of the compact-SUV hill. Now, while its reign at the top continued for a couple of years, it started to look and feel dated in the face of fresher and more premium competition. Maruti gave it a nip-and-tuck job as well as a petrol engine in 2020, and that helped its case for a bit. However, over the course of the last two years, it again started to feel the heat from its rivals. It’s no longer the best-selling compact SUV in India – the Tata Nexon took that title away from it a while ago.
The upshot of this is the 2022 Brezza, which brings alone some crucial and comprehensive updates to the compact SUV. So, can the new Brezza lead on the sales charts again?
Same Base, New Face
There was a great deal of confusion if the new Brezza is all-new or just a facelift of the old version. As it turns out, the answer isn’t straightforward. While the new model retains the Global-C or TECT platform of the outgoing version, it’s got a brand-new engine and automatic gearbox. Similarly, the exterior and interior are revamped completely. So, all in all, it’s more or less an all-new-ish car.
Design-wise, the new version is refreshed in every single area, making it look substantially upmarket and hip than its predecessor. The front end is busier, thanks to updated dual-LED projector lamps, a new gun-metal finish grille, and a beefy bumper design. The bonnet is flatter, which makes the Brezza look wider than the outgoing version despite having identical width. Speaking of dimensions, it’s the same length (3,995mm) and wheelbase (2,500mm) as the previous model. The side profile is also more or less unchanged, albeit you do get redesigned alloy wheels in the top-spec ZXI model. Also new is the prominent side cladding all around. In my personal opinion, the cladding on the fenders makes it look under-tyred despite featuring 215/60-16 section rubber. At the rear, though, the design looks much nicer, thanks to new elements like slim LED tail lamps. Overall, the design changes aren’t radical but it definitely looks more modern and contemporary.
Much like the new Baleno, it’s the cabin where the changes are more substantial. Truth be told, it makes a world of a difference because the interior is not bland or uninspiring anymore. Be it the quality levels, fit-and-finish or the overall look and feel, the Brezza’s interior has got a rich and upmarket appeal now. The dashboard is completely new and it features a layered layout with a dual-tone black-brown scheme in the ZXI variants (all-black in LXI and VXI trims). The instrument cluster, a 9-inch SmartPlay Pro touchscreen infotainment system, and the steering wheel are pinched from the new Baleno. Everything is a touch more premium, no doubt. The touchscreen is superb to use and a big step up from the previous model. Plus, armed with new features on top-spec variants like Arkamys surround sound system, 360-degree camera, heads-up display, electric sunroof, et al, the Brezza now has the measure of its Korean rivals in terms of creature comforts.
What could have been better? Well, there are no ventilated seats or wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Even the seat squab is too soft and unsupportive. Automatic wipers have also been dropped from the feature list, but personally speaking, it’s not a big deal.
Having said that, the ergonomics are perfect – be it the driving position or the settings/controls for multiple features on the dashboard, everything is spot-on. Similarly, it’s got a spacious cabin, especially at the back. The rear bench is upright and you sit comfortably. A prominent transmission hump does make life difficult for the middle-seat passenger, though. You get rear ac vents too, and as we’ve come to experience from air-conditioning systems in Maruti cars, the cabin, regardless of the temperature outside, becomes chilly in no time. Boot space is identical to the previous version at 328 litres.
Overall, you might say that the Brezza misses out on some crucial features – which should have been present given the higher sticker price now – but, fundamentally, there’s nothing really wrong with it. It’s practical, sturdy and spacious. Plus, with a raft of premium features onboard now, the Brezza’s cabin is a pretty great place to be.
Got the Go!
On the powertrain side, the new Brezza is still available with a sole 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol motor. However, it’s not the same K15B motor as its predecessor. The new version gets the updated K15C unit, featuring dual-jet tech (two injectors per cylinder). Power and torque figures are marginally lower at 102bhp and 137Nm (vs 103bhp and 138Nm). The 5-speed manual is standard across all variants. The 4-speed automatic (torque converter) of the old model is junked in favour of a new 6-speed torque converter. Smart hybrid is available in all versions now, including the manual.
Crank the engine and it springs to life in a muted manner, almost electric car-like. Even on the move, the refinement levels are class-leading, I’d say. The K15C delivers power in a silky and seamless way throughout the rev-range. Even when revved right close to the redline, which is around 6,000rpm, it sounds sporty, and not thrashy. Power delivery is linear and considering it’s a naturally aspirated unit, there’s a lot of poke at low engine speeds – you can take speed breakers in second gear with ease. Sure, it doesn’t quite have the mid-range kick of its turbo petrol counterparts, but the free-revving nature of the engine coupled with a strong top-end thrills you in its unique way (no replacement for displacement, remember?).
The 5-speed manual gearbox has the same gear ratios as the old version, but despite that, it complements the engine really well. As you’d expect from Maruti Suzuki, the gearbox has short and crisp throws, and the clutch is featherlight. It may sound like a broken record but there’s no other car company in the mass-market segment – with the exception of Honda perhaps – that can beat Suzuki’s engine/manual gearbox combo in terms of driving pleasure as well as ease of use. These drivetrains are delectable, and the Brezza MT is no exception to the rule.
Another reason to pick the MT version over the AT is the new gearbox itself. While the 6-speed torque converter is a welcome addition, it is nowhere near as perfect. The transmission bogs the engine down and it’s primarily tuned for comfort and efficiency. In ‘D’ mode, it quickly upshifts in search of more efficiency, while during sudden lift-offs it starts to coast immediately. The moment you step on the throttle and ask for more grunt, it feels a little lethargic. Surprisingly, it affects the engine’s character as well – the motor doesn’t rev as freely and neither does it feel as energetic or refined as it does in the manual version. It does come with paddle-shifters and the responses are quite quick surprisingly, but when left to its own devices, the gearbox leaves you wanting more. However, if you drive it leisurely, it’s an acceptable transmission. Not to mention, it makes the engine feel much more relaxed at high cruising speeds in comparison to the old 4-speed AT.
As for it ride and handling, the Brezza is pretty much flawless in this department. Like its predecessor, the new Brezza’s got a great and communicative chassis, and it continues to be a subdued handler. And since new-age Maruti platforms/chassis are so stiff, the body control is taut and there’s minimal roll around bends. Like the Baleno, the steering also has more heft now and it’s quite direct. As for the ride quality, it’s another area where the Brezza absolutely shines through! You can tell the suspension has a firm edge, especially at low speeds, but regardless of that, you never feel any of the imperfections on the road. The suspension is supremely absorbent and even when you drive over a big pothole, there’s no jolt and virtually no noise filters into the cabin. High-speed stability is impressive, too, albeit you do get a bit of wind noise in the cabin above 110-120km/h.
You can’t review a Maruti Suzuki product these days without touching on the topic of safety (the internet labels you as a biased journo otherwise!). So, here is a quick word on it. The Brezza gets dual airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC, hill-hold assist, and ISOFIX child seat anchorages as standard. However, the top-spec variant now features six airbags. Now, considering the fact that the old model had a 4-star crash test rating (Global NCAP) and the platform is unchanged in the new car, you can expect the new version to maybe better it, as and when GNCAP decided to put it under the knife.
Let’s address the elephant in the room – the Brezza’s pricing. There’s no getting away from the fact that the Brezza is a heck of a lot more expensive, especially in its top-spec trim, as compared to its predecessor. Prices of the top-end ZXI+ variants are up by nearly 2.5 lakh! Yes, it’s got a lot of new features now, and its 1.5-litre engine attracts higher GST (43%) as opposed to its direct rivals like the Kia Sonet and Hyundai Venue with 1.0-litre turbo engines (29%). But, at the end of the day, all a customer really cares about is value for their money. In that regard, the Brezza’s rivals have a slight edge over it I’d say. And don’t forget that there’s no diesel engine on offer here, so that hurts its final score even more.
However, that’s not the end of the story. Where the Brezza still trumps its rivals is when it comes to its brand value, engine performance and fuel economy, ride-and-handling, and reliability. Like I said earlier, fundamentally, the Brezza is a stellar SUV. And with the new styling and interior updates, as well as the backing of Maruti Suzuki’s badge, I believe it’ll have no hurdles in its way to becoming the segment leader once again.
- Maruti Suzuki Brezza
Transmission: 5-Speed MT / 6-Speed AT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 102bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 136Nm @ 4,400rpm
Price: ₹7.99 - ₹13.96 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: The 2022 Brezza is refreshed & refined on the inside and out, comes fully loaded with new-age features, and more importantly, it’s fundamentally flawless.