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Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

Grand Vitara
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Grand Vitara

The nameplate Grand Vitara makes a comeback after almost a decade and puts an end to all speculations

Maruti Suzuki, India’s favourite car maker is a leader in many segments. Now, to dominate the mid-size SUV segment, it is ready to launch its new Grand Vitara. The Grand Vitara is built on Suzuki’s Global-C platform, which also underpins the current Vitara Brezza, Ciaz and S-Cross, as well as the newly introduced international S-Cross. Maruti Suzuki has taken it a step further and spiced it up to suit Indian tastes.

Grand Vitara
Grand Vitara

Unlike the badge-engineered cars like Baleno, Glanza and Vitara Brezza and Urban Cruiser, the midsize SUV is co-developed by Toyota and Maruti Suzuki. The Toyota's version Hyryder and Grand Vitara share the same platform and are powered by Suzuki’s Dual-Jet K15C series engine and come with a strong hybrid option that is sourced from Toyota. The nameplate Grand Vitara makes a comeback after almost a decade and puts an end to all speculations. To drive the new Grand Vitara we headed towards the lake city ‘Udaipur’ and we experienced every single drivetrain option of the Grand Vitara.

The Grand Vitara is longer and wider than the Brezza and also features a wheelbase increase of 100mm, taking the wheelbase to 2,600mm. This means that it will feature an increased interior room. In terms of looks, the Grand Vitara gets a bold and trendy design. The front nose’s frame is chrome which is complemented with a contrasting black front grille and silver skid plate. The DRL occupies the top of the bumper and the headlights are moved downwards, thus eliminating the fog lamps. The large grille sits in-between the headlamps upfront and body cladding, for a beefed-up look.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

The side profile shows off a longish frontal overhang that mixes the balance. The 17-inch wheels look quite handsome and they fill up the wheel arches well. While the shape of the wheel arches and the 2,600-millimeter wheelbase is similar to the international model. The bodywork designed in India for the Grand Vitara not only lends it to a more SUV-like form but also gives it marginally larger dimensions. So that makes the Suzuki Grand Vitara and its platform sibling Toyota Hyryder, two of the largest cars in the segment now.

At the rear, the sleek streak of taillights echoes a few premium cars and that is coupled with the tastefully done Grand Vitara badge making the tail more premium. The imposing front and rear design, the wide stance with the 17-inch wheels, and particularly the wide fender and bumper design makes the Grand Vitara look impressive.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

The cabin looks familiar with Maruti Suzuki elements like the switches and steering wheel. The top section of the multilayer dashboard uses hard plastic, while the middle section is a leather finish panel with metal finish accents. The Smart Hybrid sports dual black-Bordeaux interiors with silver finish accents, while the strong hybrid has an all-black cabin with champagne gold accents and diamond stitch leatherette seat covers. The seating posture feels like an SUV but the side thigh support could have been much bigger as it is small even for an average person. The ingress and egress are easy, both for kids as well as for older passengers.

The rear seats are comfortable and upright, even in their slightly more reclined position. But comfort wise I don't see any problems. In terms of the rear, headroom is a concern, even for an average-height person, it might feel a bit shorter, especially if you get the top variant, which has a big panoramic sunroof and its liner sits lower.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

The nine-inch audio system gets wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. The overall infotainment feels high quality and do so the buttons and controls on the dash. For the first time, Maruti is offering a big panoramic sunroof, which elevates the overall experience. The sunroof cloth could have been of better quality and it feels like it's going to start sagging in a few months. The top end gets a fully digital instrument cluster and a heads-up display too. Grand Vitara also gets the front ventilated seats but it is quite noisy and could have been more powerful. It also comes with a 360-degree camera, which is great news.

The bigger concern is the boot space which has only 373 litres for the mild hybrid variants, which is comparable to sub-four-meter crossovers. In the strong hybrid variant, it’s just 265 litres, which is lesser than a Baleno. This is mainly because, in most of the ICE-derived hybrids, the battery pack sits behind the rear seat, eating into the boot's space. In the strong hybrid, even the spare wheel is placed beneath the car while in the smart hybrid it goes inside the boot.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

In terms of the powertrain, there are quite a few configurations on offer everything from a naturally aspirated engine, two-wheel drive configurations, all-wheel drive, mild hybrid and strong hybrid, except diesel. The new Grand Vitara will be available in two 1.5-litre engines, and multiple transmission options and it will be the first vehicle in its category that will be equipped with an all-wheel-drive system and a full hybrid technology.

Let’s start with the strong hybrid, which Maruti Suzuki calls an Intelligent Electric Hybrid, which is something we are experiencing for the first time. The strong hybrid variant comes with the Toyota-sourced 92hp, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine paired with an electric motor that makes 79hp and 141Nm of torque. Combined, the hybrid powertrain makes 115hp and is paired to an e-CVT gearbox. Maruti claims an efficiency of 27.97kpl for this powertrain. This is combined with a small motor that acts as the starter motor and also the generator, along with a larger motor that provides drive to supplement the engine with torque.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

The engine start/stop button is blue in colour and starts silently, if the battery has enough charge, you can set it off completely on electric energy. It switches to EV mode at lower speeds and feels futuristic when being driven like this. Maruti Suzuki says it can be driven in EV mode 30-40 per cent of the time, which is a fair amount. This system is intelligent. It complements each other to ensure that whether you are driving in the city or on the highway, or even driving around the terrains, it will ensure that with the battery power and with the engine power, there's always a seamless supply of power.

Though on paper, the total output is 115bhp and feels underpowered, the driving experience and the performance are quite impressive. The EV mode is very cool — if the battery has enough charge, you can set it off completely on electric energy only. There’s an EV mode button to lock you in there for as long as possible too. In this mode, it is silent and rolls along comfortably.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

The engine is mated to an eCVT and based on the throttle input, it automatically and seamlessly changes drive modes from electric to hybrid and only the petrol engine. It also is equipped with a regenerative braking system which helps in charging the battery. It also comes with three driving modes — Sport, Normal and Eco. The sport does feel a bit more spirited but there’s marginal difference between the latter two modes.

If you wanted to enjoy this car you have to drive it in a very calm and composed manner. This means you have to drive this car at 2000 to 3000 RPM both in the city and on the highway. And these figures are both manual, as well as automatic. During overtakes in a city or on the highway, you often need to downshift more. If you're travelling with five people, the six-speed torque converter automatic does its job quite well. But it isn't the quickest of gearboxes and often makes a downshift only after the engine falls out of the power band. The paddle shifters certainly help.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

The ride quality is impressive with the kind of supple ride that this car offers. It's perfectly equipped for Indian road conditions. In terms of handling, however, as long as you are gentle with the car, you enter the curve smoothly, you're gentle on the suspension everything will be fine. If you are harsh, if you're just throwing the car around, if you're too harsh into the corners, that is where you will feel a fair bit of vertical movement from this car. It's not exactly a sporty, dynamic car when it comes to driving around twists, be gentle with it, be laid back with it. If you are looking for the best ride quality, and smoothness on the bad roads, go for the Grand Vitara.

We also performed a bit of off-roading on the Grand Vitara with the AWD option, which features the K15C engine along with a mild hybrid system that is paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. The AWD only sends power to the rear wheels when it detects slip at the front wheels. And if you know how to use it wisely, you can use it to take the Grand Vitara on some pretty rough stuff. We drove this car through a tailor-made off-road section, where it easily travels through some slush, inclines and hill hold function. Crawl down with the hill descent control at a pre-set of fixed 10 kilometres an hour showed off its capabilities through the trenches. In the 25-degree approach or departure angle, the Grand Vitara tackled with ease.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

The strong hybrid system uses a small 0.76kWh lithium-ion battery, which is lighter and can push out more instantaneous power. The small batteries also mean that the strong hybrid is only about 80 to 85 kilos heavier than the mild hybrid two-wheel drive variants. The braking felt consistent and predictable across all the variants and the strong hybrid also gets a dedicated B mode for stronger braking assistance. Though the strong hybrid belongs to Toyota, all the tuning for the mild hybrid, strong hybrid and even the suspension and brakes is completely done by Maruti Suzuki and Toyota's job here is to simply manufacture both the Grand Vitara and the Toyota Hyryder at its plant near Bangalore.

Grand Vitara has a long feature list too, which includes a 360-degree camera, wireless charger, ambient lighting, connected car tech, ESP, hill-hold assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, and six airbags. The Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Hyryder will be pitched directly against a competitive crop of midsize SUVs such as Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, MG Astor, VW Taigun and Skoda Kushaq. The price of Grand Vitara ranges from Rs 10.45 lakh-19.65 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The strong hybrid variants cost Rs 50,000 more than the Hyryder's. This is because each brand has taken a price advantage of its tech.

Grand Vitara - Revolutionising Hybrids in India

I feel with all the powertrain options on offer and while neither of them feels enthusiastic, they all feel adequate, refined and aptly tuned for Indian driving conditions. The strong hybrid makes a strong case for itself. If you are going for a strong hybrid version, Hyryder makes sense and if you want a sportier look and wider service network Grand Vitara is the option to go.