2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara review, first impressions - hybrid SUV shows early promise
Maruti Suzuki has been trying to break through the premium car barrier for decades now. Their last offering the Kizashi was brilliant, though expensive and it failed. Over a decade later they are stepping back into the same space. Albeit with a product that may be more expensive but significantly more wholesome and versatile, targeted at a larger audience. The Grand Vitara nameplate is what Maruti Suzuki chose to go with, retailing it through their Nexa portfolio. This is another indicator of the Grand Vitara adopting a more premium profile.
I did get an opportunity to drive the Grand Vitara, which lasted everybody present at the experience, no more than 30 minutes, driving all the variants. Not much to bring you a well-informed opinion and that too on a track that did not let us examine much, so I am going to reserve a lot of my opinions for when we do get our hands on it properly.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: What's promising?
Let me quickly list down what I think is promising in the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara:
- The 1.5-litre non-hybrid petrol is certainly the better engine to choose if you like driving, want a non-stressed motor and a more refined feel. It may not have the best efficiency but I'd expect something in the range of 13-14kmpl is what you'd get overall. Its quick, smooth and the better choice of transmission is the 6-speed automatic, it is genuinely better for real-world urban conditions than the 5-speed manual.
- The hybrid may be the better choice if fuel efficiency is your thing. Yet the real-world gains I'd presume would be around 19kmpl until you figure out how to optimise your driving style to get close to the nearly 28kmpl claimed efficiency. Driving it though is entirely uninspiring, dull and even at times a bit cumbersome. Certainly does not get my vote.
- The ride quality is impressive, brilliant even. With little front-end dive and a suspension setup that combines gas and hydraulic dampers, the Grand Vitara rolls off surface deformities with ease. This would be its one endearing aspect, and probably a benchmark for the segment to look up to.
- The handling does feel well sorted out, it's stable though we really couldn't exercise its limits. Ona tighter circuit, I did try and push it as hard as I would allowed and it did feel flat and neutral, with very little body roll. However, we weren't allowed to drive the car above 120kmph at a closed circuit, so I really can't say much about how it feels. There is a hint of understeer in the hybrid variant probably also because of the weight the electrical system and the battery add to it. Also could be down to the tyres, the Apollo Aptera's feel a bit undertyred for the Grand Vitara, and Maruti could do well to get a better tyre into the mix.
- The comfort and space inside the cabin is top-notch. Quality is also good, and everything works just fine, but these were almost production-ready prototypes, so I'd wait again for the full drive experience.
- Ventilated seats in a Maruti, the Grand Vitara matches the premium space it will reside in, by adding a good deal of upmarket comfort and convenience features.
- The colours to bring this home in are the darker shades. I thought the dark blue was the most good-looking, bringing out the solidity of the design. The Grand Vitara is a good-looking SUV, handsome even. The side profile is its strongest suit, it has a large footprint that also lends it its stature.
- Maruti is trying hard to change the market perception about its stance on safety. The Grand Vitara has loads of safety features on board, including the 6-airbags, stability control programs, ABS, disc brakes all around. We even witnessed a crash test, conducted at Maruti's R&D facility near Rohtak, and the crash cell looked like it retained its integrity quite well. But I guess we would have to wait for an NCAP rating, that certification is the norm these days.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: What needs more examining?
Now these are a list of things I would still like to examine a little more in depth. At first glance they weren't all that promising, but a full fledged drive later on may reveal more details an change opinion.
- The hybrid has excellent low end torque but mid-range and top end is lacking. Not exactly a disadvantage here, just that high speed overtaking could be an issue. This could be down to its 3-cylinder construction, which also is where the lack of refinement could be coming from.
- Another issue with the drive modes is that you don't really know what they do, and if you are doing the right thing. You have the EV mode and the Drive mode selector that shifts been eco, power and a normal mode. However engine torque in either mode feels the same, so throttle pedal responses feel the same in either mode, though there may be differences in the fuel efficiency.
- On the strong hybrid variant the automatic transmission selector knob, has the usual P, R, N, D and one additional 'B' mode. This is to select a regenerative mode, where if you step off the accelerator pedal, the electric motor operates in reverse acting as a generator to charge the battery by converting kinetic energy into electrical energy. It works quite well, but I had a concern over the placement of that drive mode. It is the last selection on the shift lever box, so invariably you will shift into 'B' mode rather than the regular 'D' drive mode whenever you start your car and assume you're shifting into drive mode. Its not a bad thing, but in regular 'D' mode propulsion feels seamless and smoother, rather than the slight braking sensation you experience in 'B'.
- The steering system. One niggle I observed is that the steering got lighter at higher speeds, and became heavier at lower speeds. This is exactly the opposite of what should happen, and maybe there is an explanation to it, so looking for more time to spend behind the steering wheel. This could have been a prototype fault.
- Braking effort is good, the Grand Vitara stops quickly but needs sharper modulation. I couldn't feel a thing at the pedal.
- The instrument panel could have had a more interesting design. It's a bit insipid and the selectable menus are dull with old fonts and typography, much like we see on Toyota's cars!
- The infotainment screen has most of the controls, and it's an exhaustive list of functions to access. And if you know me, you would know that I am not fond of touchscreen systems, they are more hazardous than convenient.
- The heads-up display has enough value add information, but the secondary screen the information displays on is a distraction.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara: Early impressions
Overall then the Grand Vitara seems to be a very promising SUV. Developed jointly with Toyota, it has those touches you'd usually reserve for a Toyota. Now it's just a matter of pricing, and whether or not Maruti can pull off a win on this attempt.