Having established solid sales momentum throughout the past 5 years, Suzuki SA has now introduced the Vitara Brezza – a compact family car that sits below the Vitara in the Japanese brand's local lineup. We had the chance to drive the newcomer in the lead up to its local launch and here’s what we think of it...
What is it?
The newcomer's naming convention is a little confusing considering there is already a Vitara on sale in South Africa. Well, think of the 'Brezza as the Vitara's younger, slightly smaller sibling. It’s shorter than the Vitara (by 180 mm), but wider by 30 mm and taller by some 15 mm. The wheelbase remains the same as the standard Vitara's, which seems to suggest that the focus is on interior-space utilisation.
GLX-spec Vitara Brezza derivatives are available in two-tone colour schemes.
The Vitara Brezza comes with just one engine, a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol motor paired with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. It also comes in 2 grades of spec, the GL and the flagship GLX, the latter of which features smarter trim such as a silver skid plate on the bumper, folding exterior mirrors, 16-inch alloys (as opposed to steel wheels on the GL) and full LED headlights. The GLX also features more goodies inside, such as a leather multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and keyless access, to name just the main additions.
Is it a family car?
The Vitara Brezza appears to be quite spacious at the front and back of the cabin, although rear legroom is tight if adult occupants have to sit behind a tall driver/front passenger. There are 2 proper seatbelts in the back and a third lap belt for the centre seat, which also has a built-in armrest or "child divider".
The luggage capacity is slightly less than in the Vitara, but can accommodate a decent 328 litres. The rear seats, meanwhile, split in a 60/40 configuration and can be folded down to free up utility space, but it's not perfectly practical setup because the seatbacks rest at an upward angle, so the enlarged load area isn't flat. A full-size spare wheel is fitted under the boot board, which is a nice plus for our market.
The wheelbase has been kept the same as that of the standard Vitara, which means rear passenger space is good.
In terms of keeping you and your passengers safe, the Brezza comes with just 2 airbags, positioned in the front of the car. ABS, EBD (with emergency brake assist) and side-impact protection are fitted, but stability control or traction control are omitted.
What's it like to drive?
In typical Suzuki fashion, the Brezza feels peppy. It weighs just over 1.1 tonnes, so it’s one of the lighter SUVs on the market. That helps to make it feel light on its, um, wheels and fun to drive. The 1.5-litre engine pops out 77 kW and 138 Nm (it’s the same engine from the Ertiga and Jimny, but doesn’t feel underpowered). Admittedly we drove it at sea level, where the thicker air aids performance.
The 1.5-litre engine produces good acceleration thanks to lightweight chassis.
We only drove a 5-speed manual derivative, but it has a slick-shifting gearbox with easy-to-sync gears. It’s geared quite short, which is something that we’ve found in many Indian-built cars. In India, the roads are heavily congested roads and the speed limits are lower than in SA, which is why vehicles don’t require longer gearing. The Vitara Brezza could well do with a 6th gear, just to help reduce fuel consumption on the freeway. At 120 kph, the Brezza is buzzing along at around 3 600 rpm in top gear, when many modern 6-speed cars run in the mid-2 000 rpm range (which benefits efficiency).
Having said that, the lightness of the Brezza certainly contributed to frugal fuel consumption, in our experience. After it had spent a week in our test fleet, we sent it home while it indicated an average consumption figure of 7.2 L/100 km. We're confident that that figure would probably settle in the 6 L/100 km range after a few months of normal use.
Does it have modern features inside?
For a car in this segment (it competes with the Hyundai Venue, Ford Ecosport and Mahindra XUV300 etc), the Vitara Brezza is reasonably well-specced (aside from the previously mentioned basic safety features). What's more, the touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use and easily connects with Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
Some of the interior plastics are of marginal quality, but the honeycomb-style pattern of their surfaces make them appear slightly more premium than they are. It all feels solid, but not particularly exciting –the Hyundai Venue, for example, provides a greater sense of occasion inside.
Meanwhile, Suzuki has managed to put in place quite a keen pricing structure; most of the range's derivatives retail under R300k. A few things have been cheapened here and there, like the exposed bolts on the rear seat mounts, but, overall, the Suzuki Brezza still feels quite sturdy and unfussy, like most Suzukis do.
After-sales and warranty
The Vitara Brezza is sold with a 4-year/60 000 km service plan and a 5-year/200 000 km promotional warranty.
Vitara Brezza GL Manual R244 900
Vitara Brezza GL Auto R264 900
Vitara Brezza GLX Manual R289 900
Vitara Brezza GLX Auto R309 900
Really aggressive pricing from Suzuki could give it the jump on Toyota.
The major selling point of the new Suzuki Brezza is its affordability. Given its derivatives' asking prices, the newcomer represents admirable value for money. Yes, the engine is decent, the manual gearbox is good and there’s comparatively ample space for people and their things. But it lacks a bit of interior refinement and some vital safety features such as stability control and at least 2 more airbags. Only the base derivatives of the Suzuki's rivals reduce the safety spec to this level, but the Vitara Brezza did score 4 stars in a Global NCAP crash test evaluation, so at least the structure appears to be robust.
The big question hanging over the Brezza’s head is the soon-to-be-introduced Toyota Urban Cruiser. It’s an exact replica of the Brezza, but with a Toyota badge on its nose and it's set to go on sale in the next few months. Will it be another case of Baleno/Starlet, where the Toyota ends up outselling the Suzuki 10 to 1? Let’s wait and see how Toyota’s local pricing matches up to Suzuki’s cutthroat strategy.