7 months/ 3 013 km /740 L/100 km
Manufacturers across the globe are hedging their bets on the current crossover craze. If recent sales reports are anything to go by, this gamble is paying off handsomely. Admittedly, the Vitara moniker has been around for a good few decades but, with the Brezza name attached, this compact crossover is an all-new direction for the brand,
When we tested this same unit in our April 2021 issue, we sang its praises despite a few shortcomings such as minimal standard safety features and a short final drive ratio. Now that we've spent additional time with the Indian-built crossover, we've become better acquainted with the product that is currently selling in droves.
From a value proposition, the flagship GLX has been impressive; keyless entry, auto headlamps, auto rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a reverse parking camera are all standard fit. At the price point of R309 900, however, this level of spec is on par with its main competitors, the Kia Sonet 1,5 EX auto and Haval H2 1,5T City auto.
While everything works as it should, arguably the Vitara Brezza's weakest feature is its infotainment system. During my time with both the automatic and manual examples, this system proved glitchy, only able to pair a phone for a few days before automatically deleting it. Playing music via a USB stick, the system sometimes fails to read an audio file successfully and skips through tracks randomly. Lastly, the system is slow to react when it comes to inputs, particularly volume adjustments. Regardless of whether you use the buttons on the steering wheel or the touch-sensitive controls on the dash, there is a delay between command and action.
Thankfully, the Android Auto system works fine via the USB connection but the tray below the system cannot securely hold a mobile phone while a cable is attached to the charging port. The only viable solution is to leave your phone in the glove compartment at the risk of damaging your data cable. Considering how integral smartphone integration has become nowadays, these drawbacks are frustrating.
Apart from this, the overall cabin experience of the Suzuki Vitara Brezza is pleasant, thanks to generous packaging and soft cloth-upholstered seats. Headroom is sufficient for taller patrons at both the front and rear, which makes it comfy for anyone on a long drive. This practicality is accentuated by a generous amount of storage cubbies throughout the cabin. Boot and utility space is also impressive thanks to a set of rear seats that fold (almost) flat on the floor. It makes it a capable load carrier when you need to transport larger items; something this test unit was subjected to on several occasions during its tenure.
The manual test unit provided to us (after three months with the automatic derivative) had well over 10 000 km on the clock and the fit and finish of the sturdy cabin were as it would have appeared when new. On the exterior, both Vitara Brezza test units had a troublesome tailgate that would not shut properly if closed softly or with too much force. To ensure it was tightly shut, it required a specific amount of pressure.
Keeping things simple, the Vitara Brezza is powered by a naturally aspirated 16-valve DOHC 1,5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that's good for 77 kW and 138 N.m of torque. Over three months, I was able to experience this with both a four-speed torque converter and five-speed manual gearbox.
Between the two, considering the R20 000 price difference, the auto is undoubtedly the transmission of choice. While the manual is slick and easy going, it has a very short final drive ratio that sees it running close to the 4 000 r/min in top gear at 120 km/h. This affected the fuel consumption on longer drives and worsened the NVH levels as the engine note filtered into the cabin.
Although the torque converter has fewer gears, it is much more settled at highway speeds. It is also responsive in both urban and extra-urban settings, making for effortless daily operation when coupled with the electrically assisted power steering. Using a front MacPherson and rear torsion beam suspension with a generous amount of ground clearance, on the road, the ride is impressively plush and composed. The basic, lightweight chassis is also entertainingly lively, not unlike the rest of the brand's offerings.
Given the somewhat dated nature of the drivetrain, the overall fuel consumption of the Vitara Brezza was not class leading but by no means thirsty. It did spend most of its time in extra-urban conditions and on open country roads on just two occasions, so we considered 7,40 L/100 km acceptable.
Where the Vitara Brezza loses ground to the competition is in its level of standard specification. The most notable omission from the package is the lack of traction and stability control. This becomes apparent in rainy conditions.
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