Monday, 8 August, 2022
HomeOpinionDashboardNew Brezza is not just a facelift. Maruti-Suzuki has worked to make...

New Brezza is not just a facelift. Maruti-Suzuki has worked to make it tough

I drove the automatic variant and it felt a bit languid on the open road. Prices start from Rs 8 lakh and go up to Rs 14 lakh for the automatic dual-tone variant.

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Before I express my opinion, it is best to state some facts. The new Brezza is based on the very same platform as the outgoing model. It has the same 1.5-litre K-series engine as the outgoing, albeit in a slightly more economical avatar. While the car has been given a serious makeover in terms of looks, one can ask, is this actually a new generation of the compact SUV or a mere facelift?

Well, after driving it up and down the East Coast Road (ECR) heading south of Chennai a few days ago, I can tell you that it is an all-new vehicle. And not just because a Maruti vehicle finally gets an electric sunroof, a modern automatic gearbox and a heads-up display. You see, the big changes on this car are actually on the bits you can’t see, the platform itself.

While Maruti-Suzuki chairman R.C. Bhargava has expressed his reservations vis-a-vis new safety norms—that they should not become standard, lest prices of small cars become unaffordable, the company is working hard to dispel the impression that it makes ‘tin cans’. Although, it must be said that the term ‘tin can’ is a misnomer, because a tin can can take a lot of pressure.


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The improvements

Back to the story. While the new Brezza uses the same TECT platform as the outgoing model, there is increased usage of High-Strength Steel (HSS) and Ultra High-Strength Steel (UHSS) in structurally important areas. As C.V Raman, executive director, Engineer, Maruti-Suzuki explained to me, the use of higher grades of steel is essentially to improve the crash-test scores. The outgoing model, when tested by GlobalNCAP last year as the Toyota Urban Cruiser (which was the Maruti Brezza branded under the Toyota badge), scored a respectable four stars. The Heads-Up Display (HUD), which might seem as a ‘tech’ feature is also considered a safety feature since it helps the driver keep his/her eyes on the road. So even though the new Brezza uses the old platform, it is functionally a new car.

The use of higher and stronger grades of steel has another advantage. It gives the Brezza what is described as ‘torsional rigidity’, which, simply put, keeps the body stiffer, especially when you are taking turns. While to you and me, a car is like a stiff piece of metal, when you take turns, particularly at higher speeds, you put it under a lot of strain. And while you can’t see it, the metal is flexing and bending. Maybe for minute fractions, but this strain adds up and makes the car feel, what I would describe as ‘loose’ around corners. While the East Coast Road is essentially poker-straight, there are turns that give the car a workout and the new Brezza handles much better than the old one. There is one problem with some of the higher grades of steel used though. Indian steel manufacturers haven’t quite got around to making these grades of automotive steel. “We are talking to them, and some of them are making the enhancements to their production, but right now we have to import a lot of the steel,” Maruti’s Raman tells me.

Now, let us look at the other changes.

The Brezza gets an electric sunroof in its higher grades. As I mentioned in my review of the Hyundai Venue, I am not a fan of sunroofs, but then who am I to question Indian car buyers, who are in love with that piece of glass. You also get Maruti’s new SmartPlay Studio+ infotainment system, a marked upgrade on the old one and more importantly, a 360-degree camera to help you when getting in and out of tight parking spots. Also, you get the aforementioned HUD, which like on other vehicles that have them, gives you a bit of a fighter pilot feel. But I do wish Maruti-Suzuki had embedded a few more functions onto the system like the ability to scroll through your music library or change radio stations and navigation. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple and carmakers collaborate on the new CarPlay that was recently announced.


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The lag

If there is an issue that I felt on the new Brezza, it was the fact that the automatic felt a bit languid on the open road. I only drove the automatic variant and that too for a really short time. Maybe it could have been a bit more responsive on the highway. The lag could also be because Maruti-Suzuki might have geared the Brezza more towards economy. But in heavy urban traffic conditions, such gearing will probably not be noticeable unless you want to drive pedal to the metal. With petrol prices where they are, why would you want to do that on a Brezza?

Make no mistakes. Despite lacking a diesel option, and even a factory-fitted CNG option, the new Brezza will continue to be a best-seller. The Brezza continued to sell over 10,000-12,000 units every month despite buyers being were aware of a model changeover. Although it had ceded the segment leader position to the Tata Nexon. Prices of the new Brezza have increased incrementally — HSS and UHSS do cost more than standard steel. New prices start from Rs 8 lakh ex-showroom and go all the way up to Rs 14 lakh for the top-end dual-tone model with the new automatic transmission.

For over half-decade, the first-gen Brezza kept the compact SUV flag flying for Maruti. But with two in every five passenger vehicles sold in India now being SUV’s, Maruti had to up its game. This car does that, it looks good, it drives well and in all likelihood is a whole lot safer as well.

@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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