Marking a change from the usual hatchbacks and entry-level sedans, Maruti re-enters the big, bad, expensive world of sports utility vehicles with the new Grand Vitara
If the 800 is HMT and the Esteem, Titan, then the Grand Vitara must surely be the Harry Winston in the Maruti stable. For the Grand Vitara is as lofty a creation from Maruti as the Harry Winston watch is in the expensive world of premium wrist- wear. Of course, the comparison may be a little stretched, considering that the most premium Grand Vitara retails for around Rs.15 lakh, while the most expensive Harry Winston can eat into your bank balance by over Rs.2 crore.
But we are digressing from the main point, which is this: the Grand Vitara is a rarity, not only on the roads but also in the mind of the Indian consumer. Of course, there is very little of Maruti in the Maruti Grand Vitara, considering it is imported as a completely built-unit (CBU) from the Suzuki factory in Japan. That may explain the high price as compared to other Maruti products.
People who have usually associated Maruti with the ubiquitous 800 and its cousins like the Alto and Esteem have been pleasantly surprised in the recent past. Starting with remodelling old warhorses like the Wagon R and Zen, Maruti has also muscled in on some new territory with the premium hatchback Swift and the A1 sedan SX4. With the new Grand Vitara, Maruti seeks to capture the growing SUV market, a segment where its earlier offering of the Vitara in an older avatar had not managed to garner much popularity.
Maruti has been on a continuous journey of innovation of late. As Jagdish Khattar, its former managing director and chief executive of Maruti Udyog Limited, was quick to point out at the new Vitara's launch on 5 July 2007, ''Grand Vitara happens to be our fifth model in less than 12 months. The Wagon R Duo, Zen Estilo, Swift Diesel and SX4, while being successful, also showcase the diversity of models that Maruti has been able to offer in the past year.
The Grand Vitara takes that story forward. It widens the range of products that Maruti offers. We are reaching out to customers who want an authentic SUV experience, backed by the values and assurance of Maruti Suzuki.''
This new Grand Vitara is a third generation Vitara offered by Suzuki, replacing the second generation XL-7 that was launched in India in 2003. The first generation had a long life spanning a decade after being introduced in 1989, as the Suzuki Escudo, the name by which it is still known in its home country of Japan.
It was initially known as the Sidekick in the US but changed its name to Vitara after 1999. The Grand Vitara is an extended wheelbase version of the Vitara produced since. It was modified in 2002 and 2004, and completely redesigned in 2006, resulting in the current version.
The first thing that the price-sensitive Indian consumer will notice about this new offering is, well, its price. Maruti has sharply cut prices from the earlier Rs.19 lakh and Rs.20 lakh for the manual and automatic transmission variants to Rs.14 lakh and Rs.15 lakh, respectively. Of course, that has been accompanied by a corresponding loss of power and size.
While the Grand Vitara in its earlier seven-seater XL-7 avatar boasted of a 2.7L engine delivering 168 bhp, the current one seats five and comes equipped with a 2.0L power plant producing 120 horses. This aggressive pricing pitches it headfirst into battle with the Ford Endeavour and the Honda CR-V and the Maruti SUV emerges cheaper.
Is the new Grand Vitara meaner as compared to its ancestor? The new engine certainly doesn't give that impression. Although the 2.0L DOHC engine may be a more practical option, the surge of power experienced with the earlier 2.7L V6 is definitely missing. The lesser power output of 120bhp is also the reason why moving the 1.6 tonne vehicle is initially a strain, although it is a competent cruiser.
On checking out the exteriors, the new Vitara looks shorter (both by height and length) and this results in a weight reduction by a 100 kg over its predecessor. While the macho look is somewhat reduced, the vehicle exudes a youthful, sporty feel. Suzuki has tried to strike a balance between the straight lines of a traditional SUV and the flowing lines of more recent, aerodynamic creations. The result is quite striking: chisel-like snout, large grille and wraparound headlamps complete the picture of Orlando Bloom meets Clint Eastwood.
Unlike the frame-based body-over-ladder rigid structure of its predecessor, the new Grand Vitara is built on a monocoque chassis, which provides better city performance. However, Suzuki is serious about off-road performance, and so the Vitara has ladder-like chassis rails and crossbeams at the bottom for greater rigidity. The vehicle comes with an innovative ''All Time 4 Mode 4X4'' system which provides optimum power to all four wheels at all times.
Coupled with a centre lockable differential and traction enhancer, this enables fully controlled off-roading, which Maruti calls as giving the customer ''the grip on the wilder side of life''. The flared wheel arches also enable the use of bigger tyres more suitable for off-roading.
Moving on to the interiors, for a Rs.14 lakh vehicle, you expect some gizmos, as well as a certain level of refinement. That, sadly, is lacking in the new Grand Vitara. Although the newer version is wider than the previous one, providing a more comfortable seating experience, the cost cutting in the interiors undermines that experience. The driver's seat is height-adjustable and provides a comfortable driving position.
The rear seats are also reclinable and quite comfortable, making the vehicle a genuine five-seater. The large space available translates to a generous boot capacity of 556 litres, which can be further expanded to 758 litres once the rear seatback is tumble-folded.
The sense of déjà vu that permeates when one steps into the vehicle is because of the liberal use of components from its poorer cousins, the Swift and the SX4. The power-window switches and controls-mounted steering wheel are just two of the components that seem to be borrowed property. After spending Rs.15 lakh, one can definitely expect leather upholstery and electrical seat adjustment. The Grand Vitara, unfortunately, does neither. But the efficient, dual-cooling AC with pollen filter somewhat salvages the situation.
The chassis is suspended on McPherson struts with gas-charged dampers and an anti-roll bar upfront and a multi-link set-up with coil over gas-charged dampers at the rear. With a high ground clearance of 200mm the Grand Vitara can easily swallow most potholes on Indian roads.
As far as safety is considered, considering the Grand Vitara's pre-eminent position at the top of the Suzuki chain, it comes equipped with Suzuki Total Safety package. This consists of anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and booster with brake assist, dual airbags along with other safety features like seat belt pretensioners and force limiters.
If you are looking for fuel-efficiency, steer clear of this vehicle. Delivering a meagre 9.5 km/litre on the highway and a lesser 6.7 km/litre in the city, the Grand Vitara sure won't endear itself to an environmentalist. But then, which SUV will?
Internationally, the Grand Vitara is available with three engine options the 1.6L 106bhp and 2.0L 140bhp petrol units, and the 1.9L multi-jet diesel that makes 129bhp. Unfortunately, only the 2.0L engine is available here, that too tuned lower at 120bhp.
The Maruti Grand Vitara comes in two variants a manual transmission variant with five gears, and a four-speed automatic gearbox variant with power mode. They are priced at Rs.14.05 lakh and Rs.15.05 lakh respectively, both prices ex-showroom Mumbai.
The Grand Vitara, in its earlier XL-7 avatar, though a proper SUV, did not fare well. One of the reasons was its high price; another, the perception of Maruti being a maker of small cars. With Maruti having refurbished its image amongst its premier clientele considerably with the Swift and SX4, and after drastically reducing the sticker price of the Grand Vitara, the latter may prove to be one of the sleeper hits of the year.
A comparison of the base versions of the Maruti Grand Vitara and its two main competitors, the Ford Endeavour and the Honda CR-V, is given below:
|Parameters ||Maruti Grand |
Vitara 2.0 MT
|Honda CR-V 2.4 |
|Ford Endeavour |
TDCi 4x2 XLT
|Dimensions || || || |
|Overall length ||4470 mm ||4530 mm ||4998 mm|
|Overall width ||1810 mm ||1820 mm ||1789 mm|
|Overall height ||1695 mm ||1680 mm ||1836 mm|
|Wheelbase ||2640 mm ||2620 mm ||2860 mm|
|Ground clearance ||200 mm ||185 mm ||210 mm|
|Front track ||1540 mm ||1565 mm ||1475 mm|
|Rear track ||1560 mm ||1565 mm ||1470 mm|
|Front headroom ||1000 mm ||1035 mm ||1000 mm|
|Front legroom ||NA ||NA ||1170 mm|
|Boot space ||556 litre ||NA ||NA|
|Kerb weight ||1594 kg ||1535 kg ||1875 kg|
|Fuel tank capacity ||66 litre ||58 litre ||71 litre|
|Fuel efficiency || || || |
|Mileage (city) ||6.7 km/litre ||7.9 km/litre ||9.7 km/litre|
|Mileage (highway) ||9.5 km/litre ||10.6 km/litre ||12.0 km/litre|
|Mileage (overall) ||8.0 km/litre ||8.3 km/litre ||10.7 km/litre|
|Performance || || || |
|Maximum speed ||146 Km/Hour ||156 Km/Hour ||151 Km/Hour|
|0-100 kmph ||14.0 seconds ||10.4 seconds ||13.2 seconds|
|80-0 kmph ||NA ||27.1 metres ||30.6 metres|
|Engine || || || |
|Engine type ||2L 16V DOHC Petrol ||2.4L i-VTEC Petrol ||2.5L TDCi Diesel|
|Displacement ||1995 cc ||2354 cc ||2499 cc|
|Power ||120bhp@ 5500 rpm ||161bhp@ 5800 rpm ||143bhp@ 3500 rpm|
|Torque ||170Nm@ 3500 rpm ||218Nm@ 4200rpm ||330m@1800rpm|
|No. of cylinders ||4 cylinder ||4 cylinder ||4 cylinder|
|Transmission || || || |
|Transmission type ||Manual ||Manual ||Manual|
|Gears/Speeds ||5 Gears ||6 Gears ||5 Gears|
|Suspensions || || || |
|Front suspension ||McPherson strut ||McPherson strut, coil spring, torsion anti-roll bar ||Independent double wishbone with torsion bar spring & stabilizer bar|
|Rear suspension ||Multi-link ||Double wishbone, coil spring, torsion anti-roll bar ||Progressive linear rate leaf springs with low friction pads|
|Brakes || || || |
|Front brakes ||Disc ||Ventilated discs ||Ventilated discs|
|Rear brakes ||Drum ||Discs ||Drum|
|Wheels || || || |
|Wheel type ||Alloy ||Alloy ||Alloy|
|Wheel size ||16inch ||17inch ||16inch|
|Tyres ||225/70 R16 ||225/65 R 17 102 T ||245/70 R16 tubeless|
|Price(Ex-showroom) || || || |
|Price (Mumbai) ||Rs.14.05 lakh ||Rs.18.98 lakh ||Rs.15.55 lakh|