FIRST DRIVE | 2021 Suzuki Vitara Brezza is great bang for buck
In a local market that seemingly has an endless appetite for compact SUVs, Suzuki has launched its new Vitara Brezza as an eye-catching value package.
Slotting in between the smaller Ignis and larger Vitara in Suzuki’s extensive range, the Vitara Brezza takes on rivals such as the Hyundai Venue, Mahindra XUV300, Ford EcoSport and Honda WR-V in a segment for high-riding small cars that are around 4m in length. This burgeoning playground will soon be populated by additional newcomers such as the Nissan Magnite, Renault Kiger, and Toyota Urban Cruiser — the latter being a rebadged Vitara Brezza.
The Suzuki is imported from India and has been that country’s best-selling SUV since its launch in 2016, and it’s the newly facelifted version we’re getting.
With the four-model line-up ranging from R244,900 to R309,900, the new Vitara Brezza is aggressively positioned in a price-sensitive market segment, undercutting its above-mentioned Honda, Hyundai, Ford and Mahindra rivals. It does so without any obvious quality or specification shortcuts and all versions are generously equipped.
The Vitara Brezza is also not plagued by the safety bugbear of many India-built cars, and holds a four-star Global NCAP crash rating. All models come with ABS brakes, dual front airbags and Isofix mountings for child seats.
Suzuki’s 77kW/138Nm 1.5l petrol engine serves duty across the range, paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The two grades on offer are the GL and GLX, and all versions are front-wheel drive.
The basic Vitara Brezza 1.5 GL comes standard with a high level of spec including climate control, a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, reversing camera, and keyless entry.
The GLX is more upmarket with additional fare such as a cooled glovebox, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlights, leather-clad steering wheel, push-button engine start, additional speakers, and alloy wheels in place of the GL’s steel versions.
The GLX has more styling dazzle with two-tone body colour and an instrument panel with adjustable mood lighting offering five customisable colours.
Chunky SUV-like styling with front and rear plastic skid plates, along with polycarbonate side mouldings above the door sill, give the Vitara Brezza the look of a vehicle made for trails less travelled.
The front-wheel-drive car doesn’t have off-roading aspirations but its generous 198mm ground clearance and high-profile tyres serve it well on rough gravel and potholed roads. The little Suzuki has a cushy ride for its short wheelbase, and rides bumps without feeling particularly choppy.
The 1.5 GLX manual I drove is a nimble urban runabout, with super-light steering that has almost no feel but, with the aid of equally slick clutch and gear-shifter actions, makes for effortless zipping through busy traffic.
At sea level the power felt reasonably perky even with three people aboard and the aircon running, and it cruised contentedly on the freeway.
It’s pretty frugal and the test vehicle averaged 6.8l /100km.
Refinement is good for a budget car. The engine isn’t noisy and the car, though very light, feels solidly built.
For a car that’s just 3,999mm long, the Vitara Brezza is impressively spacious and comfortably seats four adults inside. The 328l boot is smaller than the segment average but takes a few tog bags, and on the plus side it contains a full-sized spare wheel.
The infotainment has big, colourful icons and is generally easy to use, except that sound levels have to be controlled by jabbing tiny buttons instead of a simpler volume knob.
At these prices, you’re not getting soft-touch dashboard plastics, but the interior is modern and well groomed and doesn’t project an especially cost-cutting look. The cloth seats are nicely textured for an upper-class feel.
It’s seldom that a true bargain comes along but the Vitara Brezza seems to be one. Its value for money stands out in what is becoming a very clogged compact-SUV playground.
SUZUKI VITARA BREZZA PRICES
1.5 GL manual: R244,900
1.5 GL auto: R264,900
1.5 GLX manual: R289,900
1.5 GLX auto: R309,900
Prices include a five-year/200,000km warranty and four-year/60,000km service plan.