JOHANNESBURG - There’s no denying that SUVs are taking the motoring world by storm and these days many buyers simply can’t resist the allure of a vehicle that towers above traffic, although their rugged looks and family-friendly practicality are no doubt also attracting buyers to the high-riding realm.
Trouble is, most SUVs are quite expensive and even many of the compact ones are breaching the R300 000 mark, while some of the higher-spec examples are even testing the half-a-million mark.
But thankfully for those seeking an SUV on a budget, there are plenty of new offerings coming to South Africa this year, and the first of these to arrive is the Suzuki Vitara Brezza, which starts at just R244 900 - and that’s with a fair amount of equipment. It will of course, also be joined soon by a re-branded Toyota version called the Urban Cruiser, created as part of a collaboration between the two Japanese carmakers, and speaking of twins, the Nissan Magnite and Renault Kiger are also due to hit hour shores this year (see below).
What, exactly, is a Vitara Brezza?
This new offering hails from Maruti Suzuki in India and while it shares its 2500mm wheelbase with the regular Vitara, it’s a good 180mm shorter and 15mm wider, and with a ground clearance of 198mm, it’s also 13mm higher off the ground. The regular Vitara, incidentally, will soldier on as a ‘flagship’ model, and it’s currently priced from R310 900.
All Brezza variants are powered by Suzuki’s familiar 1.5-litre petrol engine, codenamed K15B and also found in the Jimny, Ertiga and Ciaz. The normally aspirated motor produces 77kW at 6000rpm and 138Nm from 4400 revs and unlike the more upmarket Vitara, which offers an all-wheel drive option, the Brezza is only available in front-wheel drive format. Buyers do however get to choose between a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic gearbox.
How does it drive?
We recently spent a week with one of the manual models and the little SUV impressed with its overall driveability.
The driving controls operate smoothly and the ride is comfortable. With just 77kW, however, this is not a speed machine and while it happily keeps up with fast-paced urban traffic, you will have to play with the gears and work it a bit harder when faced with steep hills or overtaking manoeuvres.
As for consumption, Suzuki claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.2 litres per 100km.
Is the Brezza practical?
We think this vehicle is going to do well on the market because it strikes a good balance between size and price.
It’s not a tiny SUV, but it’s not enormous either. The boot swallows 328 litres worth of luggage, and this should meet most needs but a family holiday might require some clever boxing.
The rear legroom is decent, not the best in the compact SUV segment but not the worst either and unless the driver is really tall, a teen or adult should fit quite comfortably in the back.
What features does it have?
Customers get to choose between GL and GLX spec grades, but even the base model is relatively well stocked, with standard features such as automatic climate control, SLDA touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and CarPlay connectivity, reverse camera, multi-function steering wheel and electric fold-in mirrors. Safety kit includes driver and passenger airbags, ISOFIX mountings and ABS brakes, but sadly there is no mention of any kind of stability control.
The GLX adds cruise control to the standard features mix, along with keyless entry and push-button start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, cooled glovebox, auto windscreen wipers and a leather-covered steering wheel.
On the visual front, the GL’s 16-inch steel wheels make way for alloy wheels in the GLX and the latter is also available with a trio of two-tone roof colour options for those that want to stand out a bit more. Buyers can for instance pair the Sizzling Red and Torque Blue exterior colours with a Midnight Black roof, or the Granite Grey option with an Autumn Orange roof.
As for aftersales, both models are sold with a five-year/200 000km warranty and four-year/60 000km service plan.
Given the keen pricing as well as its combination of style and practicality, we expect that the Vitara Brezza will do well in South Africa, as will its Toyota cousin. However, we’ll soon get to the day when SUV drivers no longer tower above traffic because everybody else is also driving an SUV.
SUZUKI VITARA BREZZA PRICING:
1.5 GL - R244 900
1.5 GL auto - R264 900
1.5 GLX - R289 900
1.5 GLX auto - R309 900