DRIVEN: Suzuki Vitara Brezza 1,5 GLX MT

CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – Suzuki has become synonymous with characterful and fun-to-drive compact cars. In 2016, the Japanese automaker looked to transfer these characteristics into a package that falls in a segment – the small crossover segment – that’s become increasingly popular in the global market. Enter the Vitara Brezza (“breeze” in English). Five years after its reveal, the South African arm of the Hamamatsu-based firm decided to blow a fresh, ahem, breeze into its local line-up and introduce the Brezza-badged Vitara to our shores, a “very important model for [Suzuki Auto South Africa] in terms of sales,” according to the company.

Does the Vitara Brezza encapsulate the character so synonymous with the Suzuki brand? Before it’s official – and adhering to COVID-19 social distancing – virtual launch, Suzuki Auto South Africa handed us the keys to the top-spec manual derivative. Let’s find out.

Slotting in between the characterful Ignis city crossover and larger non-Brezza-badged Vitara, the local Vitara Brezza range comprises four derivatives, all sporting the company’s familiar K15B petrol motor, which can be had with a duo of transmission options: a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed self-shifter. Trim levels include the entry-level GL and top-of-the-line GLX specification. Placed between its aforementioned siblings, the Vitara Brezza is keenly priced, with the base-spec model costing R4 000 more than the Ignis and the range-topping automatic GLX priced R1 000 less than the entry-level Vitara. The model driven here comes in at R289 900.

The Vitara Brezza sports a fairly conventional exterior design language. Not that it’s a bad thing, as many dyed-in-the-wool consumers will appreciate the boxy styling. The model driven here features silver trim around the door handles, LED daytime-running lights and a set of 16-inch alloy wheels. Adding to its SUV-like persona, the Vitara Brezza rides 198 mm from the ground.

Measuring 3 995 mm nose to tail, the Vitara Brezza joins the array of sub-four-metre vehicles that have become prevalent on our roads. Height and width are listted at 1 640 mm and 1 790 mm, respectively, while the fore and aft axles sit 2 500 mm apart. Thanks to its modest dimensions, short overhangs and suitably light steering, plus the standard (across the range) reverse-view camera and rear parking sensors, it’s a cinch to manoeuvre the Vitara Brezza in tight spaces.

The exterior hides a deceptively spacious cabin. Occupants of various frames should be able to sit comfortably on the Vitara Brezza’s cloth-covered seats. And thanks to the height-adjustable driver’s pew, those seated behind the GLX’s leather-clad multifunction steering wheel will be able to easily dial in their preferred driving position. Although fitted with myriad hard plastics, perceived interior build quality feels solid.

In addition to the GL’s standard seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto screen-mirroring software, GLX models gain convenience items such as keyless entry and start, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers and cruise control. A cooled upper cubby hole, meanwhile, keeps cold beverages at an appropriate temperature. Safety items include two airbags, Isofix child-seat anchorages for the rear bench and ABS and EBD.

Although endowed with 77 kW and 138 N.m of torque, available from 6 000 r/min and 4 400 r/min respectively, the 1,5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit feels peppy, largely thanks to the Vitara Brezza’s lightweight construction (Suzuki rates the Vitara Brezza’s kerb weight at a lowly 1 110 kg). Power is directed exclusively to the front axle. The manual derivative is arguably the one to have; as we’ve come to appreciate in myriad Suzukis, the five-speed ’box is snappy, making shifting gears an effortless task.

The Vitara Brezza is a joy to drive in urban environments. However, once on the open road, overtaking should be done with consideration. Ascending steep inclines, too, requires a quick shift to fourth gear as the naturally aspirated engine seems to run out of breath; a bugbear of many atmospheric vehicles. On-road ride quality is comfortable, with the 60-profile rubber soaking up most road scars with aplomb. Although not intended for off-roading, thanks to its generous ground clearance, the Vitara Brezza should fare fine when tarmac turns to gravel. Although having an upright stance and box-shaped design, body lean is surprisingly well contained around corners.

NVH levels while cruising around town are fine for a car of this ilk. A fair amount of wind noise is, however, noticeable around the A-pillar when travelling at the national limit, while engine buzz permeates the cabin as the rev needle climbs on the (pleasingly) analogue tachometer. A digital speed readout would, however, have been appreciated on the centrally sited trip computer’s display.

With the Vitara Brezza, Suzuki once again shows it does compact cars best. Like its stablemates, the Vitara Brezza is characterful and fun to drive. Adding to its appeal are its SUV-like design, tall ride height (which local consumers increasingly favour) and generous standard specification. In pure sales terms, the Vitara Brezza should do well for Suzuki Auto South Africa.

(Be sure to look out for a comprehensive road test on Suzuki Auto South Africa’s newcomer in the April 2021 issue of CAR magazine.)

FAST FACTS

Model: Suzuki Vitara Brezza 1,5 GLX MT
Price: R289 900
Engine: 1,5-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power: 77 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque: 138 N.m @ 4 400 r/min
0-100 km/h: n/a
Top Speed: n/a
Fuel Consumption: 6,2 L/100 km
CO2: 147 g/km
Service plan: 4-year/60 000 km

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CAR magazine