Maruti’s Grand Vitara now comes with a powerful engine and more equipment. Ouseph Chacko has the details

From the moment you take your foot off the clutch in the Grand Vitara, it is clear that the 2.4-litre petrol engine is now a force to reckon with. It’s got a massive 43bhp up in a package that weighs only 20kg more — enough to make it bound past the 100kph mark in 11.7 seconds, a nice 2.3seconds faster than the now-discontinued 2.0-litre Vitara.

But first, a bit of history. The previous Vitara was never managed to actually shine on the showroom floors. It wasn’t very quick, had an interior that didn’t quite live up to its price and also had the unenviable reputation of being a guzzler. This new Vitara’s got a bigger 2.4-litre engine, makes 163bhp and 23kgm of torque, and has disc brakes on all four wheels. This comes at a price of Rs. 16.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), Rs 2.5 lakh more than the earlier car. As there is very little in terms of extra equipment or features, it is safe to say that the price increase is mostly for the engine. But is this actually worth paying for?

The new engine is a step above the earlier 2.0-litre unit. It also gets variable valve timing and the balancer shaft is now built into the oil pump to save space. It’s brisk, it’s got a strong midrange, a frantic top-end and performance that is sure to put a smile on your face.

Throttle responses have improved over the entire rev range and the Vitara now feels gutsier than the old one ever did. In fact, it’s more traffic-friendly than the old Vitara too. It’ll pull cleanly away from 1000rpm in third gear but there is an irritating boom in the cabin as the engine works its way to 2000rpm. The engine is quiet enough at idle and when cruising, noise levels are respectable but the engine becomes vocal when it crosses 3500rpm. The gearshift is notchy — it works better when eased through the gate and hesitates when you try and rush it. And, we don’t expect economy to be any better than the 2.0-litre, because it’s still got that full-time four-wheel-drive system.

The Vitara is stiff-kneed in town and there are a lot of sharp vertical movements over bumps and potholes. The suspension is unrefined too. Don’t get us wrong, it’s never extremely uncomfortable but it’s not entirely settled either. In other words, it makes the CR-V seem like a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

The Vitara handles very well though, especially in the wet. That full-time 4WD system gives it a vice-like grip on the road and it never threatens to catch you out.

The hydraulically assisted steering is nicely weighted and linear and there’s good body control. It’s pretty capable off-road too, with its low range transfer case and the centre locking differential.

The rest of the Vitara we know well. It’s a clean, slightly muscular, handsome design and now with the bigger 17-inch wheels, looks taller and beefier than the CR-V.

Apart from the wheels, there’s little to distinguish it from the discontinued 2.0-litre Vitara. The other telltale signs are VVT badges and a very slightly updated grille.

Interior quality is not what you’d expect in a Rs. 16-lakh car. The plastic quality is not great and it borrows too many bits from its less expensive sibling, the SX4.

The Grand Vitara’s ergonomics are generally fine though, with nice touches including reclining rear seats that also split and fold 50:50. The front seats are very comfy. A new climate control system and a trip computer, and an in-dash CD-changer round off the interior upgrade. There are a few gripes though. There’s more black in the cabin than there is darkness at 3 a.m., the boot space is pretty decent and there’s no AUX input port.

So, should you buy one? Well, the new Vitara costs a whopping Rs. 7 lakh less than the CR-V and is much cheaper than the Outlander too.

It’s the stepping stone into the small petrol SUV segment. It’s still no CR-V beater but at this price, it’s the more affordable and practical option.

Technical data

Price Rs 16.5 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai)

Length 4500mm

Width 1810mm

Height 1695mm

Wheelbase 2640mm

Turning circle 11m

Ground clearance 200mm

Kerb weight 1614kg

Engine 4-cyls in-line, 2393cc petrol

Installation Front, longitudinal

Power 163.5bhp at 6000rpm

Torque 23kgm at 4000rpm

Gearbox 5-speed manual

Fuel tank 66 litres

Brakes F/R Ventilated disc/discs

Tyre size 225/65 R16