‘We’re now present in all important segments of the car market’

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Yesterday, Maruti Suzuki started rolling out its compact SUV Vitara Brezza from its regular dealerships. It will be retailed from the company’s over 1,800 sales outlets. The prices for the SUV start at Rs 6.99 lakh for the base variant, going up to Rs 9.68 lakh for the top trim. Since the company announced the prices on March 8, around 70,000 enquiries and over 20,000 bookings have been registered. The Vitara Brezza comes in seven variants and nine colour options, including dual-tone trims. The compact SUV is powered by the proven 1.3-litre 200 DDiS diesel engine. It directly competes with Ford EcoSport and Mahindra TUV300. CV Raman, Executive Director, Engineering, Maruti Suzuki India—he is also the Chief Engineer for the Vitara Brezza project—says that the SUV has been developed keeping the Indian customer in mind. “The discussion for this project started in April 2012. In June 2012 we started working on it, and it took us three-and-a-half years to develop it,” Raman takes us through the journey. In an interaction with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that, with the Vitara Brezza, Maruti Suzuki is now present across all important segments of the Indian passenger vehicle market. Excerpts:

How challenging is it to design a sub-4 metre SUV? You have to accommodate so many elements in such little space…

Since inception, we faced three challenges. One, we had to build it on Suzuki’s Global C platform. Two, we had to create an urban SUV, so had to focus on the appropriate height of the vehicle and package it in such a way that it has adequate legroom especially at the rear and sufficient boot space. The result is that the rear seating space has enough room for even a six-foot tall man wearing a turban. The third challenge was getting overall proportions right while staying within the 4-metre limit. Essentially, we had to get the layout right for meeting customer requirements.
In addition, we had two design directions—either going for a bold SUV look or a crossover look. We went up to the clay model stage with both designs, and finally decided the SUV look.

What kind of market research was carried out before the designers started their job?

Our research found that the Indian customer wants a bold and masculine looking SUV. He also wants the seating to be upright and that he has a good view of the road. We incorporated such learnings into our design process. To make the Vitara Brezza look different from most SUVs, we have given it what we call a “floating roof” and a dual-tone treatment in the top-end variant. Similarly, we have given it squarish wheel housings—most SUVs have rounded ones. The grille gets a very bold and aggressive stance. Inside the cabin, out focus was on better connectivity, so we have installed Apple CarPlay.

Who is the ideal buyer for this SUV?

There is a big hatchback car segment in India, and the natural progression for them is sedans, crossovers or SUVs. Now, we at Maruti Suzuki didn’t have an SUV in our portfolio to attract such customers. That’s where the Vitara Brezza fits in. We are sure that now we won’t lose such customers to competition.

Why is there no petrol variant on offer?

The petrol engine variant will come later and we are considering options.

How future-ready is the Vitara Brezza as far as safety measures are concerned?

It is the first car in the country to be certified for offset and side impact crash tests which will be enforced in 2017. Also, while driver airbag is a standard on all variants, front passenger airbag and ABS with EBD is offered as an option from base variant onwards.

The customer in this segment is value-conscious. How did you manage to make the car frugal?

First, the DDiS 200 engine is acclaimed for its fuel-efficiency. In addition, we have used innovative technologies like intelligent battery management, gearshift indicator and low rolling-resistance tyres for better mileage. In fact, the 24.3kpl mileage the Vitara Brezza delivers is the highest in the SUV category and 10-12% superior to other SUVs.

In addition, the use of pendulum engine mount system, and effective use of acoustic insulation and absorption materials around the cabin and engine compartment ensure low NVH levels.

Like the Baleno, will the Vitara Brezza also be launched in Japan?

The Vitara Brezza has been developed keeping the Indian customer in mind. Wherever it can find acceptance and appeal, we will export it to those countries. However, as far as quality levels are concerned, it is as good as any global car.

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