The Vitara Brezza is quite a complete package. It's got features, looks, is priced well and is ridiculously efficient. One chink in its armour then was the absence of an automatic. But not anymore. So, does this addition make the AMT Vitara Brezza our default choice for an urban SUV?
With the 2018 update, Maruti has introduced the AMT transmission in the Vitara Brezza. And though Maruti cars with the 1.3-litre diesel engine have had an AMT before in models like the Swift and the Dzire, this is the first time the same is being coupled with the more powerful DDiS200 tune. Alongside the AMT addition, there have been some feature updates as well. Does this combination work well enough for you to say goodbye to your traffic woes? And what else has changed?
As far as the looks are concerned, the only difference in the 2018 update are the black alloy wheels, which are now available in the Z and Z+ variants. They replace the older gray ones but the shape and size remains the same. In our opinion, the black ones do look better. Also, this orange colour is a new addition, replacing the older blue.
Then there is the chrome strip on top of the license plate, which was earlier available only in the top end variant but is now available across the range.
Everything else like the boxy SUV shape, LED light guides, floating roof design and the large glass area which made the Brezza a hit in the first place is still the same.
Inside, again, things remain exactly the same. You get a neat looking all-black dashboard with the SmartPlay infotainment system. It supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. You further get bluetooth, AUX and USB connectivity as well. In this top variant, you also get 6 speakers and the audio quality, though a little bass heavy, is impressive.
You sit in a commanding position, one of the advantages of the Vitara Brezza. But as the advantages stand as they were, so do the niggles. The plastic quality and the textures feels cheap and the overall interior quality does not feel premium. In the AMT variant, you further lose out on cruise control, a feature which is present in the manual variant.
As a part of the 2018 update, Maruti has removed the ‘optional’ variants from the lineup. You now get safety features like dual airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat mounts, rear parking sensors and seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters as standard in all variants.
The biggest change in the AMT variants is the AMT gear shifter. It's simple to use and you can push the lever to the left to get into manual mode.
No modifications have been made to the 1.3-litre DDiS200 diesel engine. It still makes 90PS of max power and 200Nm of peak torque. It continues to suffers from turbo lag below 2,000rpm and delivers good performance beyond that, till about 4500rpm. What the AMT transmission does is reduce the effect of the turbo lag.
The gearbox does not shift the gears too often, be it up or down. Also, it hold the revs in lower gears to keep the car in the meat of the powerband. As a result, you get a smooth ride without worrying about getting the revs up. Even for overtakes, the gearbox downshifts only when the throttle action is sudden and strong, otherwise it keeps the car in the same gear to complete the manoeuvre. On highways, the change from 4th to 5th gear can barely be felt, and the car clocks miles happily.
The throttle response has been dialed back a little. As a result, you will have to provide more input to get noticeable performance. Gear shifts are smooth, as long as you are gentle with the throttle. If you like to drive fast in traffic, it's better to shift to the manual mode and control the shifts yourself.
But the act of the gearbox holding revs has taken a bit of a toll on the efficiency. Where the manual returned a mileage of 21kmpl in the city in our tests, the AMT returned 17.6kmpl. Even on the highway, the efficiency went down by around 5kmpl, to 20.9kmpl. But even these figures are well ahead of the competition and even on its own, they are nothing short of impressive.
Overall, the AMT has been tuned for city use and because the gearbox keeps you in the powerband for most of the time, driving the AMT feels even better than the manual!
Ride and handling
The Vitara Brezza has always had a stiff ride. Though it feels like the stiffness has been reduced a bit now, it still transmits the vibes from broken roads and potholes to inside the cabin. Especially when you are driving slow, the undulations of the surface can be felt inside the cabin quite easily. Going over bumps a little faster does take the sting out a bit.
This ride gets better on the highways and the body roll, especially considering the boxy shape, remains well under control. The ride remains stable even at speeds close to 120kmph.
The steering is light to turn and it’s a breeze to use in the city. On the highways, it does weigh up but the feel remains a little lacking. Even the brakes are well tuned and the action is progressive and predictable
The Vitara Brezza is one of the last compact SUVs to get an automatic transmission. But, though Maruti is late to the party, they have done it right. The AMT has been tuned beautifully for city use. It keeps you in the powerband to avoid turbo lag and doesn't change the gears too often to give you a smooth ride experience. Not to forget the conventional SUV looks and the super efficient engine which keep it the best selling SUV of the country.
There are still some drawbacks to the Vitara Brezza though. Maruti could have gone a little softer with the suspension to offer a plusher ride, which would have made it an even better urban package. The stiff ride, tacky plastics and the lack of a petrol variant still hold it back.
Now, though, with the convenience offered by the AMT, the Brezza presents an even stronger case for itself. And because the AMT makes the performance more usable in the city, we'd recommend it over the manual as well.