The Grand Vitara's smart hybrid features the ubiquitous MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. It is well tuned and offers a good balance between stiffness at low speeds and compliance at higher speeds. A wrong hole in this place or a sharp undulation missed there will not disturb the peace of this car.
Driving a 1.5L Grand Vitara Smart Hybrid
This powertrain (and future versions and applications) is a major aspect of the Maruti-Toyota partnership, with both parties hoping to benefit from their joint performance in terms of product placement and compliance with increasingly stringent emissions and related requirements.
The hybrid powertrain consists of the Toyota M15A 3-cylinder petrol engine with a capacity of 1,490 cc, built on the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, generating 91 hp at 5,500 rpm and 122 Nm at 4,400 rpm. This petrol engine works with an AC synchronous motor that generates 79 hp and 141 Nm. The total combined power at the wheels is the indicated 114 hp. With a curb weight of 1,295 kg, the Grand Vitara has a power-to-weight ratio of just 88 hp/t, which is rather unimpressive compared to other models in its segment. However, Maruti focuses heavily on performance rather than efficiency. A 177.6 V, 0.76 kWh lithium-ion battery in the boot powers the electric motors responsible for powering the drive wheels in EV and hybrid modes. The battery specification means that Pure Electric Vehicle Mode can only be used for short bursts before the petrol engine needs to kick in to assist driving and recharge the battery.
The Grand Vitara uses a more conventional hybrid system utilizing a power split device and an e-CVT transmission that combines the power of the gasoline engine and the electric motor. There is no such a clever drive lock system as in the City. As a result, the Grand Vitara handles like a regular CVT, with some correlation between speed and engine rpm.
Hit the brake and the blue power button and all you'll see is a "Ready" notification on the MID display indicating the car is powered on in EV mode. The gasoline engine does not start at idle. Therefore, you won't really hear the motor unless you're in motion, when the motor kicks in smoothly to charge the battery (when driving gently) or directly power the car (when driving aggressively). The combination of an electric motor, an on-demand petrol engine and an efficient e-CVT transmission ensures a smooth ride around town. Closing the gaps is child's play, and driving on it runs smoothly, even in heavy traffic. Ride with a heavy foot and you'll hear more of the gasoline engine, which not only charges the battery, but also transfers the total power to the wheels. In the city, the combination of the electric motor and e-CVT provides one of the smoothest driving experiences imaginable. While cruising around the city, you feel at home and never feel tired, even if you get stuck in traffic.
On the highway, the lack of grunt is quickly noticeable. Overtaking is not a point and squirt task and should be planned carefully. Efficiency is good at high speed up to 90-100 km/h, but after that it decreases. The petrol engine gets really loud, and it's a typical case of "grunt without poking" or something like what fellow mod libranof1987 expressed in more fruity language when trying to run over a big truck.
Take it easy and drive at double figures and you'll enjoy a smooth ride and fantastic fuel economy. Enthusiastic drivers, look elsewhere.
The Grand Vitara gets riding modes that fundamentally change the throttle response as well as the behavior of the internal combustion engine. There is a dedicated EV mode button that allows the Grand Vitara to be driven as an electric vehicle for the maximum possible distance. However, if you press the accelerator pedal harder, the car exceeds ~40 km/h or the battery charge level is too low, the system will revert from EV mode to Hybrid mode. This is basically useful if you want to use your car to drop your kids off at a school bus pickup point near your home.
In addition to the EV mode, the Smart Hybrid has THREE driving modes: Eco, Normal and Power. These modes provide different throttle response.
This is the default mode between Eco and Power modes. It is at its best in the city and offers the perfect compromise between performance and efficiency. There's really no need to change it unless you're going uphill or on undivided roads.
In this mode, the combustion engine does not start as easily, unless you press harder on the accelerator. The response is slower and tries to maintain hybrid mode, where the internal combustion engine only charges the battery and does not put power to the wheels unless you press the accelerator hard.
In this mode, it's the other way around. Even with a light touch of the throttle, the internal combustion engine comes alive and supports the power delivery. On undivided motorways, this is the mode for safe overtaking. Throttle response is much sharper and you will rarely see the combustion engine shut down. Of course, this mode has the greatest impact on fuel consumption.
B-mode is also available via the gear lever itself for maximum regenerative braking. Very useful when descending or in other situations requiring engine braking, and also allows you to quickly charge the battery.
Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH)
An unpleasant surprise and a potential fly in the ointment. While the cabin insulation is decent, the powertrain is nothing like a typical hybrid like the Camry or the newer City e:HEV. The M15A 3-piston petrol engine is unrefined compared to Maruti's own K15C and gets really loud at high throttle, with a rumble noticeable in the cabin at higher revs. Various howls of electrical components can be heard, and in a quiet environment the car can be quite audible. Definitely not the sneak up before you notice variety. The sound experience is better in the second row, but is enough to sometimes annoy both passengers in the first row. The good thing is that road noise and suspension noise are well contained, and the overall NVH isn't too bad.
Mileage and fuel consumption
Fuel economy and range will understandably be the Smart Hybrid's greatest strengths. The declared fuel consumption is as much as 27.97 km/l. However, when driven calmly, it is able to provide a high double-digit FE, which is obvious, and over 20 kmpl is easy to achieve with a little attention to the characteristics of the drivetrain. Performance in heavy traffic is an asset, where most internal combustion engines provide the worst fuel efficiency, but hybrids shine. All said and done, it is capable of providing a tank range that will make the most efficient diesel engines green (envy, not less polluting).
The Grand Vitara's smart hybrid features the ubiquitous MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. It is well tuned and offers a good balance between stiffness at low speeds and compliance at higher speeds. A wrong hole in this place or a sharp undulation missed there will not disturb the peace of this car. The whole thing is generally flexible, but not completely soft. On the highway, the car is stable and prone to undulations (unlike its XL6 sibling, which becomes vertically tilted under similar circumstances) and handles cracks with ease. Hardness at low speeds translates into a stable ride at higher speeds.
Service and dynamics
For a crossover, the driving dynamics are surprisingly car-like. Stability at high speeds is good, and the car does not slow down when changing direction quickly. In high-speed corners, we were able to stay on track at decent speeds without understeering or having to correct the steering in the middle corners. The chassis seems to be able to carry far more than the drivetrain can provide, which is great or unfortunate depending on whether the rider is half empty or half full.
The steering is well calibrated and not as light as a typical Maruti. It balances speed nicely and isn't obscure like some Korean specimens. There's a lot of game stalling and no overall feedback, but nothing to surprise the driver.
Thanks to the front and rear discs, braking is effective and trouble-free. We managed to stop the car in a straight line at 80 km/h without any problems. It takes some getting used to, but the non-linear braking response that can come from the combination of regenerative braking and vacuum assist, which is electric rather than driven by the ICE motor.
Driving the 1.5-litre MT with AllGrip Select AWD
Another interesting offering of the Grand Vitara is the AllGrip variant equipped with the famous Suzuki AllGrip Select AWD system. Please note that the AllGrip variant is only offered with the 1.5L 4-cylinder petrol engine (no Smart Hybrid) with MT 5-speed transmission. Maruti prepared an adapted off-road track on site with various ramps, rises, articulation pits, swings, a mud-mud pit and an icy rise to demonstrate the traction management, suspension articulations and AWD off-road capabilities.
The AllGrip Select module offers four dynamically selectable modes: Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock.
Mostly normal terrain 2WD mode focusing on fuel economy. It intelligently detects slippage on the driven front wheels and redirects power proportionally to the rear wheels to stabilize traction. After detecting that the front wheels have regained sufficient traction, the drive system switches back to 2WD.
Intended for sporty driving, focusing mainly on generating higher torque with lower throttle input to improve acceleration response. The system dynamically detects throttle, steering inputs and other parameters to assign optimum power to the rear wheels, improving traction and cornering stability.
Mostly 4WD mode on slippery surfaces. It helps counter wheel spin in conjunction with ESP and maintains directional stability by dynamically applying power to the appropriate wheels to adjust traction.
It focuses on getting the vehicle out of grip-restricted situations. It uses feedforward control to distribute power to the rear wheels before the throttle is pressed and stays in standby mode then dynamically adjusts torque 50:50 to the front and rear wheels when the throttle is applied. When one or more wheels are slipping, ESP steps in, braking the slipping wheels while maintaining torque and distributing torque to the gripping wheels for increased break-away capability.
While there is understandable skepticism about tailoring a track to a vehicle and running demo runs with trained instructors in a controlled environment, this needs to be seen in the context of the target demographic. The vehicle is NOT intended for rough off-road driving by experienced professionals. It is designed for laymen who find themselves in a difficult situation on the road and equips them with the tools to safely get out of the vehicle.
However, this does not detract from the fact that some obstacles were really difficult. And that the vehicle itself and the AllGrip system performed admirably, leaving many impressed with its ability to handle simulated terrain. The overnight rains had left most of the road surface slicker than the organizers had intended, the slush was almost a foot deep in several places, and the cars were shod on rather average road tires. More than one participant expressed the opinion that they would love to see what this car could do with the right shoes and on more difficult terrain, and we are inclined to agree.
Equipped with AllGrip Select, the Grand Vitara is a capable off-road vehicle that can make a significant difference in the crowded crossover segment. We hope that Maruti will price it reasonably and offer it in more trim levels in the future.
Driving 1.5L AT petrol
We had the chance to go for a very short ride with a regular Smart Hybrid equipped with a 6-speed AT torque converter, with the same drivetrain as the 2022 XL6 and Brezza. We wanted to see if Maruti modified the powertrain in any way to make it more dynamic in this larger CSUV. However, we are disappointed to report that the driving experience is almost identical - a variant powered by the naturally aspirated K15C DualJet 1,462cc petrol engine that produces 102 hp at 6,000 rpm and 137 Nm at 4,400 rpm, achieving equally sluggish performance like his siblings (click here to read the driving report).
This variant may find buyers among the price-conscious and those who don't need all-wheel drive, but either is a better option in terms of performance compared to the refined but boring K15C.
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