What is it?
Another week and another model gets the option of an automatic transmission. This time it’s the turn of the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza that has just been launched with an automated manual transmission or AMT gearbox. The Brezza AMT’s launch comes close on the heels of the arrival of the Tata Nexon AMT, although it was showcased in the Indonesian motor show in 2016. But where the Nexon AMT is available with both petrol and diesel engine options, the Vitara Brezza is offered with the sole diesel engine. A petrol engine for the Vitara Brezza continues to be missed but the option of an automatic is surely a step in the right direction.
Interestingly, like the Nexon AMT that debuted a new orange paint shade, the Brezza AMT is offered in a new Autumn Orange colour. New to the Vitara Brezza range (and not just the AMT) is the gloss black finish to the alloy wheels that add a sporty touch. Also, you won’t find any badging apart from the ‘DDiS’ logo on the fenders. Everything else though stays the same, including the 90hp and 200Nm, 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine under the hood.
What is it like on the inside?
Inside, there isn’t much to differentiate the AMT from the manual version. Isofix child seat mounts at the back seat are a noteworthy and welcome addition, however cruise control on this top-spec variant is missing. The rest of the interiors are identical to the manual version, with top ZDI+ versions featuring the SmartPlay touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and navigation. The cabin is roomy, the front seats are comfy and well-cushioned, and the rear seat back rest is slightly upright. It’s a practical space with lots of storage for odds and ends within the cabin, as well as offering a sizeable boot for luggage.
What is it like to drive?
Slot the gear lever in ‘D’ and the linear creep function of the five-speed AMT allows you to get going without a jerk, a characteristic of earlier AMT systems. Once up to speed, upshifts are timely and smooth as long as you’re gentle on the accelerator. Mash it in for a quick overtake, and there is a slight delay before it shifts down and hurls you ahead. The engine is strongest in the mid-range and pulls well after 2,300rpm all the way up to the redline. When you’re driving in the city though, there is none of that clunky sound during shifts that is quite evident in the Dzire AMT. You also have a manual mode that lets you control shifts manually and the system will not upshift until you do so. That said, there is quite a bit of delay in manual shifts and that almost defeats the purpose. Hill starts are another area where AMTs often struggle and the Brezza is no different. Yes, it will hold but only after moving back a few inches, which is enough to trade paint in a bumper-to-bumper traffic scenario. Downhill too, you need to be alert and on the brakes as the creep function kicks in just a bit too late. Reversing and parking, however, is easy and you don’t need to push down too much into the accelerator.
Comfort and ride quality are still the same as there haven’t been any changes to the suspension setup. The ride has an underlying firmness to it that allows for more bumps to register into the cabin at low speeds. High-speed stability though, is impressive and you feel confident behind the wheel. The steering, too, is just the right amount of light and all-round visibility is good as well.
Should I buy one?
The AMT gearbox definitely has added a plus to the Brezza. You don’t need to work the gearbox and clutch around the engine’s low-speed turbo lag as you would on the manual, making the AMT that crucial bit more convenient and easy to drive in town. It’s not perfect but for city dwellers sold on the Vitara Brezza’s other qualities, the Rs 50,000 premium for the AMT versions is easy to justify. The Vitara Brezza AMT range starts at Rs 8.54 lakh for the VDI trim and tops off at Rs 10.49 lakh for the ZDI+ trim.
Of course, we can’t talk about the Vitara Brezza AMT without a word on the Tata Nexon AMT. Do note, the Nexon AMT is available only on the top-spec XZA+ variant (Rs 10.59 lakh for the dual-tone one) for the time being, while the Brezza AMT is available in three trims and across a wider price band.
On paper, the Tata Nexon AMT has the advantage with its more powerful engine, six-speed AMT to the Brezza’s five-speed unit and is also the only one with drive modes, too. However, only a real-world comparison will reveal which is best. Watch this space.