Compact SUV showdown: EcoSport is fun, but Vitara Brezza is practical

  • Nikhil Bhatia, Autocar
  • Updated: Apr 28, 2016 15:26 IST
The Maruti scores on what it is known best for — endless mile munching. But if you want to smile while driving, go for the Ford EcoSport. (Autocar)

A mere two days after Maruti Suzuki launched the Vitara Brezza and the compact SUV became the talk of the town, rival Ford did the best (or worst?) thing to divert some of the attention back to its own EcoSport. It cut prices. And by no small measure, mind you. Diesel EcoSports, for instance, now cost a whopping Rs 1.12 lakh less than before.

The new pricing means there’s little difference between EcoSport and Brezza prices now. The top-spec Ford EcoSport 1.5 diesel Titanium+ costs Rs 9.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) while the fully loaded Brezza ZDi+ comes in at Rs 9.68 lakh.

We picked the Ford EcoSport as our Car of the Year 2014 and know it’s a brilliant package. Mechanical and cosmetic updates for 2016 have made it better still. Question is, could a cheeky Ford and its EcoSport spoil Maruti’s party?

When the duo come together on serpentine roads, the EcoSport takes the lead on the scoring sheet. Its precise handling and agility make it an exciting compact SUV to drive with a level of driver engagement you just don’t get on the Vitara Brezza. Sure, the Maruti turns into corners with confidence and grips well, but the Brezza is simply no match for the Ford on steering feel and front-end bite. The duo is evenly matched on ride comfort. However, on the rougher roads, it’s the EcoSport’s suspension that delivers a flatter ride

Read | Hit or miss? Ten things to know about Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza

The Ford also has the slight advantage on uphill and low-speed sections of the road. Its updated 1.5-litre diesel engine that now makes a strong 98.9bhp and delivers power in a more linear and progressive manner and this greatly helps when driving in town. The net effect is that at slower speeds, you don’t have to constantly use the gears.

The gearshifts are fairly smooth on the Vitara Brezza which has lighter clutch but drivers will have to pay more attention to being in the right gear at low revs. The smaller 1.3-litre diesel engine doesn’t feel as alert as the Ford unit when starting out. However, when you rev past the 2,000rpm mark, the engine comes alive.

The strong mid-range makes overtaking on the highway more effortless than in the EcoSport, whose engine neither revs as quickly nor as hard. In fact, the mid-range surge in power is the reason why the Vitara is marginally quicker than the Ford in the 0-100kph dash, taking 12.96 seconds to the EcoSport’s 13.67 seconds time. What undoubtedly helps the Vitara’s overall performance is the fact that it weighs 95kg less. Though its fairly well-built, the Brezza feels lighter too and doesn’t give the same impression of solidity as the EcoSport.

When you drive both cars back-to-back, other points of difference between the two compact SUVs also come through. Their cabins for one, are quite distinct from one another. Where the EcoSport’s thick pillars can reduce your field of vision, the Vitara offers excellent all-round visibility. The Brezza’s dashboard with the 7-inch high-res touchscreen feels a bit basic but its better than the Ecosport’s dashboard which is made of hard and scratchy plastics. The Ford does have the more distinctive dash design but unfortunately it isn’t as user-friendly. There are way too many buttons bunched up on the centre console and the small, low-res screen for the infotainment system looks outdated.

The Brezza’s front seats are more generous than the Ecosport’s but a touch too soft and over long drives its not as supportive. Where Ford has done well is to offer the steering with tilt and telescopic adjust and this helps find the best driving position. Both models feature armrests for the driver but the one on the Brezza can be moved fore and aft too, and also hides a storage bay underneath. On the subject, the Brezza does provide a few more dedicated spaces to store odds and ends, but the EcoSport’s cabin is generous in this area too.

Read | Vitara Brezza review: A well-rounded package from Maruti Suzuki

At the rear, both SUVs impress but for different reasons. The Brezza is clearly roomier. Its larger glasshouse lets in lots of light and makes the rear section of the cabin look airier. But what really sets the Brezza apart is that there’s significantly more shoulder room. Where you can manage to seat three abreast in the back of the Vitara, doing so isn’t as comfortable in the EcoSport’s narrower cabin. The Ford impresses with its seats which offer excellent thigh support. You also get the option to adjust the supportive backrest’s angle.

The rear seats on both SUVs split 60:40 and can be folded flat to create a massive storage bay. With the rear seats in place, both cars offer decent luggage space for a compact SUV but the Ecosport’s side opening tailgate can make loading luggage inconvenient.

The top-spec versions of both SUVs come equipped with push-button start, steering-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, auto climate control, rear-parking sensors, auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. The Brezza additionally gets a modern touchscreen Smartplay infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation, a reverse camera and cruise control.

Read | Ford unveils new EcoSport at Rs 6.79 lakh ahead of festivals

However, it’s worth noting that the Ecosport’s top-end variant gets six airbags where the Maruti’s gets two.

While looks are subjective, in the case of these models, their appearance says a lot about the rest of the package. The EcoSport, with its oversized octagonal grille, high bonnet and tailgate-mounted spare wheel has the more interesting form. It looks more individualistic and youthful as a compact SUV. While it has many strengths such as a pleasant engine and strong focus on safety, you must buy the EcoSport if driving experience is paramount to you.

The Brezza, on the other hand, looks straightforward and is styled to please all. It’s not quite as engaging to drive as the EcoSport can be, but does offer that little more by way of comfort, practicality and everyday ease-of-use. Also, if the claimed fuel economy numbers are anything to go by, the Brezza promises to be more fuel efficient too. Lastly, the Brezza comes with the peace of mind that only buying a Maruti can get you.

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