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Breezing In

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The new Vitara Brezza has recently breezed into the country, and in keeping with the Suzuki philosophy, this nimble urban runabout has the ground clearance, ride height and interior space of a true SUV. We recently took the flagship GLX auto model to Strandfontein on the Cape West Coast just to shoot the breeze.

With its striking Sizzling Red and Midnight Black dual-tone paint coat, our Vitara Brezza GLX auto model was perfect for a leisurely 600 km round trip to Doringbaai and Strandfontein to experience some of the renowned West Coast hospitality and serenity.

First introduced in India in 2016, with the latest upgraded model arriving last year, the Vitara Brezza has since become the most popular compact SUV in that country, accounting for 23% of its segment share and 11% of all SUV sales across all categories. To date, Suzuki has sold over 600,000 Brezzas.

The newcomer, slotting in above the Ignis and below the Vitara, has the same wheelbase as the Vitara (2,500 mm), yet it is shorter (by 180 mm) and wider (by 15 mm) with more ride height (198 mm vs 185 mm) than its sibling. This higher ground clearance gave the Brezza a comfortable ride on the rough dirt roads leading off the R364.

Our route took us from Piketberg over Leopoldtville and Graafwater towards Doringbaai. Here, its ride height made it possible to negotiate minor obstacles and quite deep ruts on the coastline service roads used by the alluvial diamond mining industry, which excavates these precious stones from the seabed. 

The small town of Doringbaai was first settled in 1925 when the North Bay Canning Company instructed a Dutchman named Koos Bleeker to establish a crayfish-packing factory in the West Coast area. When he arrived in Doringbaai, he found nothing more than an abandoned wooden shack, but there was no shortage of crayfish. 

Fryer’s Cove

Bleeker set out to find locals who would be willing to help with the factory’s construction, and one of the first to assist was Jan Laubscher from the Sandveld. The Laubscher brothers were still farming in the area in the early 2000s, and the Fryer’s Cove vineyards were founded on part of their farm. 

Fryer’s Cove was named after the British settler Richard Fryer, the first commercial farmer in the area who entrenched a tradition of community investment in the area when it was still used to anchor trade boats with goods transported to Vanrhynsdorp by camel from the bay. 

Today, there is not a camel in sight, and the fishing factory has also closed, but the lighthouse with its black band, rebuilt in 1993, still watches over the small rocky outcrop. As one of the last outposts for traditional West Coast hospitality, Fryer’s Cove remains involved in school sponsorships and job creation efforts in the area.

Strandfontein Sea Breeze

 After our quick visit to Doringbaai, we wafted into the quaint and quiet village of Strandfontein like a light wind. Located on the West Coast Way Wild Route but away from the main routes, the small town is an ideal getaway spot. It has evolved into a favourite tourist attraction thanks to its pristine coastline, where whales and dolphins frequent the sleepy shores. 

Our destination in Strandfontein was Sea Breeze self-catering apartments (of course) located in Hoogstraat with a birds-eye view over the town and its endless white beaches. Relaxing pursuits on a leisure visit include bird watching, swimming, a round of golf, wine tasting – or a visit to the Wandering Whale Labyrinth, based on the one built at the Chartres Cathedral in France. 

Situated on a clifftop south of Doringbaai, its paths are made from blue mussel shells and rocks with a rose-pink quartz centre, handpicked by the community. Using the Apple CarPlay phone interface on the large 7” touchscreen infotainment system of the Brezza, we also found our way to the Labyrinth of Memories near Papendorg north of Strandfontein.

The infotainment system also displays images from the reverse camera, as well as vehicle information and alerts, and allow hands-free control of the system and the phone interface via steering wheel buttons or with voice commands. Bluetooth, an auxiliary input and a USB port are also standard. 

Other amenities in the GLX include automatic climate control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, an interior light package, a push-button starter, keyless entry, an auto-dim rear-view mirror, auto-folding side mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. The handiest additions, though, are the 12V port in the luggage area, additional tweeters for the sound system and the cooled upper cubbyhole, which kept our drinks lovely and cold during the journey.

On the Road

The tried and tested K15B naturally aspirated 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine (also used in the Jimny, Ertiga and Ciaz) delivers 77 kW and 138 Nm of torque and feels peppy and lively. However, the four-speed auto ’box in Suzuki’s global best-seller and the 2017 Indian Car of the Year wasn’t so slick.

With fourth gear essentially an overdrive gear, it irritatingly started to hunt on inclines, and while normal transition can be disabled with a gear-mounted switch, it led to a noisy drive and higher fuel consumption. Still, the Brezza was an agreeable companion on the open road… fun to drive and quite frugal.

Last Word

Retailing for R309,900, the Vitara Brezza is well-appointed and competitively priced against competitors such as the Ford Ecosport, Hyundai Venue, Mahindra XUV300, and the imminently expected Nissan Magnite and Kia Sonet. However, its biggest contender will be the freshly launched Urban Cruiser clone from Toyota.

However, with a class-leading four-year/60,000 km service plan and a five-year or 200,000 km promotional mechanical warranty assuring peace of mind, the Vitara Brezza is a compelling proposition in a highly contested market segment. And to experience total relaxation and tranquillity, set the mood lighting (with a choice of colours) in the digital instrumentation cluster to blue… and head off to Strandfontein.

Text: Ferdi de Vos | Images © Ryan Abbott

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