• The RoadTrip team travels to Strandfontein on the West Coast in Suzuki's new Vitara Brezza.
• The Brezza traversed roads that included gravel and tar.
• Suzuki launched its new Brezza in South Africa earlier in 2021.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24
Sitting on the harbour pier at Doringbaai on a balmy West Coast Autumn day, I could not help but remember the words of the Otis Redding song, "I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay… Wastin' time…"
We were not really wasting time, though; we were filling it with informal conversation and banter, deliberating the small fishing community's recent history while we sampled some local Fryer's Cove wines and West Coast fare. Shooting the breeze, so to speak.
While the area has been inhabited for centuries, 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.
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When he arrived in Doringbaai, he found nothing more than an abandoned wooden shack, but there was no crayfish shortage. 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 a 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 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.
Like a light wind
Our Vitara Brezza GLX auto model, in striking Sizzling Red with a Midnight Black roof, was perfect for the leisurely 600km round trip up the West Coast to Doringbaai and Strandfontein.
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 (2500mm), yet it is shorter (by 180mm) and wider (15mm) with more ride height (198mm vs. 185mm) than its sibling.
On the rough dirt roads leading off the R364 from Piketberg over Leopoldtville and Graafwater towards our destination - and on service roads next to the sea for alluvial diamond mining activities - the higher ground clearance of the Brezza was a plus factor. It ensured a comfortable ride and assisted the front-wheel-drive SUV to negotiate small obstacles and quite deep ruts.
Wafting to Strandfontein
After our quick visit to Doringbaai, we wafted into the quaint and quiet village of Strandfontein. Located on the West Coast Way Wild Route and the newly launched Cape Way Route - but away from the main routes - the small town is an ideal getaway spot.
It has evolved into a favourite tourist attraction for its pristine coastline, where whales and dolphins frequent the sleepy shores. It is also part of the Namaqualand Wild Flower Route and an ideal stopover for those travelling from Namibia along the N7. Our destination in Strandfontein? Sea Breeze self-catering apartments, of course.
Located in Hoogstraat, the apartments have a birds-eye view over the town and its endless white beaches. It's great for jogging along the pristine coastline, and you can opt for activities such as hiking or mountain biking, kayaking in the ocean or on the Olifants River, windsurfing, bodyboarding, diving, snorkelling, or spearfishing (but be warned, the water is brrr-cold).
More relaxing pursuits include bird watching, swimming, a round of golf, wine tasting, or a visit to the Wandering Whale Labyrinth, an inner five circuit labyrinth based on the one built at the Chartes 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.
Finding our way via the Apple CarPlay phone interface on the Suzuki's large seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, we also went to the Labyrinth of Memories. It's near Papendorp north of Strandfontein and hand-built with stones from the original 'Viswater House' of Lady Fryer, Richard Fryer's wife who built the first school in Strandfontein.
In the GLX, the infotainment system also displays the image from the reverse camera, and Bluetooth, an auxiliary input, and a USB port are standard. It also displays vehicle information and alerts and allows hands-free control of the system and the phone interface via steering wheel buttons or voice commands.
Standard is climate control, electric windows, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, an interior light package (with five mood colours for the instrument panel), some silver interior highlights, a front centre armrest, a push-button starter, keyless entry, and rain-sensing wipers. But the cooled upper cubbyhole was the handiest addition, keeping our drinks cold during the journey.
An overdrive gear
The tried and tested K15B naturally aspirated 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine (as also used in the Jimny, Ertiga, and Ciaz), delivering 77kW and 138Nm of torque with drive distributed to the front wheels via a four-speed auto transmission, felt peppy and lively in this global best-seller and 2017 Indian Car of the Year.
However, with fourth gear, in essence, an overdrive gear, the auto' box started to hunt on inclines, which was somewhat irritating. While this normal transition can be disabled with a gear-mounted switch, it leads 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. With a retail price of R309 900, the Vitara Brezza can stand its ground against competitors such as the Ford Ecosport, Hyundai Venue, Mahindra XUV300, Honda WR-V, as well as the imminently expected Nissan Magnite and Kia Sonet. However, its biggest contender will be the Toyota Urban Cruiser clone.
A class-leading four-year/60 000km service plan and a five-year or 200 000km promotional mechanical warranty assures peace of mind, so all you need to do is set the mood lighting of the Brezza in the digital information to blue, and head off to Strandfontein to experience total relaxation, peace, and tranquillity.
Life's a breeze, man.
Engine: 1462cc inline-4 petrol
Maximum power: 77kW @ 6000rpm
Maximum torque: 136Nm @ 4400rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, 4×2
0-100km/h: 11.8 seconds
Top speed: 175km/h
Tyre size: 215/60R16
Wheel size: 16-inch, alloy
Fuel tank: 50L
Consumption: 6.92-litres/100km (claimed)
CO2 emissions: 147g/km
Warranty: Five-year/200 000km
Service plan: Four year/60 000km
Price: R309 900
Normally aspirated, bullet-proof, and fuss-free petrol engine, higher ground clearance, good ride quality, well-appointed interior.
We do not like:
Engine becomes noisy at high revs, four-speed auto not so slick and tends to 'hunt' on inclines, hard plastic interior trim.