Cars from the Maruti Suzuki stable need no introduction. Except for a few, India's largest carmaker has been able to capture a sizeable chunk of each segment it's entered - if not lead it! A Maruti today isn't just all about economy and utility but also about ensuring that their products are slightly more trendy and stylish than before without sacrificing performance or any of the other core values that their cars have come to stand for in the Indian marketplace. In light of the recently implemented BS IV emission norms, we test the new BS-IV compliant Maruti Swift petrol and diesel.
It's been six years since its debut, but the Swift's design still feels fresh and young. The basic design theme of the Swift, is really very close to the modern avatar of the iconic Mini Cooper, the predecessor of the once upon a time “common man's car in Britain” - the Austin Mini. The Swift borrows heavily from the Mini on the design front and one of the first things you'd notice is the wheel-at-each-corner stance and the floating-roof. It's a design element wherein the A & B pillars which are normally body-coloured are blacked-out, giving one the impression that the roof is really floating from the C-pillar. What it also does thankfully borrow, is the Mini's cheeky demeanor, although in 1.6 guise which sadly isn't available in India.
When the Swift was launched in the Indian market, Maruti Suzuki used this rather successful car to set internal benchmarks for design, styling and fit & finish. The Swift is currently available in three trim levels - LXi, VXi and ZXi with the petrol engine and the diesel comes in two variants - LDi and VDi . The ‘L' comes with air-conditioning and power steering while the ‘V' variants add power windows, tachometer, central locking and body-coloured mirrors and door handles. ABS is available as an option on the ‘V' variants and standard on the ZXi, which is the feature-laden variant. It comes with dual airbags, built-in MP3 player with steering-mounted controls, height adjustable steering and a climate control system and alloy-wheels.
The front seats of the Swift are fairly comfortable and the thin A-pillar and the large side view mirrors increase the visibility and make parking convenient. The driving position is good enough (though some short drivers will have to get used to the largish dashboard and a nose which really is larger than it seems from the inside) and like most of the modern cars, it even comes equipped with the steering mounted audio controls (in the ZXi only), making scanning through music easier without taking your eyes off the road. The Swift has 232 litres of boot space, which isn't really a lot, but it can accommodate two medium sized suitcases. The rear seats are comfortable for two large adults, but it's only just about adequate in the legroom department - more so if you've got someone tall in the front seat.
Engine, Transmission and Fuel Efficiency:
The Maruti Suzuki Swift was initially launched with a 1.3-litre petrol engine which is the same block that did duty on the Maruti Suzuki Esteem, and the Swift was incidentally the first Indian car to be powered by the Fiat's 1.3-litre Multijet engine - which now powers more than nine Indian cars manufactured by Fiat, Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors. The Swift's 1.3-litre petrol powerplant has been replaced by Maruti Suzuki's new 1.2-litre engine as all the new cars manufactured from April 2010 should fulfill the Bharat Stage-IV norms in 13 major Indian cities. This is the same motor which propels the Maruti Suzuki Ritz and a detuned version of the same block is there on the Maruti Suzuki Eeco.
The gear ratios of both the Swifts have been well calculated and have taken into account city as well as highway driving habits of the Indian consumer. Which means, that you can actually lug the car around in a lower gear than you'd think was possible and still have the car pull away without too much fuss? The first three gears are short and produce a good amount of torque which makes overtaking easier. The fourth and fifth gears are tall which makes cruising on highways that much lighter on the wallet since the car is sipping less fuel.
The Swift petrol returned an overall figure of 11.98kmpl which included driving in the city and the highways - albeit rater swiftly (pun intended!). The Swift diesel's overall mileage was around 14.5kmpl and no doubt, can be bettered with a light right foot and long winding roads where the car will happily cruise in the tall 4th & 5th gears all day.
The engineers at Suzuki have stuck to the basics and designed a simple and compact suspension design for the Swift, to increase cabin space. The car sports McPherson struts at the front and has a torsion beam suspension (with coil) setup at the rear. The Swift has decent ride at low and high speeds. The ride is smooth and fairly composed and most of the road shocks and vibrations are absorbed by the dampers. The slightly high-ish profile tyres also help in this and the ZXi (with the alloys) comes shod with 185/70 R14 rubber whereas the other variants come with 165/80 R14.
The steering wheel of the Swift is light at low speeds and feels meaty to hold. However, the electronic power steering system feels a bit slack at higher speeds as the steering doesn't really weigh up as much as one would have liked. A heavier steering at speed would go a long way in giving the driver better feedback of the road conditions and further boost his/her confidence to take corners with even more aplomb.
The Maruti Suzuki Swift is definitely a value-for-money hatch which is well packaged as a product. It has good styling (if a little all too familiar now), efficient engines, good fuel efficiency and fairly competent driving dynamics. What you also buy into when you purchase a Swift, is the unmatched nationwide Maruti service network and the peace of mind when it comes to ownership costs and resale. The Swift thankfully (unlike it's booted sibling the DZire) doesn't have too much of a waiting period and is almost off-the-shelf. This popular hatch is still a clear leader and it's really the competition that has to catch up. That said, other manufacturers are getting really serious and are offering even more value-for-money than ever before, but it will take some time and plenty of doing before India's largest carmaker will be truly shaken from its throne. Till then Maruti will continue shifting the Swift into homes as quickly as they can make them.