What is it?
Back in 2005, Maruti was still by far the biggest car maker in the country, but their products were uninspiring and getting long in tooth. Cars like the Esteem, Wagon R, Baleno and the Zen were well past their prime and they were merely selling because of the peace of mind ownership experience. But the landmark car that changed how people perceived Maruti and showed company the way for future products, was the Swift.
It felt young, was fun to drive and appealed to the youth, as well as the brand loyalist. With over 1.7 million units of the car sold in the past 12 years, Swift’s success story is unprecedented. Now the third generation of this sporty hatch is about to be launched at the Auto Expo and we were lucky to get behind the wheel to find out if it can live up to the high expectations.
Previously we reviewed the petrol version and came away impressed. Is the diesel variant as exciting? Read-on to find out.
Starting with aesthetics, Suzuki designers have tried hard to differentiate the Swift from the Dzire. Upfront the single piece matte black plastic grille looks sporty and also more purposeful thanks to the omission of the chrome surround from the Dzire. The new front bumper with a sharply cut chin further adds to its appeal. In profile it looks exactly the same as the Dzire till the B pillar, post which the rear door and tail section is all-new. The unusual placement of the rear door handle, while not the most convenient when your hands are full, makes it look like a sporty three door. The top ZDi plus variant gets diamond cut 15 inch alloys, while the lower ZDi variant gets smaller 14 inch simple wheels. At the back, the Swift looks a bit too simple, especially the large boot section, where Maruti could have added a crease or two to jazz it up a bit. In fact it reminds us of the Nissan Micra, which isn’t exactly a compliment.
Based on the new Heartec platform that also underpins the Baleno and the Dzire, the Swift has shed around 85 kg as compared to the old car despite it being a larger car. Maruti also claims the new Swift to be crash compliant to the upcoming safety norms. With Maruti being the only manufacturer to have their own crash test facility in India, it is hard to argue with that assertion.
How is it on the inside?
Unsurprisingly, the Swift shares most of the interior bits from the Dzire, but like with the exterior, designers have done a good job of differentiating the two thanks to small changes and different interior colour. The Swift gets an all black cabin as compared to the beige on the Dzire, which goes down well for a sporty hatch. Other changes are on the centre console where you now get sporty looking round centre vents and air-con controls with silver surround. The Dzire’s wood finish is replaced by silver accents which again add to the style and ambiance. The dashboard design is minimalistic but smartly styled, with the large touchscreen infotainment system dominating proceedings. Unfortunately, the automatic version of the Swift doesn’t come in the top variant, so you get a get a traditional music system with a dot matrix display that looks outdated. The touchscreen system on the top ZDi plus variant features a screen that is crisp, is easy to use and is of high quality. The same can’t be said about the rest of the cabin though. Plastic quality and fit and finish though decent is not as nice as the Hyundai Grand i10 and the dash graining also could have been better.
The front seats are big and the heavily contoured backrest offers good support. The extra cabin width also helps in giving you an airy feeling. But it’s at the back where the new Swift has taken a big leap forward. Despite it being 10mm shorter than the outgoing car, the new Swift offers much more kneeroom and the wider cabin gives it an airy ambiance. The bench itself is well shaped and comfortable. What would have made the rear seat even better is firmer cushioning. There are plenty of storage spaces in the cabin in the form of multiple cubby holes and even the glovebox is of decent size. The boot at 268 litres is much bigger than before but like with the old car the lid opening is quite high and narrow, which makes loading heavy bags a shoulder straining affair.
In the top ZDi plus trim the Swift comes equipped with touchscreen infotainment system which houses Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation and a music system. Apart from this you also get all the basics like climate control, key-less go, reverse camera with sensors, auto headlamps, daytime running lamps, LED headlamps and a comprehensive trip computer. In terms of safety, Maruti sets a new benchmark by offering two airbags and ABS as standard across the range. You also get ISO fix anchors for a child seat, as standard.
How does it drive?
The Dzire diesel comes with the same 1.3 litre 74bhp Fiat-sourced Multijet engine. Although there is no jump in power figures, the new Dzire being significantly lighter helps improve its overall performance.
Lets start with the automated manual transmission car first. As compared to the petrol auto, you can feel the inherent jerkiness of the gearbox even more in the diesel, especially during full burst acceleration, as you get that typical AMT pause as the hydraulic actuators struggle to upshift quickly to keep up the momentum. But when you drive smoothly this automated manual transmission works well on the highway and part throttle gearshifts are relatively smooth. You also get a creep function which is a boon in stop-start traffic. But it does take a second or two to hook-up which is troublesome especially on slopes where the car tends to roll back. The car feels best in manual mode and there is a way of getting around this drawback by just lifting off before every shift. Overall if you want a polished automatic transmission then you have to look in some other segment as the Swift is the only car to offer the diesel automatic option.
Moving onto the manual transmission car, performance feels much better and though there is some turbo lag below 2000rpm it feels smooth enough. There is a nice zing past 2000rpm and the strong midrange adds punch in the proceedings. The engine is free revving too but it does sound rough and gets noisy past 3500rpm. The refinement at medium engine speeds is good, mainly thanks to the good sound insulation. The gearbox too is a joy to use and the snappy shifts and short throws makes it a joy to use.
We also noticed the diesel car felt more supple than the petrol which we think is due to the heavier engine. The ride feels settled at low speeds but you do feel the suspension thump over sharp bumps if you don’t slow down enough. Though it never gets to the point of being uncomfortable and it is something you can live with. However, as you go faster, it settles down to offer a flat and consistent ride.
The Swift diesel’s handling balance is extremely sporty, as the rear breaks traction if you trail brake into a corner with no understeer whatsoever. It is easy to control it thanks to the torquey diesel engine. But for an average driver this can get a bit unnerving as there is no ESP to help out. The steering calibration felt much better on the diesel car with it having more weight and feeling more consistent as compared to the petrol. The brakes, like on the petrol, offer good bite and stopping power with good pedal feel.
Should I buy one?
Purely as a package we would recommend you to go for the petrol engine Swift as it is more refined, frugal enough and is more involving to drive. Even the AMT gearbox works better on the petrol and is the one to go for if you are going to be commuting mostly in the city. The diesel on the other hand is not bad at all, as it has good grunt and will prove to be extremely economical. Even the automatic option is worth considering if you spend long hours in he city or on the highway. Be it petrol or diesel the new Swift is a formidable attempt by Maruti and they have managed to address all the issues and improve on the good points of the outgoing car.
Where does it fit in?
The Maruti Swift rivals the likes of Hyundai i10, Nissan Micra and Ford Figo. Where the old car was priced at par with the competition the new Swift might become the most expensive in its segment.
Pictures by Kapil Angane
Click here for our first drive review of the new Maruti Suzuki Swift petrol version