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2018 Maruti Suzuki Swift Review

S. Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018

We motoring journalists are used to waking up bleary-eyed on many an early morning. And yet a drive that remains etched in my memory is that of the first generation Maruti Suzuki Swift. To be jolted out of bed in the wee hours of the morning (03:45 hours to be precise) and be told that we had to drive and experience this as yet covered up special new model within the next two hours before the people living in the remote corner of Manesar woke up, needed special motivation. That was nearly 13 years ago and the first generation Swift we were driving in the dark was certainly motivation enough.

The Swift was the first world strategic model for Suzuki and Maruti. Though some of the other models in the strategy line-up may not have been successful, the Swift was an instant success. Clad in red and oozing youthful charm, the Swift became an icon overnight. The hot hatch is now set to be relaunched in its third generation form.

Design

Suzuki design has a more model-specific language than a brand-wide philosophy. The Swift is no exception and it is a mixture of feelings one gets when standing next to the new 2018 Maruti Suzuki Swift. The design seems familiar yet new. The same upright, yet squat stance, the floating roof concept is there, but just reinterpreted with a blacked out C-pillar too, and the flared out wheel arches and the strong haunches at the rear are now even more prominent.

The front of the new Swift is the most familiar, of course, thanks to the Dzire compact sedan making it here ahead of the hatch. But design differentiation has been attempted with the new ‘single aperture’ grille, the front fender air intake treatment and the new LED daytime running light signature. The blacked-out A-pillar continues, as does the sharply raked windscreen, which is just wider due to the increased width of the car itself. The door mirrors are slightly narrower new units with inbuilt LED turn indicators. The big change in the new Swift is the position of the rear door handles. If from a distance the new model looks like a two-door, that is because the rear handles have been moved up to the top edge of the door frame DLO and now sits next to the C-pillar. This position has been tried before by other manufacturers, most notably by Chevrolet in the Beat, but the execution in the Swift is cleaner and leaves the shoulder line looking elegant and unspoilt. How comfortable it will be to use, especially if you had a bag in one hand and were entering through the rear door on the driver’s side, could be a very personal like or dislike.

The rear of the new Swift is my personal favourite with its sharper edges on the tailgate, the square reinterpretation of the tail-lamps and the wider rear glass. The new Swift has grown in proportions, with a 20mm longer wheelbase and a 40mm jump in overall width. This has enabled an increase in space inside the car, which now offers more shoulder room (+23mm front and +8mm rear), and up to 58 litres of extra boot space. There is a marginal increase in legroom, but the head room has increased significantly due to the lowering of the seat points. Rear head clearance is now up 24mm, so even six-feet tall occupants will have sufficient head room.

The design of the new Swift still bears that key stamp of sporty and youthful character. It has the same ‘I’m up for it’ attitude. Build quality and material quality have seen a jump both outside and inside the car.

Cabin

Step into the cabin and the Suzuki trademark features and design cues are everywhere. Subtle differentiators in the design and layout of the cabin attempt to make the Swift’s cabin unique compared to the Dzire. So, the aircon vents, the curved panels on the dashboard and the flat-bottomed steering wheel are clearly unique to the Swift. There are more sporty touches in the cabin, starting with the 5-degree tilt to the centre of the dashboard, to make it driver-oriented. The auto aircon controls in the top-end Zdi+ diesel variant that I was driving featured three dials with inbuilt digital displays. The touchscreen Smartplay infotainment system is there, too, and offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Maruti designers have chosen an all-black theme for the Swift to distinguish it from the dual tone theme that is offered in the Dzire. There is a certain charm to black interiors but, with black plastic and fabric panels on the door trim, it does seem a bit monotonous after sometime. The quality of materials used in the Swift has certainly improved and it does feel like the same trim materials that is used internationally in the model. There are bits of trim finished in urbane satin chrome that offer a break from the black theme, but there should have been more is my opinion. The centre console has a number of storage options for cups and bottles, as do the door panels. The gearshift knob and the framed panel housing it have been neatly executed, including the one in the AGS variants. The seats are the same as in the Dzire, though they are offered with different, firmer upholstery. The front seats offer thick side bolsters and are perfect for long drives. The instrument cluster features the same twin-pod configuration like in the Dzire, but has sporty aluminium and red rings to make it sportier in the Swift. I would have liked to see a few more options in the cabin, including rear aircon vents and a sunroof.



Performance

The Swift is being offered with the same engines as are currently offered in the Dzire and in nearly the same state of tune. So, the 1.2-litre K12 VVT petrol engine generates the same 61kW of power and 113Nm of torque. The engine is, however, now offered with both a 5-speed manual and an AGS (automated gear shift) transmission. The two gearboxes, including Maruti’s version of the AMT, are also offered with the DDiS 190 diesel engine which generates the same 55.2kW of power and 190Nm of torque as in the Dzire. The transmissions and gear ratios have been tweaked to help the Swift deliver a slightly peppier performance. But Maruti officials claim that the car is also more frugal, delivering 22.6kmpl and 28kmpl respectively for the petrol and diesel powertrains. The AGS system’s algorithms have also been tweaked to offer smoother shifts, though underneath, the hardware continues to be the same. There is a definite improvement in the way shift shocks have been largely eliminated.

The engines are both pretty refined and quick to deliver sufficient power and torque, and acceleration times have apparently improved by 10 per cent. There is a bit of turbo lag that is felt initially, but peak torque sets in at a low 2,000 rpm. A lot of work has been done to improve the NVH characteristics and it certainly shows in the diesel. The petrol is raucous at high revs, but that only increases the fun of driving the new Swift. The big improvement in the new Swift’s performance is in the ride. The suspension is the same set-up as in the Dzire, but compared to the current generation Swift, this feels much improved. With the right level of damping and balance between a firm and pliant ride, the Swift manages to impress with its agility around corners and its ability to swallow big potholes on the road. There is none of the rattling and throw-about ride of the previous generations. Handling is good too, though there is definitely the tendency to understeer, especially in the heavier diesel. Understeer is an endemic problem faced by most front wheel drive cars (in the absence of other electronic aids).

Bottom line

The new Swift is being offered with a bunch of safety equipment as standard including dual airbags, ABS with EBD, child safety ISOFIX seat restraints and Suzuki’s new fifth-gen Heartect body structure. The new model’s handling is an improvement felt best when throwing it into corners, though it is not an eye-popping change. The ground clearance is now 163 mm and the car manages to sail over most speed-breakers.

I believe Maruti should focus on creating a unique niche for the Swift and not worry too much about balancing out its hatch strategy given the multiple number of small cars in its portfolio. I would really like to see the one-litre BoosterJet engine in the Swift (currently available in the Baleno RS). Maruti officials say they are certainly going to come up with a unique iCreate customisation package for the Swift. This hot hatch is eminently suited for personalisation.

The new Swift is being launched at the Auto Expo next month and bookings have already been thrown open. Prices should start from under Rs 5 lakh and go up to Rs 7.9 lakh.

Published on January 20, 2018

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