Auto focus

Maruti Swift Review - Swift Transformation

S. Muralidhar | Updated on August 17, 2011 Published on August 17, 2011

Swift 2   -  BUSINESS LINE

Swift 1   -  BUSINESS LINE

Swift 3   -  BUSINESS LINE

Swift 4   -  BUSINESS LINE

Swift 5   -  BUSINESS LINE

More than six years after its introduction, the Suzuki Swift continues to be a huge draw with the Indian small car buyer. It has captured the imagination of a whole population unlike any other Maruti before. True, it didn't look like a Maruti at all and didn't drive like one too, but the fact remains that even if it had sported a different badge, it just might have been as popular.

Proof of its popularity comes in the form of my son wanting to buy a red Swift when he grows up, despite the fact that he has sat in some of the swankiest luxury cars, BMWs, Mercs and Audis. Maybe it's because he's seen my bank balance or maybe he has his feet firmly planted on the ground even when he is dreaming.

Proof of its popularity also comes in the form of the 40,000 Swifts that have been booked even before the next generation model has been seen or felt by those buyers who have put down their money on them. You may also recall that before the production of the previous generation Swift was stopped, it had a waiting period of about four months.

So, even before the new gen Swift arrives, it has buyers sold on its charm.

New vs. old

For a nation obsessed with mileage, the Swift was the one car that very few seemed to want to drive with that fixation in mind. It was the one car that buyers didn't mind discovering to be lacking in premiumness and space inside the cabin. So, will the next generation (globally the third) Swift be able to up the experience and draw in more fans for this iconic brand?

Sportiness was always there in the Swift's design DNA. What the previous gen Swift's design was a bit lacking in was the ability to leverage its exterior dimensions to offer more space in the passenger cabin. The new Swift manages that very well thanks to its larger dimensions.

At first glance, the ‘nex-gen' Swift looks almost identical to the outgoing model. From upfront and a slightly acute front three-quarter angle it is almost like the original. But I walk around it and the differences slowly start to surface. Of course, the longer wheelbase and the more rounded features quickly start to become evident.

The new Swift is a bit like a re-interpretation of the previous model. While the basic design highlights like the headlamps, taillamps and the floating roof concept have all been carried forward, they have all also been changed to meld with the increased length of the car and to abet the impression of size.

A more rounded rear-end design now gets a slightly more tapered at the edge and elongated wraparound taillamp. The front of the car gets a similar treatment, with the headlamps getting stretched at the top to create an image of flowing down the top of the bonnet and on to the front of the car. The sharp rising angle of the front bumper grille and bonnet has given way to a more relaxed angle, in keeping with the 90mm increase in the length of the car.

New platform

The bonnet grille and the airdam too get minor modifications, and the front bumper has now been designed to look like it has integrated skirts. Blacked out A-pillar and B-pillar strips continue to give the new Swift the floating roof effect. New design door-mounted rear view mirrors now also get integrated LED turn indicators. Rear quarter glass gets a minor change, grab-type door handles have been carried forward.

Despite the visual similarities, the fact is that the new Swift has actually been built on an entirely new platform. The overall length of the new Swift is now 3,850mm, up 90mm over its predecessor and the wheelbase is now up 40mm at 2,430mm. Much of the remainder of the increase in length has gone into bonnet area. The front overhang is more and the increased space in the engine bay has improved the safety of the new Swift, say Maruti engineers.

The width of the car has also increased marginally by 5mm at 1,695mm. The body of the new Swift is also said to be more rigid, though lighter. And despite the increased dimensions, the kerb weights of both the petrol and diesel models are marginally lesser by 15 to 30 kgs. Other factors that have contributed to the weight reduction include the new 6-layer polymer fuel tank that is said to be nearly 7 kgs lighter than the previous metal tank.

Improved cabin

If the exterior of the new Swift looked familiar, the interior is refreshingly all-new. I stepped into the new Swift during the test drive and was most impressed with the improved quality of every little part of the cabin. Finally, there is a feeling of getting into an upmarket hatch.

There is huge jump in the quality of plastic used all around. The colour theme chosen has also lightened up, though it still has a very European quality to it. With matte aluminium flourishes and inserts on the dashboard, steering wheel and the doors, now there is no sign of the interiors seeming too Spartan and ‘plasticky'. On the contrary, the entire layout is now busy and much better finished.

The centre console now sports a new ‘waterfall' design (as Maruti designers call it). A new, better integrated music system and automatic climate control system take up most of the space of the waterfall console and at the base is the familiar spherical knob of the gear shift stick. The whole dashboard is vertically stacked and looks more organised. I liked the new seat upholstery too.

The chunky steering wheel is still a three-spoke unit, but now sports a more modern design. Top-end variants get steering-mounted music system controls. The instrument cluster is a neat duo of circular dials that feature the engine-rpm meter and the speedometer. Orange LED backlighting for the info counter and all the controls is pleasing to the eye.

Of course, the other highlight of the new Swift's interior is the increase in cabin space. Thanks to the longer wheelbase, the leg-room has increased by 20mm and the foot-space is up 28mm. Now, that doesn't count to be much by sheer numbers. However, to add to the effort at improving comfort, Maruti Suzuki engineers have also scooped out the backside of the driver and front passenger seats to offer some more kneeroom for rear passengers and the angle of incline of back rest for the rear bench seat has been increased.

Maruti Suzuki engineers have also worked on reducing the cabin noise levels by improving the quality of insulation and sealants used. The result is said to be a three decibel fall in in-cabin noise. I could discern the difference during the idling cycle and during the city driving cycle. On the highway and under hard acceleration the engine seemed to be as audible as it was in the previous Swift.

Performance

Part of the improvement in cabin comfort also comes from the improved refinement of the engines – both petrol and diesel. But, before we talk about the new tech for the engines, let me point out that the powertrains themselves haven't changed. Both the K12M petrol and the D13A diesel engines have been carried forward, but much work has gone in for making better the fuel efficiency, lowering emissions and for a small boost in performance too.

The tried and tested 1,248cc diesel engine has just been plonked into the new Swift too. The turbocharged and intercooled common-rail direct injection engine generates the same 75PS of peak power at 4,000 rpm and torque peaks at a low 2,000 rpm and the same total of 190 Nm is available. The only change here has been the use of hydraulic engine mounts to reduce vibration.

The 1,197cc K12M engine that was shoehorned into the previous gen Swift last year has been carried forward too, but with the addition of variable valve timing (VVT). The new K12M VVT delivers a marginal (less than half per cent) increase in peak power at 87 PS delivered at 6,000 rpm and peak torque too has been bumped up a bit at 114Nm and is delivered quicker at 4,000 rpm.

Driving the new Swift on windy uphill roads and on long straights on the highway, I get the familiar feeling of driving a Swift. The new Swift continues to be great fun to drive and the diesel engine model has just a second of turbolag before all the torque becomes available. The petrol engine is clearly more eager and though it gets a bit noisy at high rpm levels, it is still one of the more refined units you can get in this segment.

Thanks to a more rigid chassis, the handling of the new Swift has improved. Maruti engineers have also fine-tuned the front suspension for better stability and handling. The improvement can be felt, though there is just a hint of understeer when I throw the car into corners at high speeds. Electric power-steering and tilt adjustment of the steering column are part of standard fitment.

BOTTOMLINE

The new Swift is being launched this week and it continues to be a great option for the hatchback buyer, offering a unique character. And mind you, that is despite the fact that it shares both its engines with many other models. The new Swift has every bit of the DNA that the predecessor had and some more.

My guess is that the pricing will be in the range of Rs 4.2 lakh to Rs 6.2 lakh. There is an additional variant option (ZDi) that will be available with the diesel engine model. Adding some cream on the pie, the rated fuel efficiency of the new Swift is up 4 per cent for the petrol version at 18.6 kmpl and up 6 per cent for the diesel variants at 22.9 kmpl.

Maruti's game changer will change the game again for the competition!

>muraliswami@thehindu.co.in

Published on August 17, 2011
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor