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New Maruti Suzuki Swift: First Drive Review

  • Jan 20, 2018
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The Swift has been the hatchback that Indian car buyers looked to when one needed style, practicality and fun factor in one affordable package. Expectations from the all-new third generation Swift are as high as ever. But, with many more options from within the Maruti family and from the competition, the 2018 Swift has a tough task ahead of it. We drive the new Maruti before its launch to see if it can meet the expectations.


Design


The Swift’s design is related to the Dzire that arrived in 2017. But, unlike before, the Swift and Dzire’s faces aren’t copy-paste jobs. The shape of the grille and the bumper design are different. Also, the Swift doesn’t use chrome highlights around the grille. In terms of structure the Swift’s cabin is more upright, whereas the Dzire’s is sleeker and lower. The Swift is as tall as before, but it is wider now and looks just a bit more sporty. The overall design is a mix of organic lines backed by strong proportions.


There are a few interesting details that are worth observing. For instance, the Swift doesn’t carry any variant badges. Even engine badging is limited to just the ‘DDiS’ tag behind the front wheel. This gives the car a strangely clean look. A quirky touch is that the door handle on the rear doors is now positioned next to the window, not under it. While this looks cool, it is a bit impractical.


In terms of trims, the Z+ gets projector lamps and LED DRLs, while the LED tail lamps are available across the range. We felt the 15-inch machine-cut alloys on the Z+ variant looked a bit tacky, while the the simpler alloys on the Z variant, also 15-inch, looked better. Lower variants make do with 14-inch wheels. The 163mm of groundlearance is lesser than the 170mm the Swift used to boast of earlier. This, however, under the new norms is measured with passengers and luggage on board.


Interior


On the inside too, Maruti has tried to differentiate the Swift’s cabin from the Dzire’s. In terms of design the Swift gets round air conditioning vents at the centre instead of the Dzire’s angular units. Also, the centre console with the infotainment system is tilted prominently towards the driver. The flat-bottom steering wheel fits right into this cabin. The cabin’s snug and sporty feel is emphasised by the all-black colour scheme for the plastics. The front seats are designed with the kind of cushioning that just holds you in place when going over twisty roads. In terms of space the Swift actually feels very spacious as the windscreen is more upright here. Maruti says that the Swift now has 40mm more shoulder room at the front compared to the outgoing car. Headroom is generous and even 6-footers will be comfortable here.


Comfort for taller passengers has also improved as there is more knee room now. The larger windows also makes the cabin feel brighter. However, sitting three abreast is best reserved for short distances. So, the new Swift is much better for passengers, but don’t expect to find acres of knee room like in the Baleno. Also, there are no air con vents for the rear passengers.


In terms of storage spaces the Swift could have been much more generous with bottle holders and stowage bins. While these aren’t available in its rivals the Swift could have offered a sunglass holder, armrest for the driver or a dedicated space to keep your cellphone.


In terms of boot space the new Swift has 268 litres, which is still more than its direct segment rival, the Hyundai Grand i10, and represents a 64-litre improvement over its predecessor. That said, the loading lip is still high, requiring you to lift your luggage up a bit before placing it in the boot.


Equipment




On the outside the Z+ variant gets LED headlights with LED DRLs. They do look great but unfortunately, they’re only available on the Z+ variant. However, the LED-infused tail lamp is available across the range.


Inside, the Swift boasts of a smart looking automatic air conditioning system with a three-pod layout which looks pretty neat, and is available on the Z and Z+ variants. The Z+ variant is also the only one to get the 7” touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. All other variants have to make do with a fairly basic audio system with Bluetooth, aux and USB connectivity.


To help you get the right driving position, driver’s seat height adjustability is offered from the V variant onwards. However, the steering is only adjustable for rake, not reach. It is worth noting that the spare wheel located under the floor is a 14-inch steel rim with 165/80 rubber even on the top two trims which are equipped with 15-inch alloy wheels.


On the Road


The Swift carries over the tried and tested 1.3 litre DDiS 190 diesel and the 1.2 litre VVT petrol mills. The power and torque figures remain unchanged -- that is 75PS of power and 190Nm of torque for the diesel, while the petrol is good for 83PS of power and 113Nm of torque. Both these are offered with the optional five-speed automated-manual transmission. We sampled the petrol automatic first and it showed that it was very well equipped for city commuting. The smooth gearshifts and an engine that feels energetic even at low speeds is a great combination. It also has a creep forward mode to make stop-go traffic easier to manage. Maruti claims a fuel efficiency of 22kmpl for this engine. This is no doubt helped by the Swift being lighter than before too.


The around 80kg weight saving also helps improve 0-100kph acceleration by 10 per cent. Again, the engine loves to rev and can be fun, but don’t expect sizzling performance. The engine is meant to balance practicality and fun, and it does a remarkable job. When driving fast, one downside is that the gearshift feels jerky at high revs. You can choose to use the manual mode to make things smoother and quicker when driving fast. If you want the fun package, the petrol manual would be a tempting option.


We then focussed on the diesel engine with the manual transmission. The cabin felt quieter than we expected, no doubt helped by the new platform and the sound deadening. To drive it was as impressive as ever. Keeping pace with traffic at low speeds is surprisingly easy, and if you really want to overtake then you need to make sure the engine is above 1800rpm. So you will need to work the gearbox a bit if you are in a hurry. In terms of performance, the diesel is now said to be 8 per cent faster than before while delivering 24kmpl in the standard fuel efficiency test cycles.




Comfort and Confidence


One thing is for sure -- the Swift has opted for a sporty stance now. Most of the time Maruti manages to strike the perfect balance between softness required for our broken roads and the stability required for higher speeds. This time around the Swift has gone for a stiffer suspension setup that boost stability and confidence, but also makes it a lot of fun to drive. The steering though doesn’t have the same fun feel, as it is light and lacks some sense of connection.


The tradeoff is that you feel a bit more of the potholes and speed breakers than you expected. While this trait is a bit annoying at first, you can live with it in bigger cities where roads are better. However, in more rural areas this could be a bit painful.


Verdict


The new Swift is a better car no doubt, but where it really shines is the fun-to-drive factor. While this may not be a top reason to buy the Swift for most of you, it is now more practical on every count. The hatchback is more spacious, more convenient and better equipped too. While the ride comfort and the ffeel-goodfactor could be better, there’s no doubt that that the Swift still offers a very sound balance of sensibility and excitement. Expect prices to increase by Rs 30,000 when the Swift is launched in February 2018.

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