Once upon a time things in the automobile world were much simpler than now. The car market was divided into three different categories: the hatchbacks, the sedans and the luxury cars. Then came the transition wherein the thin lines separating these became increasingly blurred. So much so that a situation now obtains wherein the top variant of a model in any given segment is loaded with features sufficient to make it compete with the base variant of the segment above. Naturally, the onus has shifted to the buyer, who has to exercise much discretion while making the final choice before purchase.
Should the buyer settle for what he is getting at a given price? Should s/he make a little compromise on certain attributes and buy something that appears better? Is something available in the market that truly spells value for money in all respects? These and such other questions vex the prospective customer of today. With two new entrants in the hatchback segment, we decided to seek the answers to these questions.
While the defender of the title this time is the new Maruti Suzuki Swift, the one to throw its hat in the ring is the Toyota Etios Liva. Both these have diesel mills under their hoods. Our message to both the competitors: hic Rhodus, hic salta (prove what you can do, here and now).
Looks And Features
The Swift with its oddball looks has been around for quite some time and has finally received a much-needed uplift in that respect. Its sharper headlights and tail-lamps, front grille and edgy boot come across as a refreshing change after having seen the same design for so long. Other than that, the new Swift is now based on a new platform and claims to be longer (overall and wheelbase) and a little wider than its predecessor and thus promises more cabin space.
With features such as USB, aux-in, steering-mounted controls, better multimedia display (with illumination control), etc, make the package impressive.
In competition to the new Swift, the Toyota Etios Liva brings with it a simple, no-nonsense design, which appeals to some because of its freshness and goes un-noticed by some others. Its cabin is a clear bears visible marks of the cost-cutting measures adopted by Toyota.
The car comes with four speakers, but not the music system. Airbags and alloy wheels also come as additional accessories.
Performance And Handling
The new Swift comes with a 1.3-litre DdiS mill, the Multijet that has been running numerous cars in the market and has won accolades everywhere. The diesel engine has been left untouched and the changes done to this new model are only on the surface. Producing 75 PS of peak power and 190 Nm of maximum torque, the engine has been tuned for good mid-range and top end. Though the car suffers from a lag until 1,800 RPM, it gets much stronger thereafter.
In competition to this, the Liva's D-4D offers a more uniform spread of torque and thus has a lag-free, nippy drive in the low revs. But the 1.4-litre mill fails to take on its rival in overall performance. Offering 68 PS of power and 170 Nm of torque, the Liva is surely under-powered compared to the Swift. Right from the lower set of revs to the top end, the Liva fails to catch up with the Swift despite having a slightly bigger engine and lesser kerb weight.
As for handling, the Liva scores all the points there. With a lower body and better suspension, the Liva has very little body-roll and thus offers a better ride quality than its rival. The steering of the Liva is also more responsive than that of the Swift.
When it comes to being economical, Maruti cars have always been unbeatable. History has repeated itself here again. The new Swift offers an overall fuel economy of 19.5 km per litre, to which the Liva replies with 19 km per litre. Thus the Swift scores another point here.
Space, Comfort And Safety
Despite its claims about a longer length and wheelbase than the earlier model, the new Swift doesn't quite match up to the cabin space offered by the Liva.
Not only legroom and knee-room in both the rows, but also the boot space is generous in the Liva than in the Swift. But thicker padding and curled sides of the seats in the Swift offer great comfort to the driver.
In terms of safety features, both the cars come with ABS and only the Swift offers airbags as a standard feature.
As renowned global car-makers, Toyota have always been synonymous with quality. But while bringing the Liva to the country, they seem to have shifted the focus more towards affordability, with the result that their cost-cutting measures are very evident in the cabin.
To sum up then, the Liva is a car meant for those looking for a spacious cabin and frugal drive around the city. For the performance enthusiasts, on the other hand, the Swift has enough potential to let them indulge.