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Swift reloaded

Swift reloaded
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First Published: Tue, Aug 09 2011. 08 37 PM IST

Updated interiors: The dash in the new Swift uses much better quality plastic.
Updated interiors: The dash in the new Swift uses much better quality plastic.
Updated: Tue, Aug 09 2011. 08 37 PM IST
Maruti Suzuki’s iconic Swift was averaging sales of over 11,000 units a month when it bowed out of the market in June. That is unusual for any outgoing model, since a car at the end of its life cycle is usually struggling. So as the new generation of the Swift arrives, there is plenty of anticipation that an improved model will likely be a runaway hit from Day 1.
So does the car live up to that kind of gargantuan expectation?
I drove the new Swift a few days ago—and yes, I managed to spend substantial time with both petrol and diesel variants. The first impression I have is that the Swift has truly grown up. Sure, there are still some areas where I felt Maruti Suzuki could have done more, but for the most part, this is indeed a bigger and better Swift.
The good news continues in that the diesel and petrol avatars launch simultaneously on 17 August. The engines and transmission for the new generation have been carried over from the previous Swift, but they have been updated.
In the case of the diesel, the 1.3-litre common rail unit has been retuned to achieve 6% greater fuel efficiency. The engine remains as sporty and fun as it was, with minimal turbo lag and great all-round performance. The sound damping between the engine and the car’s cabin could have been better, though, as you hear that growly diesel a little too well!
The 1.2-litre K12 petrol has been enhanced to offer not just more fuel efficiency, but also smoother performance and cleaner emissions. This has been done by adding a variable valve-timing system—a first for any Maruti model in India—and also reducing engine friction. I found the petrol version lacking in spirit—even though the drive is very smooth, it doesn’t have the potent punch that other petrols like the VW Polo exhibit with aplomb. The brakes are very precise, though, as is the steering.
The overall handling of the car—on both engine types—has also improved, and is very sporty and fun. The enhanced length and width also play a role in offering a better ride feel and driving character. The work put into the car’s suspension also shows—it has a stiff character that isn’t rigid.
Updated interiors: The dash in the new Swift uses much better quality plastic.
My pick is the diesel, for sure, and the good news is that Maruti has finally answered the call to introduce a fully loaded diesel variant. The old car had just two diesel variants, while the petrol had three, which included a top-end ZXi. Now there is a ZDi too, which means diesel drivers can also opt for features like airbags, alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, climate-control and in-dash music systems as standard equipment.
The fact that this is a new generation car means it is meant to improve on the shortcomings of the earlier model. The biggest grouse I had with the old Swift was the cramped cabin space. This has changed—though, not dramatically. You get a better sense of space now, and this is especially true in the back seat, where legroom has increased by 20mm. This has been achieved by making the front seat backrest concave, thus providing more knee-room for rear passengers. So while you get more legroom than before, it’s not cavernous. The seat fabric used is a smart, ribbed, black material, which looks fairly upmarket.
The rear seat could have used more cushioning, though, to provide better under-thigh support. It’s also perplexing that Maruti has chosen not to offer a 60:40 split to the rear seat back in any variant. That is pretty standard these days, and provides flexible fold-down options to help carry varying sizes and dimensions of cargo/luggage.
Extra features: Buyers can opt for airbags, alloy wheels, climate-control even in the diesel variant.
The other area where the Swift used to score poorly was the material quality of the cabin plastics. The new car’s dash uses much better quality plastic, and it’s been put together very aesthetically. The top half of the dash is especially nice, with a soft-touch rubbery feel. There are also some dull-metal finish inserts in the top variants that break the monotony of the all-black look. There are lots of storage nooks in the dash now, and all door panels have bottle holders. I also liked the look of the new in-dash music system and the climate-control system, which use a smart yellow backlit display. You can now plug in your iPod and control it through the music system.
Strangely, though, Maruti has left out Bluetooth phone connectivity from the music system—something most car makers are now adding as a standard feature, even in small cars. The good news: Things like tilt-adjust steering, a new retractable cup-holder for the front passenger and the rear parcel tray in the boot are now standard across all variants.
Perhaps it would be too much to hope for, but if features like airbags, anti-lock brakes and a rear wiper were also made standard, if not across all variants, at least in the mid variants, it would add to the new Swift! These will only be available in the ZXi and ZDi trims.
Maruti will launch the sedan version of the new Swift—which will replace the current Swift Dzire—only after a few months. The current car will continue selling till then. Its production has been moved to Maruti’s old plant in Gurgaon, thereby freeing up significant capacity at the Manesar plant. This means the production of the Swift will increase from the current 12,000 a month to 17,000-18,000 per month by the end of September. Given the huge demand the new model is likely to see, that is great—it means waiting periods should be manageable and not absurd as in the past. In fact, the new Swift has already notched up around 40,000 bookings pre-launch. I expect prices to be close enough to the outgoing car’s—in the Rs4-6 lakh range. So, I also expect bookings to go through the roof once the car is officially launched next week.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is Editor (Auto), NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at roadrunner@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Aug 09 2011. 08 37 PM IST