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The mighty Swift is redone. It’s grown bigger fangs to paralyse its competition. There’s going to much bloodshed, and well, longer queues

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The year 2005 may not be of great importance to society at large, nor did the year see an invention that would change the future of mankind or anything of that sort. But for me, three important things happened in that year. One: I turned into an adult and got myself a driving license, two: BBC TopGear Magazine India came into existence and took over the hearts of motorheads across the country, and three: the most important thing, the country’s biggest carmaker beat the convention and forced the country to look at hatchbacks in a different light. It took away the cheap from a hatchback and brought in the cool. The Swift was born. And it won hearts and for the first time, made the waiting period almost as long as a mother waits to deliver a baby. The unthinkable happened. Fast forward to today. I have entered my 30s, there are patches of grey hair and signs of hair loss on my head and kids refer to me as uncle. TopGear itself has massively changed in the way it looks and grown far beyond only the print medium. And rather importantly, we have the Swift in its third generation in the country, where 18 lakh people are Swift owners. A lot has changed, no? Well, for the Swift, a lot has changed in terms of tech and features, but the reason why it’s so popular still remains the same - it’s sporty and it’s cool.

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In this generation, Maruti has massively changed the way it looks. Things are very different now, but it won’t take you more than a second to relate to the older generations. The design has matured, not aged, I’d reckon. The grille is now pentagonal with horizontal slats. The top-spec car gets splashes of chrome. The headlamps remind you of those in the previous gens, but have things like DRLs and LEDs to offer better illumination. The bumper, too, has been made to look sportier and houses the fog lamps in a neater way. The most important change in the profile of the car is that the handles for the rear doors have been integrated in the C-pillar. Well, though it’s a first for Maruti with that, historically, it hasn’t worked well in India – take the Chevrolet Beat and Mahindra KUV100 as examples. Apart from that, the window line remains high and the blacked-out B-pillar adds to the sportiness. At the rear, the Swift looks nothing like its predecessors. The tail-lamps pop out from the design and a thick chrome line attracts your attention from the otherwise bland rear.

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In terms of dimensions, the Swift had grown 40mm wider and 20mm longer than the outgoing Swift. The wheelbase, too, is now longer, freeing up more space in the cabin. The longer wheelbase and wider body means there’s now much more room in the cabin. And that’s one thing neither of the two previous generations could boast about. But now, you won’t be putting the three adults in the back seat through torture, with sufficient leg- and shoulder-room for all. The way things on the inside look has also undergone a massive transformation. It still has an all-black dashboard, but the design can be called modern and worthy of attention even in the sea of infinite hatchbacks in the country. Everything is ergonomically sound and you won’t have to hunt for any button; it’s all where it’s supposed to be. In terms of equipment, there’s everything you’d expect from a B+ segment hatchback. The top-spec Z+ car gets a 17.2-cm infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also doubles up as a screen for the rear cam. It’s got auto AC and steering controls and most things that you’d want in your hatchback. Maruti has taken a good step forward in terms of safety and now offers dual airbags, ABS and ISOFIX seats as standard across all variants. One thing that’s missing in the feature list is the rear AC vent. But to counter that issue, Maruti claims it has increased the air-con’s capacity and it’s equipped to handle the worst of Indian summers.

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The new Swift sits on a new platform that’s both, stronger and lighter than the previous one. Torsional rigidity has been increased and it has also shed a few important kilos. It’s the fifth-gen HEARTECT platform that also forms the underpinnings of the Dzire. What remains similar to the previous gen is what’s under the hood. You have an option of either a 1.2-litre petrol engine that churns out 81bhp and 113Nm or a 1.3-litre oil-burner that’s been powering Marutis and half of India’s hatchbacks and compact sedans for the past seven years. It develops a modest 75bhp and 190Nm of spin. It isn’t the most powerful mill around, but its strength lies in efficiency rather than outright power. The petrol engine is smooth and void of any vibrations or much noise. It’s enthusiastic and loves to pile on revs. Most of its power is saturated in the higher rev band and is sure to offer a pleasing driving up a mountain road if you ditch the efficiency part of it and keep it on the boil.

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The diesel, though, is slightly underwhelming when it comes to refinement. It is actually at the end of its life cycle, but Maruti insists on keeping it running until the BS VI mandate comes into effect by 2020. Although Maruti has tried its best to make the power delivery as linear as possible, there’s still a sudden burst of power as the turbo wakes up at around 2,000rpm. The diesel clatter is evident even at lower revs and gets a bit too much to handle if you stretch it to the red line. But most Indians won’t mind that, especially after reading the next sentence. It delivers an astonishing 28.4kpl according to ARAI standards. While that may be too much for real-world conditions, you can safely assume that you’d get 20kpl on the highway. One big change in this generation is the addition of AMTs in both the diesel and petrol versions. The AMTs have been recalibrated and work slightly better than how they did at their inception. With the petrol engine, the AMT, or as Maruti calls it, the AGS, works better than it does with the diesel. You don’t feel the lag between gear changes as much, but in the diesel, the Swift pitches every time the computer decides to give a gear change. It’s a bit bothersome, I’d say.

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Now for the best part, the way the Swift handles speed and bends. The new chassis has really added a new dimension to the equation and there’s a lot it can handle, in fact, far more than what the Swift offers now. With the new underpinnings, the Swift is even more willing to jump into a corner at higher-than-normal speeds and get out of that without giving a mini heart attack to the driver. It induces confidence. The two things I’m not too fond of are the steering feel – that has become sedated compared to the previous gen – and the amount of traction the tyres offer. But if you ask me, the Swift still offers more joy than any of its peers. You might think that since the Swift leans towards being sporty, the engineers may have compromised on ride quality. But this is India and the guys at Maruti HQ have adapted the suspension setup to handle broken roads that our municipal corporations consistently maintain for us. Yeah, it is stiff, but not uncomfortably so.

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The Swift has grown to a great extent and offers what the buyer wants and even exceeds his expectations in certain departments. Unfortunately, the Swift had also grown in terms of the price it demands. The lower variants have been priced aggressively, but as you climb up the ladder, you may want to upgrade to a higher segment rather than put your money on this one. The petrol starts at `4.99 lakh, while the diesel will take away `5.99 lakh from you for the starting variant. But the ZXi+ and the ZDi+ will cost you `7.29 lakh and `8.29 lakh, respectively. And mind you, these are introductory, ex-showroom, Delhi prices. The Swift now offers everything you want from it and it remains true to its roots by offering a sporty and cool ride. It’s got cool toys in the cabin and handles well too. This is the sort of maturing that we appreciate, quite unlike the greying on my head...

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