The all-new Swift is (almost) everything the older car was, and much more besides.
In 2005, two years into my stint as an automotive journalist, Maruti Suzuki launched a hatchback called the Swift. It wasn’t the first of its kind in the market, and it wasn’t particularly revolutionary as a vehicle in terms of technology, but it did a lot of very ‘Maruti’ things from the off – it was easy (and fun) to drive, it was reliable, it looked good and it just worked, in a rather satisfying way. I couldn’t have known it then (although perhaps I should have suspected it), but 12 years later, the Swift would have sold more than 1.7 million units and been the market leader by a ginormous margin. This is nothing new for Maruti Suzuki, of course – the company tends to swat sales figures out of the park with boring regularity (barring a few notable exceptions, like the grossly underrated Kizashi), and successive iterations of models are lapped up by a buying public that never appears to tire of the Indo-Japanese behemoth. I’m pretty certain that this script will play out with the all-new Swift as well.
Is the new Swift the new Dzire with its butt chopped off, you ask? I don’t blame you for asking, since the two cars look much the same when viewed head on, and they’re built on the same HEARTECT platform (kicked off by the Baleno), which is lighter and more rigid than the Swift’s previous platform. There’s absolutely no doubt that the new Swift looks quite different from its predecessor – and yet, you know right away it’s a Swift, which I think many will find comforting.
It’s a more premium-looking, well-rounded hatch now, especially with the LED projector headlights in the topend model, and since it’s longer and wider, it has greater road presence. It looks very sharp in profile, primarily because of its ‘floating’ roof (which calls attention to itself with a blacked-out C-pillar) and the placement of the rear door handles on the C-pillar, which cleans up the doors and makes the car look like a 3-door hatch, rather than a 5-door one. The flip side to this is that you’ll stand there scratching your head, if you can’t spot the handles immediately, and actually opening the doors puts your arm in a slightly awkward position.
The more welcome changes are on the inside, I have to say. The older Swift had a cabin that was functional, at best – this one is far better built and looks significantly plusher. I’m not a big fan of the preponderance-of-black approach to the colour scheme, but that aside, the interior has been given a proper upgrade, with better materials and fit. A lot of it comes from its buttocked sibling, the Dzire, but that was only to be expected – and it’s not an issue, since it all freshens the place up. I like the instrument cluster a lot, and the infotainment screen tilted towards the driver is a neat touch (from the Dzire, again). Since it’s larger, there’s appreciably more room in the cabin too, which is always a welcome thing. By far the best upgrade, however, is the fact that two airbags and ABS are standard across the entire Swift range, and I can’t tell you enough that this needs to be followed by all manufacturers in India, in all cars.
The first ever Swift was a hoot and then some to drive, with its stiff suspension and sharp steering, but Maruti began dialling this down from the second iteration, which was a great pity but inevitable, given the preferences of the vast majority of Indian buyers. The new car offers up a sort of middle ground – the HEARTECT platform offers better inherent rigidity all round, which means that the Swift is still fun to drive and handles admirably (and it’s also a damn sight lighter than the older one), allowing you to throw it into corners with aplomb, especially in its petrol guise. Body roll is well controlled, but the big letdown is the steering unit, which is far too lifeless to be in a car that’s meant to be a grown up shoot-and-scoot weapon; its redeeming factor is that it’s flat-bottomed and feels nice and chunky to hold. The ride quality on offer is really impressive, with the car taking on almost everything our roads can throw at it, and the NVH levels are rather good, with just a bit of wind noise.
The engines on offer are the very definition of tried and tested – the venerable 1.2-litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel units from the previous car, delivering 83 bhp and 113 Nm and 75 bhp and 190 Nm respectively. The petrol engine remains super-smooth and freerevving, while the diesel provides a solid chunk of mid-range grunt, and both will probably last till the end of time. They could, however, use more power, because the new chassis feels like it’s well up to the task of being able to handle a power bump. You get both engines with the option of Maruti’s Auto Gear Shift which, while extremely useful in city traffic, is still too sluggish for my liking – the manual transmissions remain a joy to use. All told, this car is a huge improvement and has all it takes to pummel yet more sales records, but all I have to say to Maruti Suzuki is this: “For the love of all that’s holy, please give us the Swift Sport.” That car has a 1.4-litre, 140 bhp turbocharged petrol engine, which is all that needs to be mentioned.
What we like
Looks, refinement, all-round abilities
What we don’t
Slightly underpowered engines
Maruti Suzuki Swift
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol/ 1.3-litre diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual and 5-speed AGS
Max power: 83bhp/75bhp
Peak torque: 113Nm/190Nm