The good ol' 800, the Zen, the Alto, the A-star – they are all popular hatchbacks that you know of or have already owned at some point of time. All these models have been sold over the years as different iterations of the 'Alto' in the global market. While each of these models replaced their respective predecessors, in India, they all coexisted. All these models have been highly successful in their own right – making Maruti Suzuki the number one carmaker in India today. However, there is one model from Maruti Suzuki called the Swift, that has tasted a success so immense, that it is has become a yardstick against which other hatchbacks are measured in India – irrespective of the brand name they flaunt.
Generally, seven to eight years is the time frame in which a car-model's lifecycle comes to an end. So it isn't a surprise that Maruti Suzuki has now rolled out the all new Swift after the original model debuted back in 2004. What is surprising though, is the fact that even at the end of it's lifecycle, the old Swift was selling more than 10,000 units a month – which is a dream feat for any carmaker. So when the time comes to replace such a market leading product, its creator needs to get the calculations spot on. It is these calculations that have led to the all new Swift looking so much similar to the old model that we loved. The design of the Swift has been so successful that Suzuki decided to evolve it further than going back to the drawing board – and therefore the new Swift looks so similar to the current model, that Maruti cannot let them co-exist in India.
Though it is based on an all-new platform the 2011 Swift carries forward the silhouette of the older Swift. Only when both these models stand together, are the differences evident to the casual onlooker. To begin with, the new Swift is longer and wider. The swept back headlights are a lengthier and shaper evolution of the outgoing model’s design (see detail). The A and B pillars continue to don a black finish to give the Swift’s glass-house a ‘wrap-around’ look. The front grille too has undergone a design change with a chunky honeycomb pattern (not the honeycomb mesh design seen on other Marutis) to add sportiness to the front fascia (see detail).
The side profile of the new Swift looks sportier too, not only because of the new rotary-blade design of the alloy wheels and the short radio antenna on the roof, but also because of the curvaceous tail, longer frontal overhang and the wheel arches that are more pronounced as compared to the older model. However, even the 15” alloy wheels on the top end model (14” steel rims on the base and mid models) tend to look slightly smaller as compared to the large wheel wells of the new Swift (see detail). While the engine / tech badges (‘DDiS’ for diesel and ‘VVT’ for the new petrol engine) retain their position above the front wheel arches, the side mounted turn blinkers have now been shifted to the outside rear view mirrors (ORVM) (see detail) for the VXi/VDi/ZXi/ZDi models. This not only ensures better visibility of the blinkers to the traffic around you, it also gives the new Swift a more premium appeal as compared to its competition.
The tailgate of the new Swift has been heavily redesigned as compared to the older model. The boot-lid is smaller and sits higher like the one seen on the A-star. It has a slight overhang to it that conceals the boot handle and the illuminating lights for the registration plate (see detail). Along with the boot lid, the registration plate moves up too, giving the rear bumper a more distinctive look. The rear fog light still sits in the lower centre of the rear bumper in signature Swift style. The taillights too are a lengthier and shaper evolution of old Swift’s lights and the clear-lens turn blinker and reverse lamps add to the sportiness of the new Swift with their ‘protruding’ design (see detail).
Overall, the new Swift looks a lot like the older model that India loved – but at the same time evolves it further with a more premium and sporty stance.
User Experience Review
If someone were to hide the identity of the new Swift and introduce you to the interiors of this car, you could be fooled into believing that these belong to some European carmaker. The design and feel of the new Swift’s interiors are a complete departure from what you have seen so far in the Maruti Suzuki small cars. In fact, the only thing that seems to have been carried forward from the older Swift’s interiors is the gear stick. The quality of the plastics is top notch and it is very difficult to spot any panel gaps or ill-fitting parts. The use of soft-plastics not only imparts a premium feel, it also helps in preventing vibrations and rattles to a large extent when the car ages. The overall scheme of the interiors is black with very subtle use of chrome on the knobs and a few silver accents here and there (see detail).
The instrumentation console however, doesn’t look as ‘European’ as the rest of the interiors. The clocks look as if they are inspired from the new Honda City with large digits and illuminated glass notches for every incremental tenths of the speedometer. The multi-information display that sits between the clocks has a digital readout for average fuel consumption, range, trip and odo-meters, clock and outside temperature (see detail). This display is standard across all the variants. The centre console of the new Swift follows the ‘waterfall design’ scheme that Suzuki debuted with their flagship model, the Kizashi. The flowing design adds further premium value to the Swift’s interiors and features digital displays for the air-con, climate control and the audio system (see detail).
The large display for the audio system though has a tendency to heat up quite a bit. The audio system includes a six speaker setup and is undoubtedly one of best OEM entertainment systems that we have heard in a car from this price bracket. It gets AUX/USB/iPhone support and steering mounted controls too (see detail), but the absence of a Bluetooth phone-pairing option on a trendsetter like the Swift is unacceptable. Since our test-bed was the top-of-the-line ZDi variant, we would like to see how the dashboard looks on lower end variants which ship without the audio system and the climate control. All the knobs and switches (including the ones of the steering) have the trademark Maruti Suzuki orange illumination, but the new Swift also gets a seven-step brightness control for the entire back-light mechanism. The new Swift has quite a few storage bins too – from the large glove box and door pockets to the cubby holes in the centre console and the ‘cooled’ cup holder.
Getting in and out of the car is very easy thanks to the wide opening doors. With the increase in the length of the car, Suzuki has addressed one of the biggest concerns that the old Swift had – leg space. The rear bench now gets 20mm more knee-room and an additional 28mm foot-space. Since the cabin too is lengthier and wider, the new Swift has a more ‘roomy’ feel to it. The rear bench may not be as roomy as a Wagon R though, but certainly isn’t as claustrophobic as a Volkswagen Polo – even with the new Swift’s overtly tapering glass-house. My only grudge with the rear seat is the lack of enough thigh support. The front seats are wider and feature side-bolsters and therefore feel way more comfortable than the older Swift. The driver’s seat gets height adjustment too, along with a tilt-adjustable steering to tune the driving ergonomics.
Overall, the increased size of the new Swift has given the car roomier interiors that not only boast of a solid build, but look very up-market too.
Just the way the Swift brand changed the dynamics of the Indian small car market, the Swift diesel changed the way people looked at hot hatches. The Swift diesel was looked upon by many as a hatch that could give the likes of the Fiat Palio 1.6 and Volkswagen Polo a run for its money by being as exciting but also returning a great fuel economy. The biggest problem with the older Swift however, was the immense body roll. In the interest of ride comfort, the Swift diesel lost out on the great handling characteristics that one expects from a hot hatch. The new Swift diesel aims to achieve both – and does an alarmingly good job. The rally-inspired suspension on the new Swift makes sure that you don’t bang your head against the window while going into a corner at high speed. At the same time, the suspension is well tuned to take on the rally-track inspired roads that India is blessed with.
Just like the interiors of the new Swift, the suspension too has a solid feel to feel to it, allowing for sharper handling and minimal body roll. It is complemented well by the much improved electronic power steering (EPS) which feels more direct and responsive as compared to the older Swift. The steering is well weighted for city commutes, however, if you are upgrading from the older Swift, the new Swift’s steering feels a tad heavier even on low speeds. This combination makes the new Swift more agile around the corners and the increased wheelbase (additional 40mm) provides better stability.
Combine these characteristics with the 185/65-R15 MRF ZVTV tyres (which offer unsatisfactory grip on this setup) on a twisty road and you will have a fun time sticking out the Swift’s tail every now and then (see detail). In the city, the tyres are more than adequate to tackle regular commutes. Maruti claims that these tyres have been specifically designed for better fuel economy and low road noise. Add to it the fact that new Swift features a much better sound insulation and you have a quite cabin to drive in.
Under the hood is the same diesel engine that made the Swift so popular. The Fiat Multijet derived DDiS engine continues to produce the same 75PS of power (@4,000 RPM) and 190 Nm of torque (@2000 RPM) as the older model. However, it runs a new tuning setup which contributes to better fuel economy. Since the turbocharger doesn’t feature a variable geometry turbine like the Fiat Punto 90hp, it still has the irritating turbo-lag under 2,000 revs. But step on the throttle, let the turbo kick in – and watch this car go like a hot hatch!
The petrol variant uses a 1.2-litre K-series engine, but unlike the older Swift, the new Swift’s engine features variable valve timing. This not only provides a smoother power delivery, but will also give you more kilometres to a litre of fuel. The new engine is slightly more powerful too – producing 87 PS of power (@ 6000 RPM) and 114 Nm of torque (@ 4000 RPM). Both these engines are mated to a new five speed gearbox that accounts for the new Swift’s butter-smooth shifts.
The new Swift is lighter too – thanks to the lighter fuel tank and smaller ABS. While the diesel version has shed over 15 kilos, the petrol variant has shed 30! This weight reduction, combined with the new gearbox, not only manages to give the Swift better acceleration, it also makes the new Swift more fuel efficient. While our ZDi variant managed to sprint from naught to 100 km/h in a little over 14 seconds, Maruti Suzuki claims that the petrol variant can attempt a similar feat in under 13 seconds. Our Swift ZDi returned a fuel economy of over 18 kmpl during our day-long test run through varied conditions. The claimed fuel economy figures for the petrol and diesel variants are 18.6 kmpl and 22.9 kmpl respectively.
The 2011 Maruti Suzuki Swift is a completely new car as compared to the older Swift. With its evolved design and plush interiors, the new Swift has become a more premium car for the customers to buy and rivals to compete with. With segment ‘firsts’ like the polymer fuel tank and on-board engine diagnostics and enhanced safety features like the lightweight ABS with Engine Drag Control (better steering under panic situations), the new Swift will yet again be a trendsetter.
By aiming at a price bracket between Rs 5-lakh to Rs 7 lakh, the new Swift will take on the likes of the Toyota Etios, Fiat Punto, Ford Figo, Hyundai i10, Honda Jazz, Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia and the upcoming Honda Brio. The new Swift’s only downsides against the competition are the lack of a few novelty features – like Bluetooth connectivity, keyless-go, adjustable headlights – and the tiring-ly long waiting period that it will attract over the next few months. With more than 42,000 pre-launch bookings under its belt, I don’t need to comment on how successful the 2011 Maruti Suzuki Swift will be…