With the constant stop-start in our burgeoning traffic, there has been an unsurprising rise in the popularity and convenience of an automatic gearbox. And say your driving is done mainly in the confines of the city, the diminutive body of a hatchback equipped with an auto ‘box makes the most sense. There are quite a few small automatic hatchbacks already on sale in India and the latest to join the fray is the Maruti Ritz automatic.
The four-speed auto ‘box is similar to the one in the Swift Dzire and A-star, and as a daily commuter, the Ritz auto is a likeable car. It takes off eagerly from a standstill and even part-throttle responses are good. Thanks to this, you can easily keep up with other cars in traffic and it never feels underpowered. However, as you press on, there is a bit of a delay in the response and it takes time for the ’box to drop down to a suitable gear. As the transmission has only four speeds, the gear ratios are quite tall. So every time the gearbox shifts to a lower gear it is usually at a very high engine rpm and consequently the engine also becomes very noisy.
Thankfully, the VVT-equipped engine revs freely and is quite refined right up to the redline (VVT or variable valve timing was introduced with the facelift). As with the other cars in this class, there’s no manual control or paddle shifters for the gearbox. Instead, you are left with the old-school ‘3, 2 and L’ gearlever configuration for added control.
But an automatic transmission is not the only thing new on the Ritz. It recently underwent a mid-life upgrade too, and now features a slightly altered and lower-mounted nose with a one-piece grille. The fenders now rise up above the bonnet ‘V’, the headlights are sharper, and the interiors have received minor updates too. The rest of the car remains pretty much the same, which means the ride is comfortable and it’s great for the daily commute thanks to its small dimensions.
At Rs 6.19 lakh (the Ritz auto is only available in one trim – VXi ABS), it is very expensive. And when you consider that this is a whopping Rs 92,000 more than the much better equipped manual ZXi variant, it becomes even harder to justify the asking price. Further making life difficult for Maruti is the fact that the Honda Brio is cheaper and comes with more standard features too. And let’s not forget, there will be a drop in fuel efficiency compared to the manual version.
To conclude, the Ritz always made for a very good family hatchback thanks to its comfortable ride and compact dimensions, and now it has become more convenient too. The only downside is that the added convenience of the auto ‘box comes with quite a hefty price tag.