Maruti Suzuki Swift review: Minus the fun and funky DNA, it’s still a great hatchback
In its third generation, Maruti’s stylish and popular hatchback, Suzuki Swift is better equipped, more spacious and more grown up, and is all the better for it.autos Updated: Jan 27, 2018 08:46 IST
The successor to the second-most popular hatchback in India. That’s one way to look at it, and one which illustrates just how much will be riding on this all-new Swift when it goes on sale at the Auto Expo in February. On the flip side, one could argue that the Swift brand is so strong in India that even if the car turned out to be critically flawed (spoiler alert: it isn’t), they’d still shift tens of thousands of them each month. Now, while we’ll evaluate it on every parameter like we do every car, we also want to see if it has inherited those particular traits that have been intrinsic to every Swift. These traits are more about character – the way it looks and the way it drives – but they’re a crucial part of the package.
Let’s start with the look. If the shift from Gen 1 to Gen 2 was a small evolutionary step, the shift to Gen 3 is a leap – but still an evolutionary one. Anyone familiar with the old Swifts could identify this one at a glance, even though so much of it is different. The headlamps are still swept back, but they’re more pod-like than the triangles of old, and now have a distinct LED running lamp signature and LED projector lamps on the top trim. Similarly, the tail-lamps do flow back over the rear haunches as always, but this time they’re more three-dimensional. The other Swift signature is the floating roof, which is now enhanced by a black bifurcation in the thick C-pillar. And, speaking of which, the rear door handle is now housed in the C-pillar, which gives the Swift the look of a three-door hatchback – it’s a design touch that’s quite passe but still looks cool nonetheless.
We got a preview of the new Swift with the new Dzire that launched in 2017 – this can be said, to an extent, about the exterior as well, but really, it’s the interior that’s far more similar. The big difference is that it’s all black, rather than beige-and-black, and the somewhat tacky-looking faux wood has been replaced by simpler, more convincing grey plastic. Still, there are a few more cool, new bits, like the circular central AC vents and the big rotary controls for the climate control, which operate with a solid, well-damped feel. Finally, there is a new instrument cluster with twin hooded binnacles for the speedo and tacho and red-ringed highlights. Sadly, the Dzire’s rather basic-looking central multi-info display returns; we were hoping for the Baleno’s high-res screen.
The equipment and additions, predictably, more-or-less mirror the additions we saw on the new Dzire. In the top Z+ cars, front and centre is the 7.0-inch SmartPlay touchscreen, and as with all the cars in the range, it gets Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and its own integrated navigation system too. There’s auto climate control, auto headlamps, a rear-view camera, voice commands, keyless entry and go, LED projector headlamps and daytime running lamps. It’s a little disappointing that the automatic versions aren’t available in this top trim, as the Z trim they are available in misses out on some desirable equipment, like the touchscreen, rear-view camera and LED lamps (just plain-looking halogens here). Still, it still gets more than just the basics though. What is nice, however, is the focus on safety; all Swifts get dual airbags, ABS, seatbelt pretensioners and ISOFIX child seat mounts as standard, and Maruti says it complies with all current Indian crash test norms.
When it comes to space and comfort, the front half of the cabin, again, is identical to the Dzire’s. The seats are large and well contoured, but you realise soon enough into your drive that they’re cushioned a bit too softly, which could get uncomfortable for some over long distances. The driver’s seat is height adjustable though, and the sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel is tilt-adjustable too.
In the back, the new car has opened up a lot more space, which is welcome, as the previous cars were seriously lacking in this respect. Legroom and headroom, though perhaps not class leading, are vastly improved now, although shoulder room will still be a tad tight for three.
The new Swift uses Maruti’s 1.2-litre K12 petrol engine and the Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre Multijet diesel; the same engines used by most of Maruti’s current range, as well as both previous Swifts. Additionally, you can now get both engines with either a manual or an AMT automatic gearbox. The engines are as you remember them, but they feel altogether punchier in this new Swift, thanks to the lowered weight. The 1.2 petrol is responsive off the line, which makes it great for scooting around town, but like before, the mid-range is quite flat which means you have to rev it to squeeze the most out of it, and that’s no bad thing - this engine loves to be revved. The five-speed manual is just a delight too, with short and snappy shifts, accompanied by a light clutch. The five-speed AMT with the petrol would work well as a city runabout. The five-speed AMT on the diesel isn’t as seamless an experience as the one on the petrol, as aside from its own inherent shortcomings, it has to work around the 1.3-litre Multijet’s turbo lag. On to the final option, the diesel manual. It’s a pleasant surprise how light the clutch and the gearshift action are, and that’s a good thing because it’s easy to get lost in a trough of turbo lag, and you will often have to shift your way out of it.
But here’s the crucial focus of the new Swift – the dynamics. The second-generation Swift was a bit softer than the sharp-as-a-tack original, so is this one a return to form? Not quite. On one hand, the new, stiffer, lighter chassis makes itself quite apparent in how well it holds things together in corners. The suspension, too, is well judged, with body movements being decently contained. However, as with the Dzire, the steering feels completely lifeless and doesn’t return to centre freely. Sure, you’ll probably get used to driving it in town, and in a sedan like the Dzire, you might be able to forgive it, but this is a Swift, and fun-driving characteristics are meant to be a part of the package. The ride feels a little on the firm side and a bit jiggly over rough patches at low speeds, but as you pick the pace up, it smoothens out beautifully. Overall, the ride has a nice maturity to it and endows the Swift with a nice, big-car feel, even though it’s so much lighter this time.
Chances are, a lot of people will. You see, the Swift may have lost some of the original’s fun and funky DNA, notably in the dynamics department, but that won’t stop the majority of buyers from lapping it up. Yes, that’s because of how strong the Swift name is, but also because, lifeless steering aside, it’s just a great hatchback. It’s got the look, for one, and that’s a big enough selling point on its own. But then it’s also got a long equipment list, good space and, crucially, a bigger boot too. It’s worth noting that it’s probably not best in class in any of these areas, but it’s close enough. That the new Swift will be a success is practically a given, but what you need to know is that this time around, when it comes to those inherent Swift traits, sharp handling has been replaced by something else, and that’s a certain big-car maturity that’s new to the brand.