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The big little car gets bigger

The third generation Swift has huge shoes to fill. Will it be as iconic as the first two?

brunch Updated: Apr 07, 2018 23:27 IST
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hindustan Times
third generation Swift,Suzuki Swift,Maruti
The Swift, with its funky design, proved that affordable cars don’t have to be boring

When the Suzuki Swift was first launched in 2005, it single-handedly changed the image of Maruti. It swept in as a breath of fresh air to invigorate a model range that was unimaginative at best. The makers of the venerable Maruti 800 and its even more popular successor, the Alto, were always reluctant to deviate from the tried and tested formula of building conservative but easy-to-own cars. The Swift, with its funky design, broke the mould. It proved that affordable cars don’t have to be boring.

Unlike the other Marutis at the time, the Swift was a car you bought with your heart and not just your head

In fact, the Swift went on to set the template for future premium hatchbacks. Its mix of zippy performance, affordability and distinctive styling resonated with the rising aspirations of a whole new generation of car buyers ready to take the wheel. Unlike the other Marutis at the time, the Swift was a car you bought with your heart and not just your head.

Its mix of zippy performance, affordability and distinctive styling resonated with the rising aspirations of a whole new generation of car buyers ready to take the wheel

The endearing character of the Swift gave it a cult-like following and it quickly became a runaway success. It evoked a lot of emotion, which made it less of a family car and something strongly individualistic.

Not surprisingly the second-generation Swift, which came to India in 2011 didn’t deviate much from the original and was even accused of looking too similar. That didn’t dent its popularity and it went on to become an even greater success.

Maruti launched the third generation Swift at the Delhi Auto Expo in February 2018. But how do you make such an iconic car even more appealing?

With such big shoes to fill, you would expect Suzuki (Maruti’s parent) to adopt the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach with the third-gen Swift, but the Japanese company hasn’t played it entirely safe. This all-new model gets bolder styling with several elements that are a design departure from Swifts of old.

The new Swift is functionally better too, with more space on offer just about everywhere. Starting at the rear, Suzuki has addressed what is possibly the Swift’s biggest weakness – boot space

The biggest changes are up front where you can’t miss the hexagonal grille, which protrudes aggressively, and the sharply cut, trapezoidal headlights. The large alloy wheels make the Swift look a class bigger but it still retains its cheeky character, which is central to its appeal.

The new Swift is functionally better too, with more space on offer just about everywhere. Starting at the rear, Suzuki has addressed what is possibly the Swift’s biggest weakness – boot space. The older car had just 204 litres, barely enough for a couple of overnighters, but now, the boot has been enlarged substantially to 265 litres and is deep enough to take two big bags.

The front seats in the new car are even better with a bit more generous bolstering all around and a slightly lower position, but visibility even for short drivers is superb all the same

The back seats are more spacious too, with extra legroom and headroom, but this isn’t the roomiest of cabins. Sitting three abreast is a tight squeeze and the blanked out quarter glass panel (to accommodate the door latch mechanism) cuts daylight, which along with the dark materials makes the backseat a bit gloomy.

I’ve always loved the Swift’s front seats and in the new car they are even better with a bit more generous bolstering all around and a slightly lower position, but visibility even for short drivers is superb all the same.

Sadly, cabin quality hasn’t taken a big step forward with the new Swift and unlike its main rival Hyundai, Suzuki has, true to tradition, stinted on expensive materials. The new dashboard design has touch of sportiness but there’s an excess of shiny, hard plastic all round and some of the switchgear, carried over from the original Swift, feels decidedly cheap. There’s little in the cabin to suggest that this is a premium hatch.

The new dashboard design has a touch of sportiness

The new Swift’s engine options are as before. It comes with the familiar 1.2 petrol and the tried and tested, but ageing Fiat-sourced 1.3 diesel. The Suzuki petrol motor is one of my favourites. It’s smooth, loves to be revved, and fuel efficient too. It’s a little gutless at low speeds, but once you pick up the pace it feels nice and peppy. The diesel is well past its sell-by date now. Sluggish at low speeds and pretty noisy too, it falls short of what customers expect today from a modern diesel.

And, despite being a 100kg lighter, the new Swift doesn’t feel as agile as before and hasn’t bettered the old car’s fun-to-drive appeal. But what it loses in a bit of character, it makes up with a jump forward in practicality. Bigger and more comfortable than the outgoing model, the new Swift now feels more complete and grown up.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India

From HT Brunch, April 8, 2018

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First Published: Apr 07, 2018 21:54 IST