Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL), the country’s leading passenger car company has had many firsts to its name over the past three-and-half decades. One of these is the company’s claim of creating the mid-size hatchback segment, which it entered into in May of 2005, with the launch of the first-generation Swift. The first-generation Swift was a complete hit, which took the segment by storm, maintaining the status of one of the top-selling models for MSIL, as well as one of the highest-selling cars in the Indian automotive industry to date.
Fast-forward nearly 13 years later and we see the Maruti Suzuki Swift still being one of the leading cars in the automotive industry, having sold over 1.7 mn units since launch. The sport hatchback has gone through two full upgrades, along with a number of smaller refreshes and facelifts, now making way for the all-new, third-generation 2018 Maruti Suzuki Swift.
The new Swift has undergone major changes to the exterior and interior design, in addition to it now being based on a completely new vehicle platform. In a drive organised by the company between Pune and Lonavala, we drove the new Swift to find out how it stands against its predecessor, along with all the new developments gone into this new generation model.
PLATFORM & SAFETY
The all-new Maruti Suzuki Swift is now based on Suzuki’s fifth-generation Heartect vehicle platform, making it the third model following the Baleno and Dzire in the B-segment. The fact that the Swift is based on the Heartect platform leads to a number of changes in terms of vehicle proportions, interior space and overall efficiency. The new Swift is now shorter in length by 10 mm, but is 40 mm wider and features an increased wheelbase of 20 mm. This makes it a wee bit more compact on the outside, while slightly increasing interior dimensions.
The hatchback is now about 80 kg lighter than its previous iteration in both petrol and diesel versions, which has been the result of the use of about 40 % high tensile steel in its construction. Use of high tensile steel not only provides the weight-loss that translates to better performance efficiency, but also leads to improved cabin protection during a crash. Therefore this platform, which also seems to be the company’s architecture for future models, provides the best balance between safety, efficiency and driving dynamics.
The new Swift comes with dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, and ISOFIX child seat anchorages as standard across all variants. Other safety features include reverse parking sensors, driver side window with pinch guard and auto-up function, pedestrian safety compliance, and engine immobiliser. Additionally, the new Heartect platform leads to dispersion of forces with its smooth structure that provides effective absorption and dispersion of crash energy, as well as improvement in crash, rigidity, strength and NVH performance.
The new Maruti Suzuki Swift comes with a radical change in design of the exteriors, with almost every single body panel featuring new design cues. The front now features a more curved facia, with the main highlights being the single-aperture hexagonal grill and the LED projector headlamps. While the front-end design is similar to the new Dzire, it is also well-differentiated in terms of the larger grill with the Suzuki logo placed at the top, along with a completely new bumper design.
Moving to the side, the front door seems to be the only part of the car that hasn’t undergone much change from the previous generation model. But beyond that is where the design changes drastically with the introduction of a strong shoulder line, as well as the movement of the rear door handle up to the C-pillar. The shoulder line is enhanced further due to the deletion of the rear door handle, making it look like a three-door hatchback and adding to the sportiness in terms of visual appeal. This shoulder line moves to the rear of the car into the rear lamps, enhancing the wider stance of the hatchback from the rear. The car also comes with completely-new, 15-inch alloy wheels for the Z and Z+ variants, with the top-end Zxi+ and Zdi+ trims getting precision cut, dual-tone chrome and black wheels.
The rear of the all-new Swift is where the least changes are seen, with the tail lamps now featuring a flatter design than before. The hatch lid gets a prominent crease just below the rear windshield, which adds to the wider appearance of the car. The rear design of the new Swift seems very conservative and doesn’t quite match up with the sportiness felt while viewing the other parts of the exterior.
The new Swift sees no chrome accents in the front and rear besides the logo and badging, which gives it a very clean and sporty look. However, this may not go down too well with the majority of Indian customers who like a dash of chrome on their cars. The overall exterior design language in the new Swift is a more aerodynamic than earlier, with sharp lines making way for smooth curves and bulges. Additionally, all these exterior design variations have been made while keeping in check the trademark Swift silhouette.
The new Maruti Suzuki Swift features a number of changes inside, with the most prominent one being the all-new dashboard layout. The new dashboard design, which seems to be similar to the one in the Dzire compact sedan, is actually quite different. For one, the dashboard in the new Swift features an all-black design layout with silver highlights that the company calls ‘satin chrome finishing.’ The dashboard comes with newly-designed round air-conditioning vents in the centre, with rotary dials for air-conditioning controls and digital display. These rotary dials, controls and vents, when combined with the new dual-pod instrument cluster and flat-bottom, multi-function steering wheel provide an additional dash of sportiness to the interiors design of the Swift.
The increased wheelbase and width of the new Swift has resulted in the interiors providing a little bit more space to the occupants. Front occupants get an additional 23 mm of shoulder room, while the rear passengers gain 8 mm. Additionally, the rear seating has been altered in order to provide 24 mm increased headroom, which can be felt the most inside the cabin, when compared to other dimensional changes. The increased shoulder room in the front combined with the new front seats that offer much more bolstering make the seats very comfortable and holds the driver and passenger well. The new platform also results in the car getting an additional boot capacity of 58 l, taking it to 268 l.
Another new introduction to the interior of the new Swift is the SmartPlay infotainment system that is present in other Maruti Suzuki car models. The touchscreen infotainment system offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for smartphone connectivity, offers voice command and navigation with speech guidance, and displays the video from the wide angle rear camera. The interior features a driver-oriented cockpit design with the infotainment system being angled towards the driver, along with operational components also being centred on the driver seat. The overall ergonomics of the controls inside the cabin of the new Swift are well thought out and make operations convenient. This is in addition to the work carried out to lower the levels of NVH inside the cabin, leading to the drive being much smoother than before and ensuring a less-stressful experience.
One of the only areas that remain unchanged in the new Maruti Suzuki Swift is the engine options. The first is the 1,197 cc, four-cylinder, VVT, K-Series petrol engine that puts out about 82 hp of power at 6,000 rpm, and peak torque of 113 Nm at 4,200 rpm. The second is the 1,248 cc, four-cylinder, DDiS 190 diesel engine delivering maximum power of about 74 hp at 4,000 rpm, with 190 Nm of torque at 2,000 rpm.
The car is offered with a five-speed manual transmission, as well as a five-speed automated-manual transmission (AMT), which MSIL has named Auto Gear Shift (AGS). The AGS variant however, is available in the mid trims – Vxi, Zxi, Vdi and Zdi, and is not offered in the top-end Zxi+ and Zdi+ variants. The manual transmission on both the petrol and diesel variants works well, especially along with the light clutch that makes gear shifts slot into place every single time.
On the contrary, the AGS variant features lag shifting into gears in the drive mode and likes to shift up through gears quickly, most likely to provide better economy. However, the manual mode in the AGS is a whole different story, with gear-shifts taking place instantly, leading to a more dynamic driving experience. Therefore, the AGS variants not only provide ease of driving in city conditions due to the absence of a clutch pedal, but also have the capability to offer a more performance-oriented drive.
RIDE & HANDLING
The Swift has always been a car to offer good driving dynamics, and this continues to be the case with the all-new, third-generation car. The suspension system, which consists of MacPherson struts upfront and torsion beams at the rear, have been built for stability and ride comfort to handle the reduced weight optimally, while soaking bumps well. It also leads to a highly-balanced chassis system that enhances the handling characteristics of the hatchback. The electric power steering in the new Swift is light and precise to input, but returns almost no feedback at all. This makes driving the car feel a little less connected as the road feedback is negligible.
The new Swift comes with 185/65 R15 tyres for the Z and Z+ variants, which might seem to make the car a bit under-tyred. MSIL seems to have gone with this tyre size to help in maintaining fuel efficiency, which do not really feel narrow or obstruct the driving dynamics in any way. To add to this, the Heartect vehicle platform has also led to increased structural rigidity, making the new Swift more agile while remaining planted on the road. In all reality, this new platform has not only maintained the sporty handling nature of the Swift, but may have actually taken it up a notch or two.
The new Swift, just like its predecessor, is a practical hatchback that now has a bit of enhanced interior space, while getting slightly compact outside. While the engine options remain unchanged, the addition of AGS option to both the petrol and diesel variants adds to its appeal to various types of customers. In addition, the new vehicle platform that the car is based on has made it lighter, while making it safer and more efficient. Overall, the new Swift has become a better overall package than before, even though upping the game seemed difficult. Bookings for the all-new 2018 Maruti Suzuki Swift are currently open for a sum of Rs 11,000, with the vehicle launch scheduled to take place in the upcoming Auto Expo 2018 – Motor Show.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay