Even as the market for sub-4 m sedans seems to be flattening out a bit, OEMs are going the extra mile to spruce up their offerings in this segment in a bid to boost sales. The latest example is the Dzire, which has just received a comprehensive upgrade from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL). Does it have the wherewithals to rule the charts all over again? We find out.
The 2017 Maruti Dzire compact sedan is built on Suzuki’s new HEARTECT platform and uses 36 % higher tensile strength steel. This has led to reduced weight and improved structural rigidity, which in turn gives it the best of both worlds – improved fuel economy as well as better occupant safety.
DESIGN & STYLING
The main highlight of the new-generation Maruti Suzuki Dzire is the changes seen to the all-round design. The car features a brand new hexagonal grill with chrome surround (which MSIL calls Impact Design Grill), with the Suzuki logo in the centre providing a floating effect. There are new LED headlamps, which come with an automatic feature, while the top Z+ variant also gets LED DRLs. There are chrome insets on the corners of the front bumper below the fog lamps, which add to the appeal of the new design.
The new Dzire’s bonnet features curved lines, which are also carried over along the sides of the vehicles over the wheelarches. These soft lines make for a very fluid design, which looks much better when compared to its predecessor. The rear of the new Dzire is equipped with wrap-around LED combination tail lamps connected by a chrome-highlighted number plate garnish. This garnish also encloses the rear-view camera, making it less susceptible to tampering. The car’s newly-design boot now gels well with the overall design of the car, giving it much improved sedan-like proportions.
When viewed from the side, the profile of the new Dzire features a curved roof design that extends right from the A-pillar to the C-pillar. The angles of the front and rear windshields of the car have also been altered, giving the compact sedan a very aerodynamic profile. The sleek, electrically-adjustable outside rear-view mirrors, with integrated turn indicators, also add to the smooth design language that the new Dzire features. The new Dzire comes with newly-designed 15-inch precision-cut dual-tone alloy wheels, shod with 185 section tyres. The design and colour of the alloy wheels go well with the overall design theme of the car.
INTERIORS & INSTRUMENTATION
The new Dzire’s interiors get a host of subtle changes, some of which add to the premium feel of this compact sedan. The car features a dual-tone dashboard with black on the top and beige at the bottom – the two colours are offset by a faux wood insert, which is also found on the lower part of the flat-bottom steering wheel. This burl wood ornamentation garnered mixed reactions, with our view being positive. Another small detail on the dashboard is the satin chrome insert surrounding the central AC vents, climate controls and instrument cluster meter rings, which looks good.
The Dzire also gets MSIL’s new Smartplay infotainment system, which features a seven-inch touchscreen. This system, available in the top-end ZXi+ and ZDi+ variants, features satellite navigation and voice command recognition, as well as smartphone connectivity enabled through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The system provides multiple audio output modes via USB, AUX, CD, and FM/AM, has Bluetooth connectivity and also displays the video from the rear parking camera. All this is controllable via steering wheel-mounted controls that are ergonomically placed, without hindering regular driving in any way.
The interiors of the new Dzire are a little more spacious than that of the outgoing version, with the wheelbase now being increased to 2,450 mm. At the rear, legroom has been increased noticeably, which rear seat passengers will appreciate, along with the new AC vent for the rear seats, which provides much-needed cabin cooling at the back. One issue that we’ll note here is that the rear AC vent’s angle means that passengers’ knees get most of the cooling, which may be uncomfortable for some, especially when there are three passengers in the back seat.
The front seats feature adequate bolstering, which keeps occupants comfortable even when the car is being driven across mixed terrain. The driver seat is offered with six-way manual-adjustment for height, reach, and inclination, along with the tilt-adjustable steering. A feature that is missed out, and which would have added to better driving ergonomics, is telescopic adjustment for the steering. Also, the front wheel well bulge takes up a fair bit of space, leading to a reduction in legroom available for the driver and front seat passenger.
In terms of the quality of materials used in the Dzire’s interiors, things seem to be a bit inconsistent, with some plastics being soft and plush, while a few others don’t look and feel as good. That said, bits like the steering wheel, gear lever, touchscreen and control buttons feel and perform like high-quality parts, which is reassuring. Meanwhile, parts of the dashboard, the centre console and door trim materials could do with some improvement.
ENGINES & TRANSMISSION
The only thing that remains unchanged in the new Dzire is the engines. The car continues to be offered with the four-cylinder, 1.3 l, DDiS turbocharged diesel engine, as well as the four-cylinder, 1.2 l, K-12 VVT petrol engine. Power output for the diesel motor remains at 74 hp at 4,000 rpm, with peak torque of 190 Nm at 2,000 rpm. Meanwhile, the petrol delivers 82 hp of power at 6,000 rpm, and 113 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm.
Both the petrol and diesel variants of the new Dzire are available with a five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automated-manual transmission (AMT), which MSIL refers to as Auto Gear Shift (AGS). The company offers AMT right from the second-level VXi and VDi variants of the car, making the AMT available in a total of six variants. MSIL said the new Dzire is more efficient now, with fuel economy figures of 28.40 km/l and 22 km/l for the diesel and petrol variants, respectively. These fuel efficiency figures remain constant for the manual transmission, as well the AMT variants. The company is said to have reworked the engines to increase their thermal efficiency, which has translated into better fuel efficiency.
RIDE & HANDLING
The 2017 Dzire’s new HEARTECT platform seems to have helped the car in not only shedding weight and improving efficiency, but has also improved the driving dynamics. Body roll on winding roads seems to have been reduced, with the car also feeling more stable around corners and at speeds of above 100-120 km/h. Suspension set-up feels slightly softer than what we used to get on the older Dzire, which may be good for dealing with bad roads everywhere. The increased ground clearance of 163 mm means the car did not bottom out at any time during our drive.
The Dzire’s larger 15-inch wheels, with the 185 section tyres, add to stability and road grip, which is further accentuated by the car’s braking prowess. The brakes provide good bite and feedback to the driver, and seem to be well-tuned for both the manual and AMT engine variants. The level of confidence provided by the brakes could lead one to drive at higher speeds, without compromising on safety.
In terms of the driving performance, the manual transmission variants of the new Dzire provide a more refined driving experience and, notably, the higher torque level of diesel engine needs fewer downshifts. The manual transmission in both versions offers short throws and precise gear shifting, along with a light clutch that provides a refined driving experience.
The Dzire’s AMT/AGS isn’t as good as the manual, with lag in gear shifts and slow operation when driven hard. The system works much better when the acceleration input is linear or gradual, especially in city conditions. Given their different power and torque curves, between the diesel and the petrol engines, the latter seems better suited to the AMT gearbox.
It must be noted here that MSIL seems to have tuned the AMTs for higher fuel efficiency rather than sporty behaviour – something that prospective owners may want to bear in mind. Also, the manual mode on the AMT variants is better to shift into when trying to push the car harder on the road. This mode does not up-shift gears automatically, requiring a manual tap on the shift lever even when redlining the engine. The manual mode would offer enthusiastic drivers a slightly better feel of the power of the engines and provide more control.
The new Maruti Suzuki Dzire is offered with dual front airbags, ISOFIX chid seat restraints, and ABS with EBD and Brake Assist as standard safety equipment. This is the first car in its segment to offer airbags and ABS with EBD as standard across its model range, showing that MSIL is improving the level of safety in its cars. Additionally, introduction of AMT in all variants except the base shows that the company is promoting AMTs in the Indian market, to keep up with the growing demand for automatics. In terms of NVH, the petrol variant is, as you would expect, better than the diesel, but then the latter provides better fuel economy.
The 2017 Maruti Dzire is priced from Rs 5.45 lakh to Rs 8.41 lakh for the petrol variants and from Rs 6.45 lakh to Rs 9.41 lakh for the diesel versions (all prices ex-showroom Delhi). While the prices are higher than those of the outgoing models, there seems to be enough in terms of upgraded features to justify the increase in prices. With all its added features in terms safety, technology and convenience, as well as changes in interior and exterior design, we believe that the Maruti Suzuki Dzire will easily maintain its lead in the sub-4 m compact sedan segment in India.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay