by priyadarshan bawikar , Photography : kunal khadse |
March 16, 2012 19:00 IST
The new Dzire asks some hard-hitting questions. How important is a boot? Does having a sedan, even one that forgoes some of the real benefits of one, outweigh the convenience of a hatchback? What would you give up for an automatic gearbox? We get behind the wheel of Maruti Suzuki's latest model to see if we can find the answers
Let’s get one thing out of the way, it’s going to be impossible to review the new Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire without drawing parallels to the outgoing model. The old Dzire was pretty much the poster child for how practicality and the inclusion of a boot score over almost everything else in the psyche of the Indian car buyer. So with the new Swift all grown up when compared to the earlier, one would expect its sedan version, the Dzire, to do the same as well. But surprisingly, rather than slapping a full sized boot to the Swift, the boffins at Maruti Suzuki have added more of a notch to keep it under that magic 4-metre mark, giving it the impression of a two-and-a-half box sedan, rather than a proper three-box. It’s not a notch back mind you, just a really, really small boot. But nonetheless, getting our hands on the new Dzire is an exciting prospect, and here’s a rundown of just what we concluded.
The new Swift is definitely a handsome brute, with matured lines, that extended hood and bigger head lights. On the aesthetics front, it really does a much better job than the old Swift. The new Dzire also carries over this new front end design from the Swift, and in that regard, looks more elegant from the front than the old Dzire ever did. But at this juncture, it becomes very critical to address the elephant in the room – the boot! The tiny rump, no matter how you look at it, is something that really doesn’t do the design any favours. The old Dzire wasn’t really winning any beauty contests, but it was a design that grew on you, and the oddities were something you learned to look past. The new design is more of a shocker as a whole, though the individual details are quite pleasing to behold.
On the Inside
Step inside the car however, and it’s a whole different ball game. From the driver’s seat, the interiors are an absolute delight. The new steering wheel, new dashboard and all the other new trim bits from the new Swift have been carried over in to the new Dzire and what makes the deal even sweeter is that it now comes in a beige and black two tone colour scheme. In the front, the seats are spacious and comfortable, and the cabin has a pretty premium feel to it. Like the back end design, the back seats however take a bit of a beating. Even though the wheelbase of the new car is about 40mm longer than the previous car, space in the back actually seems to have decreased with not only lesser knee room, but lesser foot room as well. But thanks to C pillar being less raked than the one in the previous car, the chances of banging one’s head on the pillar while entering the rear of the cabin are significantly reduced.
Engine and performance
Now the Dzire comes in both the 1.2-litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel variants that are currently on offer in the new Swift. But one trump card that the Dzire holds is the inclusion of an optional 4-speed automatic gearbox in the mid-level VXi petrol variant. And as luck would have it, this was the very car we got to test. Now one might think that a 1.2-litre 4 cylinder petrol mill would feel a little weedy when coupled to an auto ‘box, but this it comes with variable valve timing that significantly improves engine response through the rev range, and even improves on the output figures of the previous engine by a small amount. Now packing a power punch of 87PS @ 6000rpm and a torque figure of 114Nm @ 4000rpm, this automatic Dzire can get from zero to 100km/h in 16.49 seconds, and if you keep you right foot firmly planted on the throttle, it can eventually hit a top speed in excess of 160km/h. But more important than the outright performance of the engine and gearbox combination, the really impressive bit is the sheer tractability of the two. Moving around city traffic, the drive is an absolute breeze and the neither the gearbox nor the engine feel laggy at any point.
Performance apart, mileage is a very critical factor, especially to those considering entry level sedans. Both the diesel and petrol engines have been thoroughly tested on the new Swift before, and considering that the short sedan doesn’t gain much more mass over the hatchback, the mileage figures shouldn’t take too much of a hit. But our chief concern was what the automatic gearbox would do to this small engine, and we’re glad to say, not much. Pootling around town, it returned a mileage figure of about 11kmpl, and when we hit the highway, the figure climbed easily to about 16kmpl. Not bad for a small engine with an auto ‘box.
Handling and Ride
The old Dzire, while not what you might call a bad handler, was rather rolly-polly in the bends. Thankfully, this new one borrows its handling characteristics from its hatch sibling rather directly. The steering is nicely weighted and carving corners on a twisty mountain road is as fun as it gets in this segment of cars. And the beauty of the whole thing is that ride quality isn’t compromised to the point where it becomes a problem. Sure, it’s a bit stiffer than the old Dzire, but overall, whether sitting in the back or the front, you won’t really find a reason to complain.
Now here’s the real question. Is the new Dzire really worth it? Well, this requires a rather subjective treatment. There are a few things to consider. First and foremost of which is the fact that the boot space is as little as some of the larger hatchbacks out there. It’s almost exactly the same as the Fabia’s boot, and it’s smaller than that of the Jazz. So is the lure of a boot, no matter how small, enough to satisfy the Indian psyche and make buyers sacrifice the convenience of a hatchback? This really comes down to personal choice, given the fact that the price benefit of having a sub 4-metre sedans isn’t wholly passed down to the buyer. And then there’s the question of the automatic gearbox variant. Since the company only offers the auto ‘box in the VXI variant, you don’t get a lot of bells and whistles, such as steering mounted audio controls, automatic climate control, alloy wheels, seat height adjustor as well as airbags. So is the convenience of an automatic gearbox worth sacrificing all these features and still paying almost Rs. 35,000 more than the fully loaded ZXI manual version? Again, this comes down to a matter of personal opinion.
The new Dzire is a desirable car no doubt. It drives well, is smooth and refined and bearing a Maruti Suzuki, comes with a lot of benefits such as low running costs and ease of maintenance. But unless you have an overwhelming need for an automatic transmission, we’d stick to the either the top-end ZXI or the mid-level VDI variant. Alternatively, if you’re not charmed by boots, then the Swift hatchback should suit you just fine in most situations.