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Maruti Suzuki SX4 Diesel : First Drive


The SX4 made its debut as a muscular sporty sedan that was great value for money. Taking this up a notch is the new SX4 diesel, which promises to be just as macho yet offer the efficiencies of having a diesel heart. Vikram Gour gets under the hood to see how the SX4 fares on a diesel diet


 

 

 

When Maruti Suzuki first rolled out the SX4 sedan in India, it marked the company’s entry back in to the premium midsize sedan segment post the departure of the Baleno. At the time the market was still rather petrol oriented and standing as testament to customer wants and needs was the Honda City, the undoubted king of the premium midsize sedan segment. The SX4 raked in the numbers however it couldn’t pipe the Honda. Having said that, the car has garnered a strong fan following over the years and still remains a strong contender in that market segment. 

 

Obviously this wasn’t enough. Maruti Suzuki was more than adamant to take on the mighty king of the hill and rumours of a diesel variant started doing the rounds. The idea of putting in a diesel engine under the hood clearly made tremendous sense, for this would open a whole new avenue for MSIL to sell the SX4. Further to this, the market was changing and diesel powered cars such as the Volkswagen Vento, Hyundai Verna, Fiat Linea and Ford Fiesta were steadily making inroads.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No doubt the scope was immense and Maruti Suzuki finally did the needful by ushering in the Super Turbo DDiS engine under the hood of the SX4. Armed with this new variable geometry turbo charged diesel engine the SX4 now caters to a wider audience and its appeal is bound to make it quite the sensation.

 

In terms of looks and design, the car remains unchanged from its petrol sibling. The only telltale sign to tell the two apart are the DDiS badges on the diesel variant. Having said that, the SX4 is still a fresh design and has received a few minor upgrades over the years in order to maintain that freshness. The rather pronounced lines give the car its sporty image; large headlights and the honeycomb grille have been a staple feature that bring out the SX4’s looks and the imagery of a masculine car is summed up by the vehicles purposeful stance. The SX4 sits tall and its rally car DNA does shine through. Moreover the car boasts of brilliant ground clearance, which is a boon considering most of our roads. In fact one of the features that customers have always appreciated on the SX4 is its ground clearance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The interiors also remain the same and though the plastics are of a great quality it is the texture that leaves you still wanting. Fit and finish is decent, but still not at Honda levels and with the increased competition from the likes of the Linea and Vento, Maruti could have actually used this opportunity to induce some more class on the inside. Nevertheless, the seats are comfortable and the car does offer oodles of space, making it one of the most comfortable cars in its class. The SX4 diesel is available in two variants, namely the ZDi and VDi and both have a fair share of accessories to pamper the owners with. 

 

The real story however lies under the hood. The diesel engine is basically the 1.3 litre DDiS engine found on the Swift, Dzire and Ritz. However, it boasts of a variable geometry turbocharger that ups the power to a rather potent 90PS @ 4000 rpm and churns out a decent 200Nm of torque @ 1750 rpm. Mated to a five speed gearbox, the SX4 diesel isn’t a tarmac scorcher; however it does a more than healthy job of being quick on its tires. It can go from 0 to 100 km/h in around 14 seconds and topping off its capabilities is the fact that it returns a mileage of around 21.5 kilometers to the litre according to the testing data based on CMVR rules. In real world conditions, this number will drop and we believe that the SX4 diesel should return around 14-15 kilometers to the litre which is still very decent for a car of this size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thought of a small 1.3 liter engine powering a car the size of the SX4 does throw up a predicament as to whether this is enough. Enthusiasts might agree that the SX4 could have gone with a larger diesel and honestly there is no end to that argument; however a single drive in the SX4 DDiS should dispel most issues that have been conjured up. The 1.3 litre engine with the variable geometry turbo charger is well suited for the SX4 and it actually offers a healthier torque than its petrol counterpart! MSIL has done a great job in terms of packaging and keeping NVH levels under check. The engine is smooth, refined and most of the time you will be hard-pressed to even hear it under the hood.

 

Fitted with this engine, I found the car to be quite at home on city streets. Never once did I feel the car was sluggish or slow. Overtaking and being quick off the mark is an easy task. On open roads, the SX4 diesel is a brilliant highway cruiser. The engine frees up and the car easily manages three digit speeds. It might not be the fastest car around, but is surely is a joy to drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incidentally, MSIL has also reworked the front suspension in order to handle the added weight of the diesel engine. It increases the vehicle’s weight by approximately 50 kilograms and this could have lead to handling issues and premature tire wear had the suspension not been reworked. Maruti has also tinkered with the steering for improved maneuverability and enhance driver comfort. No doubt, the SX4 diesel is definitely a car to reckon with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The market is constantly growing; however the SX4 diesel will have its job cut out in terms of competition. At one end of the spectrum is the Volkswagen Vento and at the other end is the Tata Manza. In between you find the Ford Fiesta, and the Fiat Linea. What you have in effect is an engine war in progress for the Linea and Manza are in the exact same league.

 

What is different is the packaging and if there is a lesson to have been learnt from the Dzire and Swift diesels, it is that MSIL possibly rolls out the best 1.3 engine amongst the lot of companies. Having said that, the game comes down to pricing and this is where MSIL always manages to catch their customer-a good product, great pricing and the legendary MSIL service network.