The Suzuki Cultus, which started manufacture in 1983, the sedan version of which is better known in India as the Maruti Suzuki 1000 (for want of,*sigh*, a better name) was the first supermini to sport the name Swift in any market. It had a 1.0 litre carbureted and a 1.0 litre inline fuel injected triple cylinder turbocharged engine and such was the response from the buyers, that GM decided to exploit the alliance which they had formed with Suzuki in 1981, and started to market the Cultus in North America and Canada as the Chevrolet Sprint and the Pontiac Firefly respectively. The Cultus is still manufactured and sold only in Pakistan as of today with the famous G13B engine, putting out a 100 horsepower.
In 2000, a good seventeen years after the Cultus was released, the first generation of the Swift, with a 1.3 and a 1.5 litre iterations were released to replace the Cultus. Interestingly, GM had leveraged the alliance here as well to introduce what they then called the Chevrolet Cruze in Japan, a compact SUV which was developed on the original dimensions of the Swift.
The major alterations came along in 2004, with the introduction of the second generation of the Swift being exhibited in the Paris Motor Show in 2004. The car was made available in a 1.3 litre and a 1.5 litre manual transmission, a 1.2 litre automatic transmission and a 1.3 litre MultiJet diesel engine variant sourced from Fiat (the same engine featured in the Fiat Palio 1.3 Stile, and later the Grande Punto 1.3, and still later, as part of a technical collaboration between Tata and Fiat, the Tata Indigo and the Indica, and recently, the Premier Rio MJ D) in the international markets. In India, it was launched with the 1.3 litre manual transmission upto 2008 and from then on, a 1.2 K series all-aluminum engine.
The car was lauded after being driven around by the testers and journalists as being supremely responsive to driver inputs, being extremely friendly, carrying a superb power to weight ratio and having a “sporty” character, (a term much abused now to describe everything from car dynamics to upholstery), but at that time, being used to describe the way the car responded to being thrown around corners at high speeds and the acceleration figures. For six years, the Swift soldiered on, selling in humongous numbers and was a darling with the modifiers because of the space available in the engine bay for possible modification kits to be incorporated. Everything from body kits to piggyback systems to the ubiquitous halogen kits were developed for the Swift specifically, benefitting not just Suzuki, but the accessories manufacturers and resellers as well.
During late 2009 and early 2010, one heard persistent rumors about how the Swift was being given the complete makeover, about how the car was being redesigned ground up and how the new Swift would cater to all the shortcomings of the earlier car. Paris Motor Show 2010 saw the new Swift being launched, and it was just a matter of time before it came into India via Maruti Suzuki. As soon as it was launched in India in August 2011, it received tremendous response from the automotive fraternity, who have gone ga-ga over it’s looks and tremendous handling. So, what exactly is it about the Swift that makes it such a darling to the masses?
A friend of ours, Arindam, a fellow petrolhead and a rabid Swift supporter had picked up the electric blue (known as Torque Blue) in February. We got him to lend it to us for a day, and spent a Sunday throwing her around the bends and laughing maniacally while doing so. The verdict? Read on!
The new Swift retains the basic designing cues from the earlier Swift. The styling is still the double box which features in most of the newer generation hatchbacks. The bonnets look the same, but it appears that the curve from the windshield to the bumpers are slightly lesser curved than what it was with the older generation, making the bonnet slight longer than the earlier ones.
The headlights are pulled back even more into the body, making the Swift look, (for lack of a lesser politically correct description, we assure you, we are not racists at all), more slit eyed than the previous version. The taillights have also been pulled into the body, and from a side, if you look at the car, you may become confused as to which is the front and which is the rear, so similar do they look, except for the coloured plastics that the taillights use.
The Swift has always had a problem with having a substantial derriere and the same design concept has been carried forward into this model as well. The only difference being that the skirt is hitched a little higher on this iteration so that only half of the boot door is actually operable. There is no increase in height of the car but the wheelbase has been increased by around 40 mm, which does not create any appreciable difference in the way the car looks.
Maruti, show some respect already! We are frustrated with the quality of plastics provided in the earlier iteration of the car, and this version simply carries forward more of the same rubbish.
There is a hollow thud when you rap the plastics with your knuckles and the stuff actually looks cheap. The compartments which should house the music system/ AV system are poorly fitted and there is enough gaps in the panels for me to throw the kitchen sink through them and I have a hunch that it would pass through untouched. As a saving grace, the dashboard is quite large and is reasonably easy to read the numbers off it, even in sunlight. The seats are quite comfortable and large, though we would have loved a three stage lumbar support on it. For shorter city rides, it does not make much of a difference, but for long distance touring, holding the position would show.
I am tired of beige and/ or grey interiors. No, seriously, what am I, a WWII veteran who has a chestful of medals and a rapidly diminishing sex drive? I would have definitely preferred a more colourful interior colour combination in keeping with the cheeky nature of the car. Chestnut wood, alongwith hints of amber, some more chrome and warmer colours like dark blue or chocolate would have made life infinitely more interesting. Maruti says that there is a (hold your breath), a Sporty steering wheel, a Sporty chrome accents on the dash and Sporty fabric seats. Much abused, right?
Verdict on the interiors in one word? Blehh, but good job on the dashboard!
Engine and Transmission
The 2011 Swift features the new 1.2 K series engine, albeit featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT). Before going forward, let me explain why this is important. The power and torque an engine is capable of generating is a function of the duration, lift and timing of the intake and/ or exhaust valves. With set (non variable) values for all of the above, an engine would be capable of generating only the set power and torque within the specific rev range. What VVT does is it alters the maps for the duration, lift and timing mentioned above with the different revolutions at the different ranges. Essentially, if the revs are higher, the duration and lift angles would be higher, enabling more fuel/ air mixture to be pushed into the combustion chamber, which enables bigger bangs, and hence, greater power. Hence, VVT on the already high performance engine allowed it to be a high revving unit producing roughly 87 horsepower, and 114 Nm of torque.
When you drive the Swift, the thing which instantly hits you is the ease with which the car listens to your commands. She is very driver friendly, as with the earlier iteration and taking quick corners and running down straights with her skirts up are very easy and the torque curve is just right, steep enough to be exciting but not scary. With the longer wheelbase, the new Swift feels more planted at the corners, with the suspensions rarely bottoming out, even when you wrench her hard (we did not try out the last part too many times, because she was an absolutely new car, but expect more when we have a long term ownership review later).
You get thrown around inside the cabin, but you can literally feel the B column pushing back to keep the position upright even during drifts. She is reasonably quick on the uptake as well, with one hundred coming up in well under ten seconds. The powertrain – chassis – driving dynamics combo works quite well together, and essentially retains most of the characteristics which was there in the older iteration.
All in all, much respect!
The Swift has always been a fun car to drive. The new iteration makes it even more so, albeit the diesel version, we think, would essentially feel like the older version verbatim. The petrol version, though has made the Swift even, err, Swifter!
So, if you want more comfort and bells and whistles from your ride, and who does not like too much of performance (although there should be enough to brag about it), please buy an i20 instead. But do not try doing doughnuts on her. You will just end up dead.
But if you are one of us, and like the cheeky way the car responds, alongwith the rush which the Japanese power to weight ratios are capable of, and wish to show off your driving skills to that hot chick you have been wanting to pick up without killing yourself, go ahead!
So, would it be worth it to go plonk your money on the new Swift? Absolutely! That is, unless you can get yourself the Mini. In which case, pick up both, and gift the Swift to us.
Photo Credit: Ayan Ray