We are big fans of the Suzuki Swift at Quarter Mile. No other small car has combined affordable performance with such good looks and cheeky handling like this one. For generations, the Swift has appealed to the family man looking for a reliable small car as well as the enthusiast looking for a great tuning base. The second generation car (2011-2017) was a marked improvement over the first gen (2005-2011) and now there is a third gen that is claimed to be even better. We had to find out.
The Swift is the second best selling hatchback in the country after the Alto. The third generation Swift, though it looks much bolder, is still an evolutionary design. The shoulders are more pronounced, the lines are tighter and curvier while the overall shape is still recognisable as a Swift. The front end styling is similar to that of the Dzire except for the new bumper and grill. The top spec model gets projector headlamps and DRLs that look cool. The rear gets squared tail lamps that flow into the fenders. The rear door handle has been moved up to the pillar area to give it a two door look, giving it a cleaner side profile. The Indian model gets 15 inch alloy wheels in place of the 16 inchers in the international variant and they do look small. The car is 10mm shorter, 40mm wider and the wheel base has gone up by 20mm. Importantly, it is 85 kilos lighter than before, and contrary to popular Indian belief, rigidity of the crash structure has actually been improved.
Inside, it feels much more grown up. The dashboard design is similar to the one seen in the Dzire, but the Swift gets rotary elements for the AC vents and climate control area. While the Dzire has a black and beige combination, in the Swift, it is all black with the cheap looking wood finish on the steering replaced with a glossy grey trim. The flat bottomed steering wheel with circular boss, looks like it belongs to an even more expensive car. The familiar touchscreen audio system has Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The quality of plastics is nothing to write home about, but it feels well screwed together. Front shoulder room has been increased by 23mm and the additional width of the cabin is felt everywhere.
The front seats are unbelievably sporty and resemble Recaro Style JC sport buckets you see in many Euro cars. If you fit in them, you will find they are so snug and comfortable. The rear seat on the other hand, is flat and devoid of any special bolstering. The inside of the rear door handle, where a quarter glass used to be – in the last two generations, restricts outward visibility for rear passengers. Legroom and shoulder room have been improved, the backrest angle has been increased by 2 degrees with an additional head clearance of 24mm. The boot also sees massive improvement with an extra 58 litre liberated to make it a more acceptable 268 litres.
Powering the Swift are the familiar 1.2 K series and 1.3 MJD engines carried over from the last two generations, but this time, they both are available with the choice of an AMT, which will broaden the appeal of the Swift even further. The 82bhp petrol engine has about 113Nm torque and is undoubtedly the best of the naturally aspirated 1.2 litre engines. In the new Swift it feels even more willing, thanks to the weight loss. It has adequate low end, decent midrange and revs cleanly to the red line. The light clutch and snappy gearshifts add to the experience, but for sheer convenience you have to try the AMT. It has a bit of a delay, but things are much better now with improved AMT tuning helped of course by the engine’s four cylinder layout. The diesel engine has 75bhp and 190Nm torque and is even brawnier. It is a motor that is showing its age, but refinement is slightly better than in the last gen. The low end torque makes it even more relaxing to drive on the highway and fuel efficiency is excellent. The clutch action is light for a diesel too. It doesn’t feel peaky or rev happily to the 5000rpm redline as it once used to, but the lighter kerb weight makes it feel fast. The choice of AMT makes it the second diesel automatic hatchback (First being the Ignis) in the country and ideal for those who want convenience and economy. The laziness of the AMT combined with the inherent turbo lag of the diesel may catch you off guard initially, but soon you learn to work around the problem. Drive it in a relaxed manner and it will oblige with less perceptible shifts and progressive acceleration.
The Swift was always one of the great handling hatchbacks. The second generation lost on some of the edginess of the first one, feeling much more mature – with improved ride quality as a bonus. This third gen car is a bit of a mixed bag. Let me explain. There is good mechanical grip from the chassis and even with the suspension set up rather softly, it does well in the corners. The weight loss regime means less centrifugal mass and the stiffer body structure means there is less flex – both factors, aiding the handling. But then, the conservatively specced 185 section Bridgestone Ecopia tyres which are built with less rolling resistance in mind, offer lower grip than similarly sized performance tyres. Not helping things is the lack of proper feedback from the steering. It is precise and lets you place it where you want, but it feels light and inconsistent and doesn’t return to the centre that well. The suspension, on the whole, is well tuned and the new Swift feels nimble and agile. You can go fast with it, but you don’t get the same thrills you once used to. The brakes are good, with good pedal feel and resist fade for longer than before. As for ride quality, there is a hint of firmness at low speeds, but it absorbs big bumps much better now. That coupled with the relatively tall tyre profile makes it ideal for passengers.
Maruti has certainly broadened the Swift’s appeal with the third gen model. It may not be as sharp to drive as the cars before it, but it is still a good little car. It has got roomier, got more equipment, has better ride quality, weighs less and is now safer with ABS and airbags as standard even in the base trim level. Performance and fuel efficiency has got better with the car weighing less and for the first time, you now have the choice of an automatic transmission, that too in both petrol and diesel. If Maruti can make them fast enough, we can already see it becoming the best-selling car in India.