A question of sport
23rd Jan 2018 6:00 am
Shapur Kotwal talks about how the Swift Sport would take things to the next level for Maruti Suzuki.
The Swift Sport is a car that should’ve made it to our shores several times over. A halo product for brand Suzuki that spreads its glow over the entire Swift range, it is what the GTI is to the Golf and RS is to the Octavia; a genuinely fun car to drive that comes with a more attractive exterior and a sportier interior.
Maruti, the smart company that it is, actually showcased the car at the 2004 Auto Expo to gauge reactions. And I even managed to bag a drive at Maruti’s Gurgaon track. I still remember how agile it was on that stubby wheelbase and how the bigger wheels just bit into the tarmac. For its time, it was a huge step forward as far as driver appeal was concerned. Even the 125hp, 1.6-litre felt peppy enough to get the job done.
What, however, got the project to be shelved was the fact that it was only available as a two-door; and the 1.6 petrol engine (M16A), although later used in the SX4, would at the time have to be imported.
The company didn’t show the same level of interest for the next generation of the Swift Sport, probably for the same reasons, but the new Sport is a four-door and the 1.4 Boosterjet engine could, in future, power all manner of Maruti cars. So Maruti, again, is interested.
What’s causing Maruti to hesitate is the relative lack of success of the Baleno RS. While the three-cylinder Boosterjet-powered RS makes good sense, on one level, it really doesn’t appeal to buyers who want the whole package: a lot more performance, a sportier looking exterior and interior.
Sure, when we conducted our annual track day in Chennai the Baleno RS proved to be seriously quick around the circuit. Yes, the 18 extra hp does make a difference; but which car buyer is going to pay over a lakh more for a car that has one less cylinder? It just doesn’t work that way.
The Swift Sport is likely to have none of these issues. With upwards of 145hp on offer (depending on the state of tune) the Sport has around 60hp more than the regular Swift, and customers will be happy to pay around a lakh or so more for improved performance. Then there are the improved handling and looks; and with the right modifications, you could push the engine to 180hp. Wouldn’t that be fantastic – a near 200hp per tonne hot hatch? Remember this one weighs only 970kg. Maruti should get the Sport even if they have to initially import the 1.4 Boosterjet. Volkswagen has shown that if done right, a premium sport hatch does work: just look at the success of the Polo GT. It would make brand Swift cool again. Isn’t that worth something?