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Swift vs Jazz

7th Oct 2011 5:07 pm

Jazz has been on the fringes of the small car segment for long. Can a price cut enable it to take on the segment king, the new Swift?

The Jazz had it all, but it never sold as well as it could have. Honda broke the cardinal rule for pricing and the Jazz found too few takers when it was launched at a saloon car price. That was then. Today however, it sits bang in Suzuki Swift territory. Problem is, the new Swift is substantially better than the car it replaced. So which one is it, brilliant Jazz or amazing Swift?

Look at me, look at me

The good thing is that both the cars have far from ordinary designs. The mono-volume design of the Jazz and its large glass area make it look more mini-MPV than traditional hatchback. However, despite some fresh detailing like those smart triangular headlights and interesting creases on the tail section, this car just doesn’t have the same sex appeal as the Swift.

Just look at the Swift’s blacked-out A-pillar and fighter-jet-like tapering window line to understand what we are talking about. Bigger headlights, a very sporty rear and a wide, squat stance mean this car has attitude written all over it. The downside, though, is that it looks too much like the old Swift, so many don’t even take notice of it.

 Space Vs Funk

The Jazz is BIG on the inside, thanks to the extreme cab-forward design and brilliant packaging. Large windows, a good seating position and a great view out make it agile and easy to drive. The driver’s seat in the top-end Jazz X has a height adjuster and comes adequately bolstered, so it’s very comfortable. The asymmetrical fascia looks funky and works well, and the large knobs for the AC controls are easy to find and operate when on the move. A look at the back will reveal that rear passengers have seldom had it so good in a hatch - there is space aplenty here.

Slip into the Swift and it’ll seem as if the world has shrunk. The Maruti feels a whole size smaller, especially in the back. The snug interiors, though, do feel sportier. The quality of plastics is a notch up from the last-generation car and the centre console looks similar to the Kizashi’s with everything neatly laid out. The steering wheel is good to grip and the dials, with smart indents on their circumference, look distinctive. Climate control comes standard on the top-end Swift ZXi variant, a feature missing on the Jazz altogether – the Honda also uses a tacky slider-type recirculation switch.

Driver seat comfort in the Swift is excellent – the bolstering and flat backrest provide ample support even when driving hard. But it’s a different story at the back. While the rear seat is comfy with nice under-thigh and back support and decent legroom, headroom is an issue for taller passengers. Also, after a stint in the airy Jazz, the Swift’s dark plastics and small rear windows make you feel boxed in.

Where the Jazz totally eclipses the Swift is in terms of storage and boot space, and because Honda has positioned the fuel tank in the centre of the car, you can lift,
split and even fold the back seat flat to give the Jazz stationwagon-like practicality.

Motors, two of the best

Both cars feature 1.2-litre engines with the Jazz having a 3bhp edge in terms of outright power. The lighter Swift, though, has the better power-to-weight ratio of 86.8bhp per tonne to the Jazz’s marginally less 84.4bhp per tonne. The new Swift’s K-Series engine gets variable valve timing and twin overhead camshafts while the Jazz engine features Honda’s single cam i-VTEC system. So, on paper, there isn’t much to differentiate the two. But how are they on the road?

Let’s start with the Jazz. Switch the ignition on and the engine settles at a quiet idle. Get going and you instantly note this is one special motor which simply loves to be revved. With minimal vibrations to spoil the party, this rev-happy engine almost coerces you to hold gear for longer than you would otherwise. Hold on beyond the 3000rpm mark and there is an almost magnetic pull of the tacho needle to the redline. In the city, part- throttle responses are decent and in-gear acceleration is good too. The slick-shifting and very light gearbox coupled with the well-weighted clutch make negotiating traffic all the more easier. So the Jazz gets a tick mark from both regular as well as sporty buyers.

Like the Jazz, the Swift engine is free-revving too, but somehow the zesty nature of the older Swift is lost. Bottom-end grunt is good but the mid-range feels slightly laboured compared to the older car’s. Floor the throttle and progress is quick till about 2500rpm but power seems to taper off mildly till you acquaint the tacho needle with the redline.

On part-throttle responses though, the Swift is actually better than the Jazz. And where the Jazz engine is smooth, the Swift’s super-refined motor is even smoother.

Driving the cars back to back, we found the Swift needed fewer gear changes to keep up with traffic, a helpful feature on Indian roads. The light clutch and smooth-shifting gearbox go well with this city-friendly nature of the car.

Comparing acceleration times, the Jazz is faster than the Swift but only marginally so on most counts. It is only in the 40-100kph run in fourth gear that the Jazz is a full five seconds quicker than the Swift. Yet, the Swift is more fuel-efficient overall, which is important, but just about. On the whole, the slightly more flexible and free-spirited nature of the Honda engine wins the Jazz this round.

Fun factor

Three rounds into this bout, the Jazz has the upper hand. But can the Jazz deliver the final knockout punch in terms of ride and handling? The answer is no. The old Swift was always a great car to drive and the new one improves things further. Light at low speeds, its steering weights up quite nicely as the going gets faster. Yes, the steering feels a little inconsistent and isn’t as accurate as we’d have liked but on the fun-to-drive scale, the Swift scores big time. A willing and stiff chassis means handling is sharp for the most part, its point-and-shoot nature making it a hit with us.

The Jazz isn’t quite in the Swift’s league. Its steering does offer more feedback at city speeds but there is an inconsistency in the way it weights up when speeds increase. Push hard and there is a fair amount of roll too, much more pronounced than that exhibited by the stiffer-sprung Swift. And grippier rubber would have worked wonders for the car’s handling and overall driving manners.

Interestingly, the Swift has the better ride too. Driving over Mumbai’s monsoon-ravaged roads, we found the Jazz unsettled over sharp bumps while the new Swift felt pliant and composed.

Aaand the winner is…

The Maruti Swift is well styled both inside and out, is fun to drive, delivers good economy and is priced sensibly too. The Jazz is a great car as well, with a clever amalgamation of small-car dimensions, midsize car space and almost-MPV practicality. The Jazz may lack the youthful appeal of the Swift and it may trail the Swift in maintenance costs, but in all other areas the Jazz is a genuine hop, skip and jump better than the Swift. And it is for this and this alone, the Jazz wins this contest.

Honda Jazz Select v/s Maruti Swift ZXI


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