The fascinating thing about cars is that they are a balancing act. It’s all about juggling a set of parameters, which are often conflicting, to come up with the right compromise that works equally well in the city and on the highway; on good and bad roads; at low and high speeds. There isn’t a silver bullet to achieve perfection under all conditions and car makers often have to choose which environment they want their cars to excel in.
It’s immediately obvious that the Ritz has been engineered to come out trumps in the cut and thrust of urban driving. In fact, Maruti makes no bones about the city focus of its latest supermini which has just entered our long-term fleet.
It’s also apparent that the Ritz is an outstanding city commuter. The generous and comfortable front seats with a high seating position translates to hours of stress-free city travel. It’s amazing how much an extra couple of inches of height boost your confidence. Sitting in the Ritz’s lofty seat, you have a much better view of the traffic and feel less intimidated by BEST buses which have a nasty habit of snuggling right up to you at traffic lights Sitting high up is so much easier to judge how close other cars are. This allows for hours of stress-free city travel, and the light steering and conveniently located gear lever make the going easier still.
A key part of the Ritz’s extremely user-friendly nature is Suzuki’s all-new 1.2-litre K-series petrol motor that’s a revelation among the new crop of engines. It is incredibly smooth and responsive and except for a slight shortage of low-down poke (you only notice this after you drive the Swift), the engine is so willing that it makes the Ritz a joy to dart in and out of traffic.
The gearbox too is superb with short, snappy shifts via the console-mounted gear lever. The light clutch and easy steering all do their job in making the Ritz a zero-effort car to drive. It’s not all perfect though. Rear visibility is a bit of an issue, especially in Mumbai where all sorts of vehicles can hide inside your blind spot and that’s particularly tricky while reversing. The culprit here is the car’s styling; it’s the oddly angled rear doors and pillars which support those gorgeous-looking boomerang tail-lights that create the massive blind spot. Otherwise, the cabin is remarkably airy thanks to large windows. The seats too are more comfortable than the interior space suggests, thanks to an upright seating position and loads of headroom.
Elected to be the ‘sober’ driver on Saturday nights has meant that everyone jumps into your car for a lift home. It’s on such occasions that I learn that the Ritz is a very comfortable four-seater and, at a pinch, even five can ride in decent comfort in a way that would feel cramped in the Swift. The good thing is that even with a full load, the Ritz doesn’t feel underpowered and keeping the engine above 3000rpm always ensures there’s enough overtaking grunt.
The best bit really is the suspension set-up which is softened for low-speed trundling over uneven roads. The monsoons have already torn up swathes of tarmac in Mumbai city and the Ritz has been thumping through potholes with remarkable aplomb. The cushy ride makes me wonder why all cars can’t be equally pliant. We got our answer on the first highway outing to Pune. The Ritz’s soft suspension, which is its greatest asset in the city, becomes a weakness on the highway. The tall proportions exacerbate the soft damping and the Ritz’s straight-line stability is not very inspiring, especially in crosswinds. You quickly learn to motor at speeds a notch lower than you would in another hatch. On the Mumbai-Pune highway, the K-series engine is so willing that it tempts you to press on but a rocking motion through sweeping corners or the buffeting created by a larger vehicle quickly gets you to back off. It’s best to stick to the speed limit!
With all the photo shoots and comparison tests the Ritz was involved in, it hasn’t been in a routine to give a representative figure for fuel consumption in the city. Still, with all that running around, the Ritz managed to squeeze out 14.0kpl which is truly impressive and again a reflection of the superiority of the K-series engine. Now only if Maruti would quickly plonk this motor in the Swift.